TN 24 (01-05)

GN 02201.041 Debtor reactions to collection of title ii overpayments by administrative wage garnishment (AWG)

A. Background

While several types of debtor reactions to AWG are the same as those regarding TRO and TOP, the debtor may make requests and allegations that are unique to the AWG program. For example, the debtor may request hardship or may allege having been fired by the employer. Further, the requests and allegations unique to AWG can be made at any time during the AWG process, from the 60-day due process notice through the final garnishment payments.

Therefore, this section is organized according to the following four logical groups of debtor requests and allegations:

B. Due process requests

1. Request for explanation of overpayment

Upon receipt of a request for an explanation of the overpayment, proceed as follows:

a. FO/TSC action

If the debtor first contacts the FO/TSC for an explanation, use the MBR/ROAR/PHUS or Title II Overpayment (QROP) (MSOM QUERIES 006.024 ), accessed via Inquiry Response or Master File Query, to provide an explanation of the overpayment. Keep explanations generic and, if possible, provide explanations immediately. If online queries contain insufficient information or unresolvable discrepancies, proceed as follows:

  • From the DMS menu, FO use the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (FO) screen (DRPF) (See MSOM DMS 006.019 ) and select “Explanation”. TSC use the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (TSC) screen (DRPT) (see MSOM DMS 006.020 ) and select “Explanation”.

  • Refer the issue to the servicing PC through an MDW.

  • On the MDW show “Necessary Action – TOP/ECO Case – Do not Backlog”.

  • Record the action taken on DMS Remarks screen.

  • Include the debtor's current address and daytime telephone number, if different from the address and telephone number shown on our records.

  • If asked, advise the caller that he/she should receive a response within 30 days.

b. PC action

If the debtor first contacts the PC for an explanation, attempt to answer the question by using the MBR/ROAR/PHUS or QROP (MSOM QUERIES 006.024 ). Keep explanations generic to the extent possible. If online queries contain insufficient information or unresolvable discrepancies, from the DMS menu, on the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (PC) screen (DRPR) (See MSOM DMS 006.003 ), input “Explanation”, unless the FO/TSC has already input “Explanation” as in GN 02201.041B.1.a. Provide the explanation.

Once the debtor has received a satisfactory explanation and requests no additional action, such as waiver, the PC's next action depends upon the status of the debt when the explanation was requested.

  • If the debt was written off (in terminated collection status) when the debtor requested an explanation, terminate collection by using the Terminate Collection screen (DFTE). (See MSOM DMS 007.003 ). Terminating collection will set the debt up for TOP and AWG selection in the next selection cycle.

  • If the debt was in RECOOP and was not written off when the debtor requested an explanation, input an installment agreement on the Record Installment Agreement screen (DRIN) (See MSOM DMS 006.014 ). This will resume billing and allow the debt to be selected for AWG and TOP.

2. Request for waiver

A request for waiver may be a formal request or may be implied. The request may be in various forms:

  • The SSA-632-BK, Request for Waiver and Recovery Questionnaire (See GN 02250.240 and GN 02250.400). This is the preferred form for requesting waiver because it elicits all information needed to make the waiver determination, or

  • A plea for relief in a letter to a PC or from a Congressman, or

  • Verbal request to a field office, teleservice center, or Debt Management Branch employee, or

  • The tear-off portion of the SSA-3105 (See GN 02201.009).

A request for waiver within the 60-day period of the TOP/ECO notice will prevent AWG from being started. A request for waiver after AWG has begun will result in stopping AWG until the waiver decision is made.

a. TSC action

If the TSC receives the request, proceed as follows:

  • Send an SSA-632-BK to the debtor.

  • In the upper right-hand corner of the SSA-632-BK, show “TOP/ECO Case”, the date and your office code.

  • Include a courtesy return envelope addressed to the FO that services the address on the AWG query or the debtor's current address, if different.

  • Advise the caller to complete the SSA-632-BK and return it to the servicing FO.

  • Record the action on DMS Remarks.

  • The TSC should input the informal waiver request to the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (TSC) (DRPT) screen. (See MSOM DMS 006.020 ).

b. FO action

If the FO receives the request and no Protest/Stop Recovery Request screen has been input:

  • The FO should input the waiver request to the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (FO) screen (DRPF). (See MSOM DMS 006.019 ).

  • Select protest reason “informal waiver” when the debtor indicates that he wants to file for waiver, but no signed SSA-632-BK (or equivalent information) has been received.

  • Select protest reason “initial waiver” when a signed SSA-632-BK (or equivalent information) has been received.

See GN 02201.021 for detailed instructions for processing the waiver request in the FO.

c. PC action

If the PC receives the request and no Protest/Stop Recovery Request screen has been input:

  • The PC should input the waiver request to the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (PC) screen (DRPR). (See MSOM DMS 006.003 ).

