Disability Rights Advocate Takes on Social Security Administration with Overpayment Dispute

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Pamela Burpee, a 58-year-old resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has lived her entire life with a rare congenital disorder called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), which affects the structure of her joints and muscles, requiring her to use a wheelchair. Despite these challenges, Burpee has always strived to maintain her independence and has been working since the age of 16. However, in 2019, she became a double-amputee due to a rare bone infection, resulting in her inability to drive.

After a back injury in 1996, Burpee applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and was approved a year later. Despite working part-time and reporting her earnings, Burpee faced overpayment issues with the Social Security Administration, with her debt sometimes reaching around $15,000. However, in October 2023, she received a letter stating that her overpayment had skyrocketed by more than 550%, now totaling over $100,000. As a result, her SSDI payments were stopped, and she had to borrow from family to make ends meet.

Burpee contested the overpayment and, after media exposure, her benefits were reinstated, but she still awaits clarity on her $100,000 debt. The process of working with the Social Security Administration has been complicated and lacking in clear communication, according to Burpee.

In her advocacy efforts, Burpee contacted lawmakers, seeking systemic changes in the Social Security system to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not left financially vulnerable due to administrative errors. She emphasized the need for improved communication and shorter wait times for those dealing with similar issues.

In response to the situation, Senator Rick Scott of Florida expressed concern about the lack of transparency and accuracy from the administration, emphasizing the need to prioritize accuracy in Social Security payments. Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan also acknowledged the challenges faced by individuals dealing with Social Security overpayments and pledged to fight for the necessary resources to avoid such mistakes in the future.

In addition to her own situation, Burpee’s advocacy work extends to others experiencing difficulties with Social Security benefits. Through her determined efforts, she aims to bring about tangible changes that will ensure financial stability for individuals living with disabilities.

Beyond her own struggles, Burpee’s story underscores the need for a more seamless and reliable system to support individuals who rely on Social Security benefits, reflecting the larger issue at hand.

As Pamela Burpee continues her advocacy, she seeks to inspire change and to ensure that no one else has to experience the financial uncertainty and hardships that she has endured. Her determination serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by individuals navigating the complexities of the Social Security system.