TN 31 (01-15)
GN 02210.212 Debt Contact Representative (DCR) Use of Telephone in Debt Collection
We developed the Recovery and Collection of Overpayment Process (RECOOP) Priority Program, in part, to help the Program Service Centers manage RECOOP 00100 alerts.
RECOOP issues a series of notices to the debtor requesting payment. A full billing cycle consists of a minimum of four demand notices:
Did You Forget? Bill,
Past Due Payment Bill, and
If the debtor does not take action to repay or resolve the debt, the debt becomes delinquent after we send the RECOOP Past Due Payment Bill notice and the system produces a RECOOP 00100 alert. For more information on RECOOP alerts, see MSOM DMS 010.001D.
If there is no response from the debtor 15 days after we send the initial RECOOP Call-In Letter, the system automatically generates a RECOOP 00100 alert to contact the debtor by telephone.
The RECOOP Priority Program sorts the 00100 alerts into three basic groups:
High-priority delinquent debts: We must attempt to collect the debt through telephone contact with the debtor. Telephone contact attempts satisfy the due diligence requirement in GN 02215.235C.2.d. If there is no response from the debtor fifteen days after the initial RECOOP Call-In Letter is sent, a RECOOP 00100 alert (MSOM DMS 010.001D) is automatically generated to contact the debtor by telephone.
Non-priority delinquent debts: We do not require telephone contact for debts classified as “non-priority” by the RECOOP Priority Program. These debts have received at least one full RECOOP billing cycle and we have determined them to be uncollectible.
Rebilled delinquent debts: Telephone contact is not necessary for debts “rebilled” by the RECOOP Priority Program because, in these cases, a second full RECOOP billing cycle is an adequate alternative to telephone contact attempts. The RECOOP Priority Program produces issue 00100 alerts for actions by a DCR only for those high-priority debts that require telephone contact.
If a valid telephone number for the debtor is available, you must make at least two contact attempts prior to termination of collection efforts. For more information on termination of collection efforts, see GN 02215.235. You should make the calls at different times on varying days; Monday 11:00 A.M., Tuesday 8:00 A.M., Wednesday 1:00 P.M., and Friday 3:00 P.M. Document your efforts to contact the debtor on the Debt Management System (DMS) Remarks (RMKS) screen. For more information on the DMS Remarks screen, see MSOM DMS 009.002 and MSOM DMS 009.003.
1. Telephone interpreter service
SSA is committed to providing fair and equitable service to all of its customers, including debtors, regardless of their English proficiency. Therefore, SSA contracts with a service to handle immediate telephone language interpretations for SSA public contact employees nationwide. For instructions on using this service see the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) GN 00203.011B.5.
2. Debtor responsibilities
Remind the debtor of his or her responsibility to repay the debt. Tell the debtor that he or she:
has the option of paying by check, money order, or credit card;
may be subject to Tax Refund Offset (TRO), administrative offset, and credit bureau reporting if he or she does not make a payment. For more information on title II, for TRO see GN 02201.030, for administrative offset, see GN 02201.031 and for credit bureau reporting, see GN 02201.032. For more information on Title XVI, for TRO, see SI 02220.012, for administrative offset, see SI 02220.013, and for credit bureau reporting, see SI 02220.014; and
will be subject to cross program recovery if it becomes available.
3. Debts not selected for the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) and credit bureau reporting
When discussing overpayments with debtors, keep in mind that not all debts meet the criteria for selection for TOP and credit bureau reporting.
a. Title II debts
We will not select title II cases with certain characteristics for TOP and credit bureau reporting.
We will not select cases if the:
title II debtor is in LAF “S” or any LAF other than “T, U, X, N or P”;
debt was established before the debtor attained age 18;
debt shows an indication that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is involved, such as a TC-31, TC-32, or TC-70;
person being billed is a representative payee;
title II debt is a type of event (TOE) 16, 29, or 31; or
debtor is deceased.