  • See GN 02201.023 for detailed instructions for processing the waiver request in the PC.

  • On a later day, take the following action depending upon the status of the debt when the waiver was requested: (1) If the debt was written off (in terminated collection status) when the debtor requested a waiver, terminate collection by using the Terminate Collection screen (DFTE). (See MSOM DMS 007.003 ). Terminating collection will set the debt up for TOP and AWG selection in the next selection cycle. (2) If the debt was in RECOOP and was not written off when the debtor requested a waiver, input an installment agreement on the Record Installment Agreement screen (DRIN) (See MSOM DMS 006.014 ). This will resume billing and allow the debt to be selected for AWG and TOP.

3. Right to inspect and copy SSA records about the debt

The individual has the right to inspect and copy SSA's records related to the debtor's overpayment.

a. PC/TSC action

  • If a debtor should contact the PC or TSC and request to inspect or copy SSA's records about their debt, refer the debtor to their servicing field office.

  • Record the action taken on DMS Remarks.

b. FO action

  • Ask the debtor what records he/she wants to inspect and copy.

  • If the debtor does not know what records he/she wants to inspect and copy, then review on-line queries.

  • If necessary, obtain the claims file.

  • When the claims file is located, notify the debtor and process in accordance with GN 03360.020 Privacy Act Administration – Copying Records.

  • Record the action taken on DMS Remarks.

4. Request for review of the debt

The law and regulations governing AWG allow the debtor to request a review of the debt. This review is an opportunity for debtors to present evidence showing they do not owe the debt or they do not owe the amount shown by SSA. This review is not the same as reconsideration of the overpayment determination, in that SSA's decision does not have any further appeal rights. (See GN 02201.040A.6.a. for more information about this AWG right.)

a. Request review within 60 days of the pre-offset notice

The debtor has 60 days from the date of the pre-offset notice to request the review and provide evidence that he/she does not owe the debt or does not owe it in the amount stated by SSA in the notice. Proceed as follows when the debtor makes a timely request within the 60-day period:

TSC Action

  • Advise the debtor that SSA requires evidence to show that the debt is not owed or that the debt balance is different from what SSA states in the notice.

  • Tell the debtor that he/she will need to present the evidence to the field office.

  • Tell the debtor that until such evidence is presented, the AWG process remains in effect and SSA will order the employer to begin garnishment if no evidence is presented.

  • Enter remarks on the DMS Remarks screen to describe the reason for the call, the date and any pertinent discussion.

FO Action

  • Upon receipt of evidence from the debtor, input the request for review on the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (FO) screen (DRPF). Select Protest Reason “Review Debt”. (See MSOM DMS 006.019 for more information about this screen). This will stop AWG and all other collection efforts, including TOP and credit bureau reporting, until SSA makes a decision on the request for review.

  • Based on the evidence, make a decision on the request for review and notify the debtor.

Important: Do not include any further appeal rights in the notification to the debtor. The decision on the request for review is SSA's final decision.

  • If SSA's decision is that the debt is found to exist either in the amount stated in the pre-offset notice or in a different amount than stated in the notice, update the programmatic system to adjust the debt balance.

  • If the debt was written off (in terminated collection status) when the debtor requested a review, terminate collection by using the Terminate Collection screen (DFTE). (See MSOM DMS 007.003 ). Terminating collection will set the debt up for TOP and AWG selection in the next selection cycle.

  • If the debt was in RECOOP and was not written off when the debtor requested a review, input an installment agreement on the Record Installment Agreement screen (DRIN). (See MSOM DMS 006.014 ). This will resume billing and allow the debt to be selected for AWG and TOP.

  • If the debt is found not to exist at all, update the programmatic system to remove the debt.

PC action

  • If the debtor calls the PC, advise the debtor that SSA requires evidence to show that the debt is not owed or that the debt balance is different from what SSA states in the notice.

  • Tell the debtor that he/she will need to present the evidence to the field office.

  • Tell the debtor that until such evidence is presented, the AWG process remains in effect and SSA will order the employer to begin garnishment if no evidence is presented.

  • On the DMS Remarks screen, enter the reason for the call, the date and any pertinent discussion.

  • If the debtor sends evidence to the PC, input the request for review on the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (PC) screen (DPRP), selecting protest reason “Review Debt”. This will stop AWG and all other collection efforts, including TOP and credit bureau reporting, until SSA makes a decision on the request for review.

  • Based on the evidence, make a decision on the request for review and notify the debtor.

b. Request for review of the debt after 60 days

TSC Action

  • Explain that the period for requesting the review was 60 days from the date of the notice.

