Sep 22, 2015

Help For Claimants With Ancient Overpayments

     There have been news reports about the Social Security Administration attempting to collect decades old overpayments by seizing benefit payments and tax refunds. Often the alleged debtor had no idea there was an overpayment. Social Security has just put out an "Emergency Message" which says that in determining whether to grant waiver of an overpayment that if the agency is "unable to locate and review documentation of the relevant facts to support the finding of the overpayment, [the agency should] assume the debtor is without fault and approve the waiver request."
     I think this Emergency Message is significant. To explain why I'll have to give a boring explanation of how Social Security deals with cases in which a claimant objects to an alleged overpayment. Once an overpayment is alleged, the claimant can do two things. One is to appeal the overpayment, saying that they really weren't overpaid or that the overpayment isn't as much as claimed. I have one of these cases now. By the time it's over, there will probably be no overpayment and Social Security will probably owe money to my client. One big problem with appealing an overpayment is that the claimant only has 60 days to appeal. In the ancient overpayment cases, the time period to appeal was over many years ago, assuming the agency properly notified the claimant of the overpayment, which the agency will assume it did. The other way for a claimant to deal with an overpayment is to request waiver of the overpayment. To oversimplify the waiver process, the claimant has to prove that he or she wasn't at fault and that paying it back would cause hardship. One important fact about waiver requests is that there's no time limit on filing the waiver request. A claimant isn't limited to either contesting the fact of the overpayment or requesting waiver. The claimant can do both, either at the same time or sequentially.
     When a claimant wishes to contest an ancient overpayment, they will have a hard time appealing the overpayment itself since the agency will say that the time period for appealing ended many years ago. As a practical matter, this limits the claimant to the waiver process. This new policy eases the waiver process for ancient overpayment cases since the agency will usually lack documentation of the overpayment. To get waiver, the claimant will merely have to show that repayment would cause hardship.


Anonymous said...

As I read the EM, the claimant is not required to show that repayment would cause hardship.

Anonymous said...

Seems that if a clt denied receiving notice of the overpayment, and the agency couldn't produce verfication of same, then the clt could contest the actual existence and computation of the OP amt. It's unlikely that the agency could support that many years later. They can barely do so w/fresh OP appeals.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm a bit rusty but it used to have to be not your fault and hardship, but the way this is written, it's giving some blanket guidance on what must be available to support SSA's position the OP is correct and that if it doesn't exist, then the waiver is being granted without a discussion of the hardship aspect. Not saying that is bad, but it does seem to make it a different determination than it used to be.

Biffo said...

How is a claimant supposed to know they are being overpaid?