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Social Security Administration to stop collecting old debts


This news story was published on April 15, 2014.
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WASHINGTON – On Monday, the Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will no longer attempt to collect on taxpayers’ debts that are more than 10 years old.

In a statement from Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security:

“I have directed an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program to recover debts owed to the agency that are 10 years old and older 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.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa on the same day made the following comment on the announcement, which came after The Washington Post reported on agency debt collection efforts on survivor benefits paid to now-deceased beneficiaries.  Just before the Social Security Administration’s announcement, Grassley sent letters to the Social Security Administration and the Treasury Department, seeking information on how the agencies interpreted their authority to pursue the old debts as they have.

Senator Charles Grassley

Senator Charles Grassley

“Payment beneficiaries have to be accountable for overpayments from the government, but the government has to be reasonable and use common sense.    Is it fair and reasonable to pursue debts from the surviving children for payments to the parents, no matter how long ago any overpayment occurred?   The agency is right to revisit that point.   However, it shouldn’t take embarrassing media coverage and lawsuits for this step to take place.  Agencies should be able to apply common sense and fairness without a public firestorm.  And Congress needs to be careful about legislating one line in an unrelated bill that an agency then develops into something possibly beyond what Congress intended.  The statute of limitations language didn’t give the agency permission to collect debts where the debtor is deceased.   It’s not clear where that authority came in.  There’s a difference between collecting decades-old debt from the debtors and decades-old debt from their kids.  I still expect responses to my letters.”

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2 Responses to Social Security Administration to stop collecting old debts

  1. Avatar

    Philosophus Reply Report comment

    April 15, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Now if they would stop trying to collect on old Student Loans, we’d all have a fresh start. Why does Wall Street get their debts forgiven but poor, unemployed students do not?

    • Avatar

      LVS Reply Report comment

      April 16, 2014 at 8:33 am

      @Philly-You took the money and now you need to pay it back. Why should the rest of us pay for your education just because you are to lazy to work.