  • Tell the debtor that SSA will have to dismiss the request unless the debtor proves good cause for late filing.

  • If the debtor asserts good cause for late filing, advise the debtor to provide any evidence demonstrating good cause for late filing to the field office.

  • Tell the debtor that until such evidence is presented, the AWG process remains in effect and SSA will order the employer to begin garnishment if no evidence is presented.

  • Enter remarks on the DMS Remarks screen to describe the reason for the call, the date and any pertinent discussion.

FO action

  • Develop good cause for late filing. (See GN 03101.020).

  • If the debtor shows good cause for late filing and presents evidence to show he/she does not owe the debt or does not owe it in the amount SSA states in the notice, input the request for review on the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (DRPF) screen. Select Protest Reason “Review Debt”. (See MSOM DMS 006.019 for more information about this screen). This will stop AWG and all other collection efforts, including TOP and credit bureau reporting, until SSA makes a decision on the request for review.

  • Based on the evidence, make a decision on the request for review and notify the debtor.

Important: Do not include any further appeal rights in the notification of the debtor. The decision on the request for review is SSA's final decision.

  • If SSA's decision is that the debt is found to exist either in the amount stated in the pre-offset notice or in a different amount than SSA stated in the notice, update the programmatic system to adjust the debt balance.

  • If the debt was written off (in terminated collection status) when the debtor requested a review of the debt, terminate collection by using the Terminate Collection screen (DFTE). (See MSOM DMS 007.003 ). Terminating collection will set the debt up for TOP and AWG selection in the next selection cycle.

  • If the debt was in RECOOP and was not written off when the debtor requested a review of the debt, input an installment agreement on the Record Installment Agreement screen (DRIN). (See MSOM DMS 006.014 ). This will resume billing and allow the debt to be selected for AWG and TOP.

  • If SSA's decision is that the debt does not exist, then update the programmatic system to remove the debt.

PC action

  • If the debtor calls the PC, proceed as in GN 02201.041B.4.a.under TSC Action.

  • If the debtor sends evidence to the PC, proceed as in GN 02201.041B.4.a. under FO Action.

If the debtor requests review after 60 days and can't show good cause (see GN 03101.020) for a late request for review:

  • Dismiss the request AND send a written notice explaining that because the debtor did not file timely or did not show good cause for late filing, the request will be dismissed.

5. Request for lower garnishment amount due to hardship

A debtor whose wages are subject to AWG may, at any time, request a review of the amount or percentage garnished based on materially changed circumstances such as disability, divorce, or catastrophic illness which result in financial hardship.

Important: SSA will not reduce the amount the employer withholds from someone's pay if the debt was caused by intentional false statement or willful concealment of or failure to furnish material information. (Willful concealment means an intentional, knowing and purposeful delay in providing or failure to furnish material information.) Do not take action on a request for lower garnishment amount due to hardship when the debt was caused by intentional false statement or willful concealment of or failure to furnish material information.

The procedure for handling a debtor's request for a lower garnishment amount depends upon whether SSA can approve the request immediately, or SSA requires financial information from the debtor before deciding on the request. SSA's approval can be granted immediately when: (1) the person agrees to a garnishment amount that is at least $10 per pay and which would permit collection within 12 months, and (2) the person agrees to a garnishment amount of at least $10 per pay that will recover the debt within 36 months and the person can demonstrate that a higher amount would prevent the payment of ordinary and necessary living expenses.

“Ordinary and necessary living expenses” include fixed expenses such as food, clothing, housing, utilities, maintenance, insurance, tax payments, medical, hospitalization and similar expenses, expenses for the support of others for whom they are legally responsible, and other reasonable and necessary miscellaneous expenses which are part of their standard of living. See GN 02201.041B.5.a. for instructions on processing immediate approvals of hardship requests.

Note: A request for hardship does not prevent or stop TOP or credit bureau reporting.

a. Immediate approval of hardship request – TSC/FO/PC action

The process for granting an immediate approval of a hardship request is the same for the TSC, FO and PC. Proceed as follows when granting immediate approval:

  • Negotiate the highest garnishment amount but not less than $10 per pay. If the debtor alleges not being able to pay $10 per pay, explain that $10 is the minimum amount SSA can accept.

  • If the debtor offers to repay the debt at the rate of at least $10 per pay and that rate would recover the debt within 12 months, enter the negotiated amount or percentage on the AWG Update Garnishment Information (TRGA) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.014 ). This will result in an automated notice to the employer and the debtor advising them of the reduced garnishment amount.

