HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A World War II veteran is fighting to save his Social Security benefits after allegedly being called a traitor for protesting an over payment claim.
87-year-old Walter Masaki says the Social Security Administration is threatening to withhold his benefits because they overpaid him. Masaki says he's being punished for a mistake they think they made, which he says never happened.
"They just say I have to pay them back. I can't pay back what I didn't get," explained Masaki.
Masaki says there's no way he and his wife will be able to get by without his Social Security benefits.
"It makes a big difference. If I wasn't married to a school teacher who is still working, we would be destitute, completely," described Masaki, who says that's exactly what he's worried about.
Masaki received a letter in January saying he was sent two checks and cashed both, but was only due one.
"I said that there was no evidence that I was overpaid. My check, my Social Security payment, goes directly into my checking account and the bank can verify it," said Masaki, who says he called the Honolulu Social Security office to protest.
"The woman I called at the local office called me a traitor for objecting and wanting to get my Social Security payment. I'm a traitor? Unreal, isn't it?" said Masaki incredulously.
Masaki served in World War II, his brother in the Korean War, and his Father is a World War Veteran buried at Punchbowl. He says he tried to get the woman's name but was denied the information before he was hung up on.
Masaki says he's contacted his Congressional representatives and they sent him forms to fill out.
"I've filled out forms before and nothing has happened. This is not the first time, this is the second time this has happened," explained Masaki, who says he received a similar letter from the Social Security Administration in May of 2011. It claimed he was overpaid nearly $550. He says the Administration stopped payments to recover the amount.
"Oh, we had to cut down on our food expenses and everything," explained Masaki.
Local officials say Social Security is the sole source of income for one in four Hawai'i residents who are 65 years and older.
"Social Security is incredibly important for Hawai'i's seniors and people on fixed incomes," said Bruce Bottorff, the Director of Communications for AARP Hawai'i. "It's an earned benefit that people have been putting in throughout their working lives to Social Security."
"Social Security is critical. We need to make sure it's strengthened and protected, not only for current generations but for future generations of Hawaii residents. With health care costs on the rise, people's savings under stress, Social Security becomes an even more critical part of the retirement security puzzle," explained Bottorff.
Masaki is concerned this may be happening to others as well, but he doesn't know where to turn.
"What recourse have I when the local Social Security office refuses to acknowledge that I wasn't overpaid?" said Masaki. "It's too bad about my Social Security check, why must I struggle to get paid?"
Inquiries with the Honolulu Social Security office were declined.