If the statute of limitations has expired, civil suit may not be instituted against
a debtor. To ensure that civil suit is not barred, the complaint must be filed within:
Six years after the right of action accrues (i.e., within 6 years after the time an
overpayment determination has been made); or
One year after a final decision has been rendered in an administrative proceeding
(i.e., reconsideration, hearing, and/or review by the Appeals Council), whichever
The above time limitation will be extended if facts material to the right of action
(a. above) are not and could not reasonably have been known by SSA.
EXAMPLE: A debtor fails to report excess earnings for 1990 and we were unaware of the earnings
until an enforcement operation in 1991. The overpayment determination is made in 1991,
recovery by civil suit is not barred until 1997.
The time limitation will also be extended if the debtor makes a partial payment of
the debt or acknowledges the debt in writing.
EXAMPLE: The initial overpayment determination was made in 1990, and debtor agrees to repay
by monthly installments. The last payment was made on June 10, 1992. Recovery by civil
suit is not barred until June 9, 1998 (within 6 years after payment default).
In addition, the running of the statute of limitations is suspended during all periods
The debtor is outside the United States, its territories and possessions, the District
of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; or
The debtor is exempt from legal process because of infancy (i.e., child under age
18), mental incompetence, diplomatic immunity, or for any other reason, or
The U.S. is in a state of war declared by Congress.
Such periods may be deducted from the actual total elapsed time.
Where it appears that the time limitation may soon expire, the debt claim must be
promptly referred for enforced collection.
NOTE: Whenever there is a delay of more than 1 year between the time overpayment occurs
and the time a determination is made (i.e., notice sent), a complete explanation and
evidence to support the delay must be provided by the PC when the debt claim is referred