  • If the debtor offers to repay the debt at the rate of at least $10 per pay and that rate would recover the debt within 36 months, advise the debtor that SSA will grant the lower amount if answers to the following questions indicate hardship (i.e., expenses exceed income and assets):

    1. What is the amount of your income (weekly or monthly)?

    2. How much do you pay each week or month for ordinary and necessary living expenses?

    3. Do you have a savings account, certificate of deposit (CD) or an individual retirement account (IRA)? If “yes” record the type of account and the value. If “no”, indicate “caller alleges no assets”.

  • Enter the negotiated dollar amount or percentage on the AWG Update Garnishment Information (TRGA) screen. See MSOM DMS 014.014 for more detailed information about that screen. The system will send an automated notice to the employer and the debtor advising them of the lowered garnishment amount.

b. Immediate approval not possible

TSC action

  • Enter the hardship requested on the AWG Suspend Garnishment for Hardship (TRSU) screen. See MSOM DMS 014.013 for more detailed information about the screen.

  • Advise the caller that in order to consider his/her request for hardship, documentation of income, assets and expenses is required.

  • Cross-out section 1 (page 2) on the SSA-632-BK, annotate "AWG Withholding Request", and include a courtesy return envelope to the servicing FO.

  • Send the caller a SSA-632-BK to complete.

  • Advise the caller that we will review the SSA-632-BK and the hardship request. When we complete our action, we will send a written notice with our decision to the debtor.

  • Record the action taken and needed on DMS Remarks.

FO/DMS action

  • Check to make sure the AWG Suspend Garnishment for Hardship (TRSU) screen has been input. See MSOM DMS 014.013. If not, make appropriate input to the screen.

  • Advise the person that in order to consider his/her request for hardship, documentation of income, assets and expenses is required.

  • Cross-out section 1 (page 2) on the SSA-632-BK, annotate "AWG Withholding Request", and give the caller the SSA-632-BK to complete.

  • Advise the caller that we will review the SSA-632-BK and the hardship request. When we complete our action, we will send a written notice with our decision to the debtor.

  • If the decision is to grant the request for a lower garnishment amount due to hardship, enter the negotiated amount or percentage on the AWG Update Garnishment Information (TRGA) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.014).

  • If the decision is to deny the request for a lower garnishment amount, select "Resume Garnishment" on the AWG Update Garnishment Information (TRGA) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.014).

  • If the "Resume Garnishment" field on the TRGA screen is selected, an automated notice will be sent to the employer asking that the garnishment be resumed and a copy of the notice will be sent to the debtor.

  • If a new amount or new percentage has been entered on the TRGA screen BEFORE the garnishment package is sent to the employer, no notice is sent to the employer. If a decision is made AFTER the garnishment package is sent to the employer, an automated notice will be sent to the employer advising them of the new garnishment amount or percentage.

  • Record the action taken and needed on DMS Remarks.

6. Debtor requests higher garnishment amount

At any time, a debtor may request a higher garnishment amount or percentage. If the debtor contacts SSA with the request for higher garnishment, SSA will honor the debtor's written request without question. Oral requests, however, cannot be honored unless they are followed by the person's written request. Proceed as follows when the debtor requests a higher garnishment amount:

a. TSC action

  • Advise the caller that before SSA can process the request, the debtor must provide a written statement making the request and showing the name, CAN/HUN, and amount/percentage debtor requests.

  • Provide the debtor with the address of the servicing FO, and tell the person to send or deliver the written request to that office.

  • Record the action taken on DMS Remarks.

b. FO action

  • Upon receipt of a written request from the debtor, input the higher garnishment amount/percentage on the TRGA screen. See MSOM DMS 014.014 for more detailed instructions on the use of the screen.

  • If the debtor is present at the FO, advise the person that SSA will notify the employer to begin the higher garnishment.

  • If the debtor is not present, no action is required to notify the debtor because the TOP/ECO system will send an automated notice to the debtor acknowledging the increase in garnishment.

c. PC action

  • If the debtor calls the PC to request a higher garnishment, follow GN 02201.041B.6.a.

  • Upon receipt of a written request from the debtor, input the higher garnishment amount/percentage on the TRGA screen. See MSOM DMS 014.014 for more detailed instructions on the use of the screen.

The TOP/ECO system will send an automated notice to the employer to begin the higher garnishment. The system will also send the debtor a notice acknowledging the increase in garnishment.

7. Request for reconsideration

Debtors may request reconsideration of two different aspects of SSA's use of administrative wage garnishment: (1) the overpayment determination (fact/amount of the debt); and (2) the Agency's decision to use garnishment to collect the delinquent overpayment.

a. Reconsideration of the overpayment determination

Debtors subject to administrative wage garnishment are beyond the 60-day period for requesting reconsideration of the overpayment determination (fact/amount of the debt). Consequently, the TOP/ECO notice that informs debtors about SSA's intent to use collection tools such as garnishment, Treasury Offset Program and credit bureau reporting does not contain language offering the right to request reconsideration.

