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Social Security halts effort to collect old debts

Social Security Medicare

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Social Security Administration is suspending a program in which thousands of people were having their tax refunds seized to recoup overpayments that happened more than a decade ago.

Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said Monday she has directed an immediate halt to the program while the agency does a review.

Social Security recipients and members of Congress complained that people were being forced to repay overpayments that were sometimes paid to their parents or guardians when they were children.

"While this policy of seizing tax refunds to repay decades-old Social Security overpayments might be allowed under the law, it is entirely unjust," Democratic Sens. Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said in a letter to Colvin.

After Colvin's announcement, Boxer said in a statement: "I am grateful that the Social Security Administration has chosen not to penalize innocent Americans while the agency determines a fair path forward on how to handle past errors."

The Social Security Administration says it has identified about 400,000 people with old debts. They owe a total of $714 million.

So far, the agency says it has collected $55 million.

The program was authorized by a 2008 change in the law that allows Social Security and other federal agencies to use a Treasury program to seize federal payments to recoup debts that are more than 10 years old. Previously, there was a 10-year limit on using the program.

In most cases, the seizures are tax refunds.

Colvin said she was suspending the program "pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law to refer debt to the Treasury Department."

"If any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment under this program, I encourage them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment," Colvin said.

The Washington Post first reported on the program.

There are several scenarios in which people may have received overpayments as children. For example, when a parent of a minor child dies, the child may be eligible for survivor's benefits, which are typically sent to the surviving parent or guardian.

If there was an overpayment made on behalf of the child, that child could be held liable years later, as an adult.

Also, if a child is disabled, he or she may receive overpayments. Those overpayments would typically be taken out of current payments, once they are discovered.

But if disability payments were discontinued because the child's condition improved, Social Security could try to recoup the overpayments years later.

"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," Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said in an email. "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."

Hinkle said the debt collection could be waived if the person is without fault and repayment would "deprive the person of income needed for ordinary living expenses or would be unfair for another reason."

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DEBORAH LOVE April 15 2014 at 3:02 PM

Wow. What's next?

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puxer181 April 15 2014 at 2:00 PM

Our Congress and Senate has misused and borrowed from social security Division and only put back a I.O.U.....Don't point fingers at the american people--Look in the damn mirror at yourself !!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
gstev75035 April 15 2014 at 1:10 PM

It is illegal to hold the children responsible for the parents debt unless they had entered into contract with the parents to be responsible for that debt. In other words their "law" was not a legal one to begin with and they should pay back every penny with interest.

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davandsher April 15 2014 at 12:42 PM

Question: Which Political Party took Social Security from the Independent 'Trust Fund' and put it intothe General Fund so that Congress could spend it?

Answer: It was Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat,Term of Office: November 22,1963 to January 20, 1969) and the democratically Controlled House and Senate.
Thomas Jefferson
3rd. President, Democrat
Term of Office: January 20, 1777 to January 20, 1781

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have".
Thomas Jefferson

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3 replies
whitefarm April 15 2014 at 12:59 PM

Our government is scrabbling to make sure they can get every dollar they can to stay operating rather then to cut positions. They are desperate and need to clean house and stop at the front door the people that should not get funds instead of making them job security with numbers.

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michael April 15 2014 at 12:37 PM

Here we go. The feds completely screw up SSI and you people want these very same geniuses in charge of healthcare???

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1 reply
johntangier michael April 15 2014 at 12:51 PM


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1 reply
slackwarerobert johntangier April 15 2014 at 1:29 PM

You would get a BETTER deal if she would. My kid got $5 for his last tooth. Didn't need obamacare before having it fall out, didn't have to fill out a medical waste disposal form, hire an epa inspector, and no copay or deductible.

wouldn't you be better off with a +25% raise? how many people lost their homes in the crash that could have weathered it if not for the government taking 50% of their money.

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jenny` news April 15 2014 at 1:06 PM

Subject: S S Check

Just a reminder, Better pass this around, it's the clearest presentation I
have seen in quite some time.

Social Security check Here we go.



