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Is it Really Over After a Fully Favorable Decision at the Hearing Level?
After the lengthy wait times to get a hearing, and after finally being heard in court and receiving that Favorable Decision letter, the truth is that your Social Security nightmare may not really be over. Recently, the Administration finalized its regulations dealing with recovering overpayments made to those awarded benefits. Starting August 4, 2006, any federal employee who received overpayments under Title II or Title XVI will get up to 15% of their disposable pay withheld until the debt they owe to SSA has been repaid. This process is called FSO - Federal Salary Offset.
In the years prior to 1994, SSA was only permitted to recover overpayments by adjusting future benefits or by offsetting the person's federal income tax refunds. However, amendments to Social Security's regulations over the years have opened up several other methods of debt collection for the Administration. The newest is the FSO.
Sounds frightening and complicated, but keep in mind that there is some silver lining around this gray Social Security cloud. The FSO is subject to certain limitations in debt collection. First, FSO will not collect debt from a person until they reach the age of 18. Additionally, FSO cannot collect debt when a person's benefits are stopped during the retirement period. Also, protections are in place to ensure that Medicare is still continued despite recollection processes.
Aside from the protections in place for benefit recipients, there are standard procedures that must be followed before debt collection begins. A written notice to the debtor explaining the amount of debt and associated debtor rights must be provided at least 30 days before any FSO action. Also, the debtor would have the opportunity to inspect the records, which brought about the determination that a debt was owed. The debtor would also have the opportunity to set up a repayment schedule with the Administration. Lastly, the debtor would have the right to a hearing on the amount of debt allegedly owed and the repayment schedule. So, if you find yourself still stuck in the system even after a favorable decision is made in your case, make sure you are taking advantage of the FSO limitations and procedures that have been put in place for your protection.
Always consult with an experienced social security disability professional when you need help getting your disability benefits.
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