Even though the TOP/ECO notice does not offer the right to request reconsideration of the overpayment determination, individuals may still make that request on debts subject to garnishment. Since overpayments subject to garnishment are delinquent and by definition beyond the 60-day period for requesting reconsideration of the overpayment determination, these requests must first be handled in accordance with policy and procedure in GN 03101.020, Good Cause for Extending the Time Limit to File an Appeal.

Proceed as follows when the person requests reconsideration of the overpayment determination:

TSC action

  • Tell the caller that he/she had 60 days from the date of SSA's initial notice of overpayment to request reconsideration of the overpayment determination.

  • Tell the caller that he/she must show good cause for late filing in order for SSA to reopen the initial overpayment determination. Good cause for late filing can be found by SSA when, for example, the person was seriously ill and was prevented from contacting SSA in person, in writing, or through a friend, relative, or other person. See GN 03101.020, Good Cause for Extending the Time Limit to File an Appeal for more information on what constitutes good cause for late filing.

  • Advise the caller that he/she needs to submit a signed statement explaining the reason for the delay and documentation to support the explanation.

  • Provide the debtor with the address of the servicing FO, and tell the person to send or deliver the signed statement to that office.

  • Record the action taken on DMS Remarks.

Important: Do not send the caller a form SSA-561-U2 (Request for Reconsideration).

FO action

  • Obtain a signed statement from the claimant explaining the reason for the delay and obtain documentation to support the explanation.

  • Explain to claimant that SSA will decide whether he/she has shown good cause for late filing and whether to extend the time or dismiss the appeal.

  • Prepare Report of Contact (RC) on the late filing evaluating claimant's statement.

  • Forward request, statement, documentation and RC to the PC for good cause determination.

  • Record the action on the DMS Remarks

    Important: Do not ask the person to complete a form SSA-561-U2 (Request for reconsideration). If the person insists on filing that form, accept it and input the request on the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (FO) screen (DRPF). (See MSOM DMS 006.019 for more detailed information about this screen).

    PC action

      • Make the determination on the issue of good cause for late filing.

      • If good cause for late filing is found, input the request on the DRPR screen if necessary. See MSOM DMS 006.003 for more detailed information about this screen.

      • Process the reconsideration determination according to instructions in GN 02201.025C.4., Overpayment-Reconsideration. If the reconsideration decision did not wholly reverse the initial overpayment determination, diary the case for resumption of garnishment in 30 days.

      • If good cause for late filing is not found, dismiss the request for reconsideration.

      • If the dismissed request for reconsideration was previously input to the DRPF/DRPR screen, input a denial to the Fact/Amount Appeal Disposition (DRAD) screen. See MSOM DMS 006.011 for more detailed instructions on this screen. The system will resume garnishment activity.

b. Reconsideration of SSA's decision to use garnishment

SSA's regulations at 20 CFR 404.903 (and 416.1403 for title XVI cases) include garnishment in the list of administrative actions that are not initial determinations. Therefore, the person has no right to a reconsideration request on SSA's decision to use garnishment.

TSC/FO/PC should proceed as follows when the person requests reconsideration of SSA's decision to use garnishment:

  • Tell the person that SSA's regulations state that garnishment is not an initial determination subject to appeals, and that we cannot act on any such request.

  • Tell the person SSA will continue to use garnishment to collect the overpayment.

Important: Do not solicit a form SSA-561-U2 (Request for Reconsideration) regarding SSA's decision to use garnishment.

C. Procedure - debtor offers to repay

1. Full refund

a. TSC action

  • Tell the caller we will accept the full refund by check, money order or credit card and advise the caller of the current balance of the debt.

  • Tell the caller to make a check or money order payable to the “Social Security Administration” and to include the CAN/HUN on the payment. If the person wants to repay by credit card, follow the instructions in GN 02210.153 Paying by Credit Card - Teleservice Center (TSC) Procedure.

  • Tell the caller to send the check or money order to: MATPC, P.O. Box 3430, Philadelphia, PA 19122.

  • Advise the caller that AWG will continue until we receive the full payment. Any amounts withheld in excess will be returned to the debtor.

  • Annotate DMS Remarks with the offer to repay in full.

b. FO action

  • Follow the instructions in GN 02403.006 Processing Remittances Received in the FO.

  • If the person is present in the FO, tell him/her that SSA will notify the employer to stop garnishment.

c. PC action

  • Follow the instructions in GN 02210.214, Debtor Willing to Repay.