Have you noticed, the Social Security check is now referred to as a "Federal
Benefit Payment"?

I'll be part of the one percent to forward this. I am forwarding it because
it Touches a nerve in me, and I hope it will in you.

Please keep passing it on until everyone in our country has read it.

The government is now referring to our Social Security checks as A Federal
Benefit Payment.

This isn't a benefit. It Is earned income! Not only did we all contribute to
Social Security but our employers did too.

It totaled 15% of our income before taxes .

If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that's close to
$180,000 Invested in Social Security.

If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social
security( $375/month, including both your and your employers contributions)
at a meager 1% Interest rate compounded monthly, after 40 years of working
you'd have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved!

This is your personal investment . Upon retirement, if you took out only 3%
per year , you'd receive $39,318 per year, or $3,277 per month.

That's almost three times more than today's average Social Security benefit
of $1,230 per month, according to the Social Security Administration

(Google it - its a fact).

And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years (until you're 98 if
you retire at age 65)! I can only imagine how much better most
average-income people could live in retirement if our government had just
invested our money in low-risk interest-earning accounts .

Instead, the folks in Washington pulled off a bigger ponzi scheme than
Bernie Madoff ever did.

They took our money and used it elsewhere.

They forgot (Knew) that it was OUR money they were taking.

They didn't have a referendum to ask us if we wanted to lend the money to
them .

And they didn't pay interest on the debt they assumed .

And recently, they've told us that the money won't support us for very much
longer .

But is it our fault they misused our investments?

And now, to add insult to injury, they're calling it a benefit , as if we
never worked to earn every penny of it.

Just because they borrowed the money, doesn't mean that our investments were
a charity!

Let's take a stand.

We have earned our right to Social Security and Medicare.

Demand that our legislators bring some sense into our government .

Find a way to keep Social Security and Medicare going, for the sake of that
92% of our population who need it.

*Then call it what it is: Our Earned Retirement Income.*

99% of people won't forward this. Will you ?

*You can bet I WILL*

Image removed by sender. http://www.avast.com/

This email is f

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
brogo13 jenny` news April 15 2014 at 1:29 PM

Having read [all] that, vis this...

Flag Reply 0 rate up
crotalus jenny` news April 15 2014 at 1:47 PM

Too long to read and the little I did read indicates you got it off the internet (as in "forward this"). My experience with internet drivel like what you just posted is that it is usually wrong or exaggerated or an outright lie.

I have a niece who received SS checks for several years (until she turned 18) and she didn't pay a PENNY of social security tax.

Social security is a Federal program started under FDR's administration; it is managed by the Feds.; the checks are cut and mailed by the Feds. That kind of DOES make it a federal "benefit".

Yes, many of us have worked all our lives and paid money into the system and we should get it back, but like any insurance program (which is what Soc. Sec. is), it counts on many not getting back what they put in.

And that's about when I quit reading your post, so I can't really address any other "issues" you might have raised with it.

Don't blindly forward anything you get on the internet. Most of the time, you will be forwarding lies, exaggerations or incorrect statements.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
navretrd5 April 15 2014 at 12:31 PM


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larry April 15 2014 at 1:00 PM

I'm sure OVERPAYMENT will NOT be returned.

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1 reply
slackwarerobert larry April 15 2014 at 1:05 PM

already PROVEN. they didn't give back the enron money.

what sort of idiot overpays them in the first place?
Couldn't they wait till AFTER tax deadline. I would have sent obama a letter telling him his check was confiscated to cover the theft of my money over the last 5 years.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Wildman52 slackwarerobert April 15 2014 at 1:38 PM

It was Dubya, Obama was president in 2008

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booger April 15 2014 at 12:20 PM

What about those of us that had to repay an overpayment.Its bad enough we had to repay but it was called a collection and made our credit ratings plunge down. Do we get our money back or just live with the fact that our Gov. still has no one who knows what they are doing?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
slackwarerobert booger April 15 2014 at 2:14 PM

Who DOESN'T want a credit rating of ZERO?
they can charge 200% interest and it doesn't effect you if you don't borrow money.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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