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Nov 24, 2013

No Statute Of Limitations On Overpayments


     From the Contra Costa Times:

For Vietnam War veteran Thomas Testerman, a letter he recently received from the Defense Department was a reminder of the mistreatment his generation of soldiers faced.
Landing in his mailbox two days before Veterans Day, the letter informed him that he owes nearly $500 because of checks the Social Security Administration mistakenly sent him in 1972. If Testerman does not pay or dispute the bill, the letter stated, deductions from his monthly military retirement checks will begin just days before Christmas.
     I have posted this sort of story before. Every time I do, I get comments which say, in effect, "Death to all who defraud Social Security!"  I find this bloodthirstyness shocking. Do they really believe the government should be vengeful? I wonder if these people know that many Social Security overpayments are due to mistakes made by the Social Security Administration itself. That was almost certainly the case here as the rest of the article makes clear.
     I know this man can almost certainly get his overpayment waived but he doesn't know where to turn.
     Isn't it time for a reasonable statute of limitations on non-fraudulent Social Security overpayments? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Thirty years?
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  • 13 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Fine. put a time limit. But then allow interest to accumulate on the existing overpayments.

    You are right. Many overpayments are SSA's fault. But SSA employees are people too. People that make mistakes. Just because someone makes a mistake does not mean the other person definitely gets to keep the money.

    If you leave your suitcase on the street am I allowed to just take it and keep it because you made a mistake? Of course not. COMMON SENSE.

    2:21 PM, November 24, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    if the bank mistakenly deposits $10 million in my account, can I keep it because it wasn't my fault?

    7:47 PM, November 24, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    There is a statute of limitations on SS debts. Its six years. What there is not is a time limitation on common law set off, which taking money from retirement funds he is due amount to.

    7:49 PM, November 24, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Over payment waived??? Bah humbug, when My Mom had one, SSA did do that, when I had one SSA would not do that.

    8:22 PM, November 24, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Frankly, any overpayment originating prior to 1984 will be questionable even though the source of the overpayment may be apparent based on the records maintained by Social Security.

    The big issue is overpayments that are waived when the beneficiary is informed in their award letter, interviews, etc. about when they need to report events and then they fail to due so. My favorite is a workers' compensation award SSA finds out about 14 years after the fact and the beneficiary complains that he should not be held at fault after so long.

    More than likely, Mr. Testerman in this situation has not even thought about requesting a waiver or contact Social Security about it. Most of the remarks are from the U.S. Treasury. This story is trying to take an extreme situation (he reported his belief he was not eligible/entitled) and then playing the veteran card to drum-up outrage.

    11:58 PM, November 24, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    If the overpaid person can afford to repay, it doesn't matter about "without fault" - waiver will not be approved.

    12:28 AM, November 25, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    A 7:49
    What is your source for saying there is a statute of limitations on SSA asking for repayment of an overpayment? I have represented folks who were sent overpayment letters 10 years later, and SSA wanted the money right then, not going to wait until retirement benefits start.

    12:35 AM, November 25, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    See 37 USC ยง3716

    Provides for administrative setoff (a version of common law setoff) for debts that otherwise would be time barred by applicable State Laws on debt collection. Under that provision, there is no limitation on the period.

    Sending a letter saying you owe and pay now is not inconsistent with not being able to sue a person if they don't. The permission to permit setoff is only necessary because otherwise the debt would be time barred.

    7:50 AM, November 25, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    @2:21 - Yes, SSA employees (like me) are people, too, and people make mistakes. However, as a policy matter, it must surely matter more that SSA is a federal entity, and beneficiaries are individuals. And the very important fact remains that the funds at issue are, as a practical matter, flowing one way. Sure, all government agencies are staffed by mere mortals; to my mind, that doesn't change the reasonable expectation of accuracy. Leaving one's suitcase on the street for anyone to grab is quite a different thing than a federal entity paying you a certain amount for years, having represented (whether expressly or implicitly) that the amount was correct, and then demanding prompt repayment because the agency caught its own error a couple of generations later. But, to be sure, this issue is changed in the event of a failure by the recipient to comply with program rules (reporting requirements, etc.).

    @7:47 - To any thinking person, your extreme attempt at making a point is hollow. The two simply aren't comparable. And I suspect you know that.

    These situations aren't good for anyone--the agency, beneficiaries, or otherwise. For the agency, at minimum, they look bad. For beneficiaries, at minimum, they're a giant headache and source of anxiety--though often their impact is much greater. I see absolutely no reason why there shouldn't be a statute of limitations on repayments. When many crimes come with a statute of limitations--even some truly heinous crimes--it just doesn't sit well that administrative agency repayments don't. And, to my mind, it smacks of a sort of government-backed chronological imperialism, if you will.

    8:20 AM, November 25, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I see no reason for a statute of limitations on an overpayment, regardless of who's at fault. What needs to be simplified and more transparent in the overpayment collection process. It way too convoluted and too difficult to pinpoint the cause of these incorrect payments. The biggest hurdle when trying to collect is explaining to to the beneficiary how it occurred in the first place. Documentation is key and usually absent.

    8:33 AM, November 25, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Many times, SSA does not have correct address information until another federal benefit is approved. Then, the computer systems alert SSA to the existence of this other benefit and the automated process kicks in. A person can ignore an SSA debt for years, but once there is a way to easily collect, like a retirement check, the collection begins. Government doesn't forget.

    9:04 AM, November 25, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    If there are overpayments lurking for many years due to human error. t makes sense that there are also underpayments from similar errors. There may an upside to this - you could hire a retired CR or TE to dig into those records to get more money for your claimants, for a fee.

    5:40 AM, November 26, 2013  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    How ignorant are you? Even when you find a suitcase on the street and you do the right thing by taking it to the Police, even then after 30 days that suitcase becomes yours if no one claims it. How can you claim that you get to keep it for 30 years and then have to give everything back whether or not you still have then contents. The Social Security Administration is a bad joke. Why the SSA does not have rules it needs to follow makes me kringe. How can they just make a law when the want and make US citizens liable for over payments if we did not even receive the payment or SSA cannot provide proof of payments received and by whom. How can the legislature hide in a farm bill that they are eliminating the statute of limitations on paying back a debt especially when SSA does not or cannot even prove the debt is yours. This county makes me sick. I think it is time we clean house in our legislature and get into office people who will remember that they work for us and are paid quite well do to so.

    1:33 PM, April 14, 2014  

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