The Social Security Administration, in response to criticism from certain lawmakers, has reportedly put on hold a program aimed at recouping overpayments to beneficiaries. Overpayments, as some of our readers know, can happen from time to time with beneficiaries and may not be caught and corrected until later.
Under a 2008 change to federal law, the Social Security Administration is allowed to collect even very old overpayments, including those over 10 years old. At present, the agency claims that 400,000 people owed a total of $714 million in overpayments. Thus far, about $55 million has been collected. Collections occur mainly by seizing federal tax refunds.
Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland have expressed concerns about the program, saying that collecting from certain individuals may be unfair and heavy handed, particularly when the overpayments were made to minor beneficiaries. As example of such a case would be when overpayments were made in survivor’s benefits sent to a surviving parent or guardian on behalf of the child. Another example would be when a disabled child qualifies for disability income and later experiences an improvement in his or her condition, leading to overpayments.
The Social Security Administration, to be sure, can waive the right to collect debt from overpaid beneficiaries, and claims to routinely do so in cases where the debt was incurred by a minor or when doing so would result in significant financial hardship. Still, there may be certain beneficiaries who slip through the cracks and end up being pursued for old debt when they can barely make it by as it is.
Those who have concerns about Social Security overpayment collections should contact an experienced attorney to find out more about the process and what their options are for seeking relief from the agency.
Source: ABC News, “People With Old Social Security Debts Get Reprieve,” Stephen Ohlemacher, April 15, 2014.