Social Security Administration says widow owes $41,000
BATON ROUGE - Last May, 2 On Your Side met Donna Deshotels, who then feared she'd have to pay back thousands of dollars to the Social Security Administration. Deshotels filed an appeal and recently heard that her appeal had been denied. Now she has three years to pay back $41,000.
"It's not my fault, that's all I can say," she said. "I just don't know what to do. This has hung over me for two years."
Deshotels is a retired West Baton Rouge Parish school teacher and a widow. She first started receiving her late husband's social security benefits in 2017. It wasn't until 2019 did she learn from the SSA that she was never supposed to receive those benefits and might have to pay every cent back.
There are 15 states, including Louisiana, where teachers or other public workers collecting a pension are penalized for what's called Government Pension Offset. It means a person can't collect a pension and their deceased spouse's full social security benefits. Deshotels says when she first contacted the SSA she divulged this information to them and that social security is the one that made the error.
"They should have known never to send it to begin with," she said.
In a letter, the SSA says it has dismissed Deshotels' request for reconsideration because she only stated that she is without fault or it would create a hardship for her to repay the overpayment. The letter said, "You did not question the fact or the amount of the overpayment."
Deshotels knows there are other retired teachers and public servants in her shoes. She doesn't understand why the SSA is waiting so long to correct the overpayment.
"They're waiting two, three, four, five, up to 10 years to say, 'Oh, we shouldn't have sent that but you've got to pay it back now,'" she said.
Deshotels is worried because she's not sure how she will pay back the $41,000.
There is legislation in the works to eliminate the Government Pension Offset. Congressman Garret Graves is working to bring attention to the measure and was recently seen discussing details of the bill on Facebook.