National News

Social Security Administration Mistake Leaves Woman On Brink Of Financial Ruin

Posted May 8, 2018 2:08 p.m. EDT

— A government mistake almost ruined a woman financially. WBBM-TV Investigator Pam Zekman reports that when she needed it the most, Social Security failed to live up to its promises.

"All of a sudden i started getting a bill for $6,200 saying I owe them money all the money back that they had ever given me," said Linda Eckel.

That bill said Linda Eckel was erroneously paid a widow's benefit from social security and that her $1,641 monthly check would stop.

Eckel said she couldn't believe it when she opened the letter and read that she owed more than $6,000.

"I started crying, I really did, I couldn't believe it."

Eckel's husband Lawrence unexpectedly died in 2016 and she badly needed the money from social security.

"We got behind on bills and unfortunately he hid that from me and the bills were just piling up," Eckel said.

But Social Security says there was a mistake on Eckel's earnings statement for 2016 - a mistake she tried to resolve on her own.

Over the past year and a half Eckel tried to get her case resolved by visiting numerous social security offices, including the one in Elgin.

She says she was continuously told," We'll get back to you , no one ever gets back to you."

That's when Eckel called the 2 investigators.

"They asked me, did you contact channel 2, i said yes i did."

And a few days later.

"I looked in my bank account and there was an amount deposited for $3,700 from Social Security, I was shocked,"

It turns out Eckel didn't owe any money, in fact Social Security owed her $3,700 and her monthly payment of $1,679.50 will resume in July.

"It's absolutely crazy that you have to wait for weeks, months or years to get simple things resolved," said Laurence Kotlikoff, Professor of Economics at Boston University.

Kotlikoff says errors like this and others the 2 Investigators have uncovered should not be tolerated.

"If the commissioner of Social Security cannot directly get involved here and address the systematic problems with helping people get what their owed then that person should be fired," said Kotlikoff.

Eckel said the repeated mistakes made her angry.

"It's a scary thing," Eckel said. "I mean without you guys I could have ended up living who knows where?"

A spokesperson for Social Security thanked the 2 Investigators for bringing this matter to their attention. He says they apologize for the inconvenience this matter caused Linda Eckel.

But the spokesman did not answer our questions about why it happened to Eckel or in another case involving excessive delays for another woman waiting for her survivors benefits. The spokesman denies that these cases are examples of a broader problem.