Note: When the full repayment is posted to the debtor's record, the TOP/ECO system will automatically notify the employer to stop garnishment. The system will also notify Treasury to stop withholding tax refunds or other Federal payments, and it will update the person's credit record if applicable.

2. Installment payments

Regular monthly installment payments will prevent AWG from becoming active. Installment payments will not stop AWG once the employer package is mailed and the debt is active in AWG.

Since AWG is an enforced collection that guarantees the recovery of some or all of the debt, we want to prevent manipulation of the system by people who do not make good faith offers to repay. AWG is also a complex process requiring communication among the debtor, the employer and SSA. Therefore, to prevent repeated efforts to stop and resume this complex process, we have decided that installment payments after AWG has begun will not stop that collection method.

IMPORTANT: In any discussion with a person who wants to make installment payments in the hope of stopping garnishment, advise the person that installment payments will not stop garnishment if AWG is already active. SSA will still accept the payments but garnishment will continue.

If AWG has not been activated, stress to the person that regular monthly payments are required to prevent SSA's use of garnishment. Any lapse in regular payments can result in SSA's use of garnishment.

a. TSC action

  • Attempt to negotiate a rate of repayment which would permit full recovery within 12 months.

  • If that is not possible, try to establish a rate of repayment which will permit full recovery within 36 months.

  • If that is not possible, minimum payments of at least $10 per month are required unless there are unusual circumstances (e.g., title XVI recipient).

  • If you negotiate an agreement (person agrees to pay back $10 per month or more): (1) Complete a DRIN screen (MSOM DMS 006.014 ) to reflect the negotiated agreement. (2) Tell the caller to send the payment(s) in the envelope that was provided with the overpayment notice. (3) If the caller does not have the envelope, give him/her the address for sending in remittances: MATPC, P.O. Box 3430, Philadelphia, PA 19122. (4) Record the action taken on DMS Remarks.

  • If the person wishes to pay back less than $10 per month and/or unusual circumstances apply: (1) Refer to the FO via MDW. (2) Advise the caller someone from the FO will contact him/her. (3) Record the action taken on DMS Remarks.

b. FO action

  • Follow the instructions in GN 02210.180B.1.

  • Tell the person that an immediate payment, followed by regular monthly payments, could result in the prevention of SSA's use of garnishment.

  • If the person is present in the FO and makes a payment, process the remittance per instructions in GN 02403.006.

c. PC action

  • Follow the instructions in GN 02210.214B.

  • Tell the person that an immediate payment, followed by regular monthly payments, could result in the prevention of SSA's use of garnishment.

3. Debtor makes a compromise offer

If the debtor makes a compromise offer, proceed as follows:

a. TSC action

  • Advise the caller to contact the servicing FO to arrange a compromise settlement.

  • Give the caller the name, address and telephone number of the FO that services his/her current address.

  • Document the request for compromise offer on the DMS Remarks.

  • Do not make any input to stop AWG withholding.

b. FO action

  • Follow the instructions in GN 02215.115, FO Handling of Compromise Offers.

  • Tell the debtor that AWG will continue unless we receive the compromised amount.

c. PC action

  • Follow the instructions in GN 02210.215, Debtor Offers to Compromise.

  • Use the Protest/Stop Recovery Request (PC) (DRPR) screen and select “Compromise Offer Made” unless the case was referred from the FO and the input has already been made (see MSOM DMS 006.003 ) OR if an immediate decision is not possible.

  • The PC should post the decision on the compromise offer on the Record Compromise Decision (DRCD) screen. (See MSOM DMS 006.012 ).

  • Tell the debtor that AWG will continue unless we receive the compromised amount.

D. Procedure - debtor allegations about employment

1. Report of employment termination

At any time in the garnishment process, a debtor may report to SSA that his/her employment terminated; e.g., debtor quit, was fired or laid off, employer went out of business. There are two types of employment terminations; (1) involuntary separation, and (2) voluntary separation.

Involuntary separation occurs when a person is fired or laid off, the employer goes out of business or the job was abolished. Law and regulations do not allow for a resumption of garnishment until the individual has been continuously reemployed for at least 12 months. The debtor bears the burden of informing SSA of the circumstances surrounding an involuntary separation from employment. SSA's automated garnishment system will not resume AWG until the required 12 months have elapsed.

Voluntary separation occurs when a person quits or retires. In that case, the automated system will periodically check for re-employment and resume garnishment when available. A 12-month re-employment period for garnishment resumption is not required.

Important: When processing debtor reports of employment termination, it is critical to try to ascertain the specific reason for the termination and input the information to the system. In doing so, you will ensure that the automated system resumes garnishment at the proper time. In addition, SSA requires documentation of the employment termination before any input is made to the system.

Proceed as follows when a person alleges employment termination:

a. TSC action

  • Ascertain the specific reason for employment termination and the date it occurred.

