Nov 25, 2013

Gotta Collect Those Overpayments

     From The Missoulian:
A Corvallis man was floored last week when he received a letter from the Social Security Administration saying he has to pay nearly $2,000 by Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, due to a clerical error nearly 40 years ago.
Rudolph Weiglein said he was notified by the SSA that the agency had overpaid him on a claim, and he needs to pay back $1,995 to the government.
“At first, I thought for sure somebody stole my ID or my Social Security number or something,” he explained. “Because I didn’t have any claims with Social Security. So I called them and it turns out it was from when my father died in 1965 and my mother received survivor benefits.”
Weiglein said he was 11 years old when his father passed away, and he didn’t have any recollection of getting survivor benefits.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I talked to a guy at the SSA and I said, ‘Is this a joke?’ And he said, ‘No, it stays with you.’ He didn’t break it down or nothing. I can’t believe they are trying to collect an overpayment from almost 40 years ago. I don’t have any records from back then.” ...
     If you think it is a good idea that there is no statute of limitations on Social Security overpayments, how do you expect Mr. Weiglein to defend himself, to argue that he wasn't overpaid 40 years ago? It's more than possible that there wasn't really an overpayment back then. If there was an overpayment, Social Security probably can't explain how it happened. Is it fair to seize a person's benefits today to collect a 40 year old overpayment when neither the Social Security Administration nor the claimant involved has any idea how the overpayment got recorded in Social Security's records so long ago?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

No, it isn't. It clearly isn't. And I say that as an SSA employee. But I suspect some fellow employees will pile on with thoughts to the contrary.

Just on a common sense level, I think the agency should bear the burden of proving, with documentary evidence, the basis of all overpayment claims. That's pretty easy for things from the past number of years, but these remote claims, as Charles stated, likely aren't well documented. In the absence of actual proof, SSA should just write these off without hassling anyone.

Anonymous said...

i bet his shock was primarily related to the fact that SSA did not tack on interest charges!

Nancy Jorden said...

I have been looking for social security disability in Oregon. Do you know where I can find something?

Anonymous said...

I am willing to bet that many of these kinds of overpayments are based on earnings over the annual earnings test paid in the last year of entitlement. If a child turned 18 in June and benefits stopped and then they got a full time job that same year, they should have filed an annual report to verify the MONTHS they earned under the monthly limit.

Not sure if an input can be done today to file the annual report though.

Anonymous said...

He just needs to ask for an explanation of the overpayment and file a waiver if he was not at fault (his mother was his representative payee at the time he was overpaid) and he cannot afford to pay it back. If the facts are wrong, he needs to file an appeal.

Anonymous said...

SSA's POMS has a couple items discussing some of this. GN 02210.003 discusses a 10-year bar to adjustment; likely not relevant in this case, but good to know if you deal with o/p's. GN 02250.010; SI 02260.015B1b; and SI 02260.006C1, all refer to a principle that if SSA has not retained the evidence there can be a strong presumtpion of without fault, in terms of waiver of SSA's need to recover the o/p. Keep in mind, SSA sent the letter(s) in question becuase the law rerquires it be done. Enforcing collection is a different matter.

Anonymous said...

I think it would awesome to start a movement to help this guy collect 200,000 pennies and stack them at the field office door on Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

Re: 10:48AM

Except for the part where the employee is paid an hourly wage of somewhere between $30-45/hr to count pennies.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, most people aren't making that much money in a government office...and the ones who are definitely wouldn't be counting the pennies.

Anonymous said...

The average is right about there. Do you even want to pay someone $25/hr to count them? That's the lowest in my field office.

If we could ever get the union to quit helping people keep jobs they should lose because they're incompetent, maybe the overpayment errors would improve (at least going forward).

Anonymous said...

GN02250.005.B.3.c - minor children are presumed without fault. Since this man was a minor child when he was receiving benefits, he meets the "without fault" part of the waiver.

The question, however, is whether he meets the 2nd criteria of the waiver (GN02250.001): "Recovery would either defeat the purpose of the act or be against equity and good conscience."

Anonymous said...

I wonder how this ended because I just received a letter from Social Security advising me that they were appropriating nearly $1100 of my tax return to pay an outstanding debt. When I called they advised me there was an overpayment when I was receiving survivor benefits after my father died. This is over 40 years ago. Crazy