Social Security Halts Collection of Kin's Old Debt

Social Security Halts Collection of Kin's Old Debt
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The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will no longer try to collect taxpayer debt to the government if the liability is more than 10 years old. The news comes after reports that the SSA was seizing tax refunds from about 400,000 Americans whose relatives owed money to the agency. 

Acting Social Security commissioner Carolyn Colvin said she ordered “an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program . . . pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law.” 

The Washington Post had reported last week that many of those who had their tax refunds seized were unaware of the debts, which their parents may have incurred decades ago. Typically, Americans run up debt to the SSA if they receive a benefit overpayment and do not return the extra amount. 

One example is Mary Grice, who did not receive a tax refund this year because of a nearly $3,000 debt apparently incurred by her father. The SSA did not move to recover the overpayment until 37 years after it occurred, then pursued Grice, her father’s only living kin. 

Hundreds of taxpayers with similar stories complained to Congress over the last week. 

Colvin suggested that anyone who receives Social Security benefits and believes he or she has been overpaid should contact the SSA and “seek options to resolve the overpayment.”

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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