SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home1913. Recovery Efforts

1913.1 When does SSA stop trying to recover overpayments?

The Federal Claims Collection Act of 1966 permits SSA to stop trying to recover an overpayment from you when the overpayment:

  1. Does not exceed $100,000;

  2. Was not received as a result of fraud; and

  3. Any one of the following conditions also exists:

    1. Collection of a significant portion of the overpayment cannot be accomplished by compromise settlement or civil suit considering your current and future financial prospects;

    2. You cannot be located after diligent search; or

    3. The cost of further collection efforts is likely to exceed the amount recovered.

1913.2 What law permits recovery of delinquent Title II debts by withholding Federal income tax refunds?

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 permits SSA to have the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) withhold or reduce (called “offsetting”) Federal income tax refunds to collect delinquent Title II debts.

1913.3 What law permits recovery of delinquent Title XVI debts by withholding Federal income tax refunds?

The Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 permits SSA to have the Treasury offset Federal income tax refunds to collect delinquent Title XVI debts. We use this debt collection technique to recover debts owed by former beneficiaries and recipients.

1913.4 What law permits recovery of delinquent Title II/Title XVI debts by Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG)?

The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 authorized Federal agencies to recover delinquent non-tax debts by AWG. SSA regulations implemented AWG under guidance provided by the Department of Treasury.

1913.5 How are delinquent debtors selected for AWG?

Delinquent debtors selected for AWG is based on the following criteria:

  • You are not entitled to Title II or Title XVI benefits or Medicare based on disability, and

  • You are not active in the Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program, and

  • Your social security number is available, and

  • Your debt is $200 or more, and

  • Your debt is past-due, and

  • The debt was established after you attained age 18, and

  • You have regular wages, state and local government wages, nonprofit or railroad wages from a domestic employer, and

  • You were not involuntarily separated from employment, or if you were, you have been re-employed continuously for at least 12 months, and

  • You do not have a pending waiver or appeal, and

  • Cross Program Recovery is not available.

1913.6 How are debtors notified of SSA's intent to use AWG?

If we plan to use AWG, SSA will send a notice to inform you. The notice provides due process rights associated with AWG.

1913.7 How are delinquent debtors referred to Treasury?

The selection and referral of delinquent debtors to the Treasury is a weekly automated operation, that results in offsets on a continual basis. We select debtors for this program based on many criteria, including the following:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old;

  2. The debt is greater than $25;

  3. The debt has been delinquent for less than 10 years;

  4. You are no longer receiving Social Security payments; and

  5. You are alive.

1913.8 How are debtors notified of SSA's intent to refer a debt to Treasury for collection through income tax refunds?

If we refer your debt to the Treasury for offset, SSA will send a notice to inform you. The notice provides due process rights and gives you the chance to repay the debt.

1913.9 What is the definition of administrative offset?

“Administrative offset” is the withholding or reduction of Federal payments other than tax refunds.

1913.10 When can SSA use administrative offset and credit bureau reporting to collect unrecoverable Title II debts?

The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 permits SSA to use administrative offset and credit bureau reporting to collect unrecoverable Title II debts. The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 permits SSA to use these tools to collect unrecoverable Title XVI debts. Treasury performs this activity for us. Credit bureau reporting involves notifying credit bureaus that a former Title II beneficiary or Title XVI recipient owes SSA a debt that has been determined to be unrecoverable.

1913.11 How are debtors referred to Treasury for administrative offset and to credit bureaus?

Selection and referral of debts to the Treasury for administrative offset is a weekly automated operation. For credit bureau reporting, selection and referral to credit bureaus is a monthly automated operation.

1913.12 How are debtors notified of SSA's intent to refer a debt to Treasury for administrative offset and credit bureau reporting?

If you are selected for these collection techniques, SSA will send a notice to inform you. The notices provide due process rights and give you the chance to repay the debt to avoid the administrative offset and credit bureau reporting.

Last Revised: Jan. 24, 2006