  • Advise the caller to submit his/her documentation to the servicing FO. Acceptable documentation includes, but is not limited to, a pay stub, a letter from the employer, or documentation of receipt of unemployment compensation.

  • Provide the debtor with the address of the servicing FO.

  • Enter a brief description of the debtor's allegation on the DMS Remarks. Include the reason for employment termination and the date.

  • Do not make any input to stop garnishment.

b. FO action

  • Obtain and review documentation of the employment termination (a pay stub, a letter from the employer, or documentation of receipt of unemployment compensation),

  • If, in your judgment the documentation supports the debtor's allegation, input the information to the AWG Debtor No Longer Employed (TREN) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.012 for more detailed instructions about this screen). Be sure to input the specific reason for and date of the employment termination so that the system can take the next appropriate action for garnishment.

  • Tell the debtor SSA will annotate its records to show the employment termination and that garnishment action will stop.

  • Advise the debtor that SSA will check periodically in the future for re-employment. If the debtor becomes re-employed, SSA will resume garnishment, if available.

  • If the debtor does not have any documentation, explain that SSA cannot act on the report of employment termination. Make no input to the TREN screen if the debtor does not provide documentation or provides unacceptable documentation.

Note: A debtor's written or typed report of employment termination without any corroboration is not acceptable documentation. It is not necessary to provide written notice to the debtor when documentation is not provided or is found to be inadequate.

c. PC action

  • If the debtor calls to report employment termination, ascertain the specific reason and the date it occurred.

  • Advise the caller to submit his/her documentation to the PC of jurisdiction. Acceptable documentation includes, but is not limited to, a pay stub, a letter from the employer, or documentation of receipt of unemployment compensation.

  • Provide the debtor with the address of the PC with jurisdiction.

  • Enter a brief description of the debtor's allegation on the DMS Remarks. Include the reason for employment termination and the date.

  • Do not make any input to stop garnishment.

  • When you receive documentation that supports the debtor's allegation, input the information to the AWG Debtor No Longer Employed (TREN) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.012 for more detailed instructions about this screen). Be sure to input the specific reason for and date of the employment termination so that the system can take the next appropriate action for garnishment.

  • If the debtor submits documentation that is not acceptable, do not act on the report of employment termination. Make no input to the TREN screen.

Note: It is not necessary for the PC to provide written response to the debtor when documentation is not adequate.

2. Report of employer adverse action against debtor

Federal law prohibits an employer from using an AWG order as the basis for taking adverse action against an employee. An individual may file a civil action in Federal or State court against an employer who violates the prohibition.

If a debtor alleges being fired or otherwise disciplined by the employer due to the AWG order, take the following actions:

TSC/FO/PC action

  • If the debtor alleges terminated employment due to AWG, follow the applicable instructions for your component in GN 02201.041D.1.

  • If the debtor alleges some other form of disciplinary action (but not a termination of employment), tell the person that under Federal law (31 U.S.C. 3720D) an employer is prohibited from using AWG as the basis for taking disciplinary action against him/her.

  • Advise the debtor that the law and regulations allow a person to file a civil action against the employer in a Federal or state court of competent jurisdiction.

  • Explain that SSA can not act in any official capacity for the debtor against the employer.

  • Record the information on DMS Remarks.

E. Procedure - other reports that could affect AWG

1. Debtor alleges nonreceipt of the overpaid amount

If a debtor alleges nonreceipt of the overpaid amount, obtain an ACCT/ROAR query and a PHUS query. If the query shows no record of nonreceipt of the payment(s) in question, proceed as follows:

TSC/FO/PC action

  • If the debtor had a representative payee, explain that the payment(s) was sent to the payee and there is no indication that payment(s) was not received.

  • If there was no representative payee, explain that our records do not show any evidence of a nonreceipt allegation at the time the initial overpayment notice was sent.

  • If the debtor insists that we provide a photocopy of the check(s) in question, explain that we will investigate but the debt will still be subject to TOP/ECO collection tools (Treasury Offset Program, credit bureau reporting and AWG).

  • If the investigation supports the nonreceipt allegation and the debt is found not to exist, explain that SSA will repay any amounts collected by AWG and/or TOP, and will also delete the debt from the person's credit report.

  • Follow GN 02406.117 to handle the nonreceipt allegation for a check and GN 02406.007 for a direct deposit payment (These references apply to Title II and Title XVI payments). DO NOT make a ROAR input.

Note: If the investigation shows that a copy of the check is not available, presume that the debtor received the check. The overpayment should be determined to stand.

