Apr 15, 2014

Why Collect These Ancient Overpayments Out Of Social Security Benefits?

     Quotations from Mark Hinkle, a Social Security spokesperson, as quoted in an Associated Press article, with emphasis added:
We want to assure the public that we do not seek restitution through tax refund offset in cases when the debt in question was established prior to the debtor turning 18 years of age. Also, we do not use tax refund offset to collect the debt of a person's relative — we only use it to collect the overpaid benefits the person received for himself or herself.
     But they're still collecting the same debts every day by offsetting Social Security benefits. The statement makes it clear that they haven't sworn off that tactic. If it's inappropriate to seize tax refunds in these situations, why is it appropriate to seize Social Security benefits in these situations? You or your father or mother was overpaid when you were ten years old. Forty-five years later they're seizing your monthly Social Security check! Does that seem fair and reasonable?
    Let me make it clear that the problem here isn't at the Social Security Administration. The problem is draconian laws passed by members of Congress who equate Social Security overpayments with fraud when, in most cases, the overpayments are caused by the Social Security Administration's own mistakes.


Anonymous said...

For Title II benefits, survivor or auxiliary, I agree that it is almost always some complicated recomp that is difficult to understand at the time, let alone decades later. However, for the Title XVI, the SSI overpayments, the cause is almost always one of two things; underreported income of parents or payment continuation after a cessation decision. And although the SSI benefits were 'for' and 'spent on' the disabled child, it is still the actions and failures of the parents that caused these overpayments, in most cases. Liability for repayment can be held to both, but imposing collection activity to the non-entitled parent is almost impossible. The systems are just not set up for such enforcement and that is a real shame.

I know that the author of this blog does not hold these beliefs, but as a front line SSI claims rep, I see so many situations in which parents consider SSI for a disabled child as a way of supporting the family. These parents are quick to report reductions in their income, but wait until SSA catches them in reporting increases in their income which creates continual overpayments. The parents should be responsible for repayment, but the easier responsible party is the child when they become entitled again.

Anonymous said...

Even if the overpayment was SSA's fault, which happens way too often, the individual still received money to which they were not entitled. It is only fair that the money be recovered. Reducing the Social Security benefit is the most effective way to make the recovery.

What SSA needs to do is to keep a running narrative of important events in a beneficiary's file so that it can better track and explain payment issues, instead of relying on queries that have likely been altered numerous times over the years.

Anonymous said...

colvin is pathetic. Congress changed the law. SSA should enforce it not try to find a way. SSA does not need to try to save face. When people complain, simply explain that Congress changed the law and let them complain to Congress. Congress consistently underfunds SSA leading to service delivery problems. Now Colvin feel like SSA needs to save face here? Shes way off. If I was Colvin I would go after all these overpayments just so people would get so fed up and it would come out that Congress did this. SSA is just doing its job. Congress created this mess and they should feel the wrath of it. Meanwhile, lets let all the corporations leave all their profits offshore. Truly pathetic Congress we have.

@greenspaceguy said...

Speaking of sloppy handling of overpayments by SSA, contact me and I can explain the AFI automation project that tells thousands of SSI recipients that they are overpaid because they have assets slightly over $3,000.00 at the end of each month. SSA gets automated balances from banks and there is no human review. Many are not really overpaid as there are exclusions and tolerances that are not considered by the software. This creates severe hardship for thousands living below the poverty level. SSA is counting income that is supposed to be excluded like income tax refunds or checks that were written to pay bills but had not cleared the bank by the 30th. Each record should be reviewed by a human before overpayments letters go out and SSA employees need to see check ledgers in the claimants' possession in order to make accurate decisions. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/improperpayments/afi.html

Brad Johnson said...

This is a complete joke! They came after me for an overpayment when I was 29. I was apparently paid benefits when I was a minor. I was never even aware benefits were paid out. They came in and took my tax returns and then garnished my wages, which caused my to go into foreclosure on my home and forced me into bankruptcy.
The worst part is, I found out that a few years earlier they claimed I was underpaid. My mother received a check for 2000 dollars. How is it that if there is an overpayment I am held responsible but my mother can receive a check for the underpayment? She should of been held responsible. And how is it that I can be garnished without due process?