These criteria are not all-inclusive. If you have questions about a case, consult with the subject matter expert in your office, as determined by local practices.
b. Title XVI debts
We will not select title XVI cases with certain characteristics for TOP and credit bureau reporting.
We will not select cases with the following characteristics for TOP if the:
debt has a future payment status (PSTAT) code of “C01,” which indicates that the former recipient will soon go into current pay status;
payment status is other than “N” or “T”; or
debt was established before the debtor attained age 18.
C. Collection Standards
SSA employees must adhere to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). FDCPA forbids the following:
inflammatory, obscene or profane language;
idle threats (actions which SSA cannot enforce) or threats of violence;
Telephone calls at unreasonable hours (before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m.) Be alert to the time difference when a debtor lives in another part of the country;
misrepresentation of the debtor's or SSA's legal rights;
disclosure of a debtor's personal business to a debtor's employer, friend, or neighbor;
obtaining information by false pretenses;
issuance of documents simulating legal process; and
contact at a place of employment if the DCR (or Field Office) knows or has reason to know that the employer prohibits such contact.
D. Procedure for making contact with debtors
1. Obtaining the debtor’s phone number
Query the Debt Bill screen (IBIL). If this fails, check the Debtor Data Screen (IDQD, the MBR, and the SSR).
If the record contains no number or a wrong number, attempt to locate a valid number using Accurint, or internet tools such as 411.com, anywho.com, zabasearch.com, and ReferenceUSA.gov, which is available in the SSA digital Library.
If unable to obtain current number, query the Master Earnings File (MEF) for name and address of last employer.
Call directory assistance for last employer's telephone number.
Call employer (unless such contact is prohibited) and attempt debtor contact or obtain debtor's home number.
If a telephone number cannot be obtained but the current address is valid treat as a debtor not repaying the overpayment. Follow “the debtor is not repaying the overpayment” procedures for title II in GN 02210.217C.2., and for title XVI in GN 02210.217E.2.
If unable to obtain a telephone number and the address of record is not valid, see Skiptracing in GN 02210.213.
2. Identify the debtor
In order to release any information from our records, you must be certain of the caller's identity. We have established specific guidelines for verifying the caller's identity when he or she requests access to or disclosure of information.
If you make contact with the debtor, verify the caller’s identity using instructions in GN 00203.020. Once you verify the identity of the debtor, follow the instructions below. For more information on releasing information by telephone, see GN 03360.005.
IMPORTANT: If you are unable to verify the identity, do not release any information.
3. Contact with the debtor
Follow these instructions based on results of the call:
If the debtor:
is willing to pay in full, or agrees to repay in installments;
is subject to cross program recovery;
Title II: GN 02210.008, and
Title XVI: SI 02220.020.
is willing to pay via credit card;
offers a compromise settlement;
alleges any kind of repayment (check or money order, offset, credit card);
is unable to pay, or is not repaying;
GN 02210.217 and GN 02215.150.
requests explanation of overpayment, reconsideration or waiver;
requests change of billing date;
MSOM DMS 008.003.
requests change in installment amount;
MSOM DMS 008.003.
requests or needs an interpreter;
4. Contact with a third party
If you reach a third party while attempting phone contact, do not discuss the overpayment or the nature of your business. Follow this chart:
the debtor is not at home or unable to come to the phone;
find out where and when we can reach the debtor.
the third party asks if debtor can return call;
provide the DMS telephone number;
leave message for debtor to call during a specified time; and
annotate in the RMKS screen that you requested the debtor to call at a specific time.
the third party indicates the debtor is deceased;
follow the instructions on “How to Process Death Cases - DCR/DS Actions” in GN 02210.221.
5. Contact with an answering machine
If you reach a phone answering service or machine, leave a message for the debtor to call during a specified time. Do not discuss the overpayment or the nature of your business in the message. Annotate in the DMS RMKS screen that you requested the debtor to call at a specific time.