2. Debtor alleges nonreceipt of initial overpayment notice

If the debtor alleges never receiving the initial overpayment notice, proceed as follows:

a. TSC action

  • Advise the debtor to submit a statement regarding nonreceipt of the notice along with his/her current address and telephone number to the FO in person or by mail.

  • Provide the address and telephone number of the FO that services the debtor.

  • Explain to the debtor that applicable TOP/ECO collection tools (Treasury Offset Program, credit bureau reporting and AWG) will continue to apply unless we can confirm his/her allegation.

b. FO action

  • Get a statement from the debtor regarding nonreceipt of the notice along with his/her current address.

  • Forward material to the PC annotated “Necessary Action TOP/ECO Case – Do Not Backlog.”

  • Explain to the debtor that TOP/ECO will continue to apply unless we can confirm his/her allegation through a folder review.

If, as a result of a folder review request, the claims folder is in the FO, check for an undeliverable notice. If present:

  • Advise the debtor that further investigation is necessary.

  • Return the folder to the PC, clearly marked “TOP/ECO – Undeliverable Overpayment Notice in File – Do Not Backlog”.

c. PC action

Undeliverable initial overpayment notice was remailed

Review the claims folder to determine if the notice was returned as undeliverable. If the undeliverable initial overpayment notice was remailed, take the following actions:

  • Tell the debtor the date the new notice was mailed.

  • Tell the debtor that the overpayment is still subject to collection by TOP/ECO tools.

Undeliverable initial overpayment notice not remailed

If a subsequent notice was not mailed, the debtor has the right to a full administrative review process. Take the following actions if the original notice was returned as undeliverable and a subsequent notice was not mailed:

  • Correct the address screen by completing the Address/Direct Deposit/Phone (PEAD) screen (MSOM T2PE 003.002 ).

  • Redate and mail the overpayment notice to the debtor's current address.

  • Delete the old overpayment on ROAR via the Transaction Correction (SMTC) screen (MSOM DMS 002.011 ).

  • Query ROAR the following day to verify deletion. When deleted, reestablish the overpayment as a new debt on ROAR via the Establish Debt (SMED) screen (MSOM DMS 002.003 ). Use the current date as the establishment date.

Note: The above actions will delete the debt from the Treasury Offset Program and from AWG until the debt becomes delinquent and meets all TOP/ECO selection criteria. The preceding actions will not, however, delete the debt from the credit bureau if it was previously reported as delinquent. Advise the debt management program analyst regarding the need to delete the debt from the credit bureau report.

No evidence to support allegation of nonreceipt of notice

If there is no evidence to support the debtor's allegations about not receiving the initial overpayment notice, take the following actions:

  • Advise the debtor (by telephone, if possible) accordingly.

  • Explain that since there is no evidence that the notice was returned as undeliverable by the post office, we must proceed on the assumption that the notice was received.

  • Document the DMS Remarks (RMKS) screen with the information about the debtor contact.

3. Report of bankruptcy proceeding

Reports of bankruptcy proceedings on AWG cases are handled the same way as on all other overpayment cases. Proceed as follows when you receive a report that a bankruptcy petition is pending or that a debt has been discharged in bankruptcy:

a. TSC action

  • Tell the caller to submit the bankruptcy petition or discharge order to the servicing FO.

  • Provide the address and telephone number of the servicing FO.

  • Explain that all debt collection processes will continue until SSA receives and reviews the bankruptcy information and determines that recovery efforts should stop.

  • Explain that if the person provides the bankruptcy information within 60 days of the pre-offset notice, debt collection processes could be stopped.

  • Record the contact on DMS Remarks.

  • Do not make any input to stop AWG.

b. FO and PC action

Follow the instructions in GN 02201.030D.10.

NOTE: Any input to the Record Bankruptcy Petition Screen (DFBP) will automatically result in preventing or stopping AWG. (See MSOM DMS 007.006 for more detailed instructions on this screen.) Therefore, you do not need to make any special input to stop AWG.

4. Report of death

For a report of death, proceed as follows:

a. FO/TSC action

If the FO/TSC first finds out that a debtor is deceased, obtain proof of death as required by GN 00304.001. Report the death to the PC as quickly as possible. Provide the debtor's name, claim number and date of death, if known.

b. PC action

If the PC first finds out that a debtor is deceased, obtain proof of death as required by GN 00304.001. Input the death using the Stop Collection Action (TRSC) screen which is requested from the Debt Management screen (See MSOM DMS 014.002 ). This input will prevent or stop collection action by TOP/ECO processes.

Conduct any estate development in accordance with GN 02215.050 through GN 02215.070.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0202201041
GN 02201.041 - Debtor reactions to collection of title ii overpayments by administrative wage garnishment (AWG) - 02/11/2014
Batch run: 02/11/2014
Rev:02/11/2014