TN 14 (02-98)

GN 02250.024 Duplicate Payments - Waiver of Overpayment Recovery

A. Introduction

Although a finding of without fault usually cannot be made for the person who received duplicate payments, we must give that person the right to request waiver and reconsideration. It is possible that under unusual circumstances the individual is without fault in negotiating both checks.

B. Policy

1. Duplicate Checks

Occasionally, the system will pay a duplicate check which bears the same date, the same amount and is received on the same day as the original check. Whenever the monthly benefit payment changes, SSA sends a letter of explanation. Thus, in duplicate check situations, the person who receives an extra check can reasonably be expected to know that the second check should be returned. A person who does not question the receipt of a duplicate check will generally be found at fault for the overpayment.

If the duplicate check results from incorrect manual processing, fault will have to be decided according to the circumstances. Be aware, however, that at the time of processing, the person will be sent a notice and should be expected to question any checks that are inconsistent with the notice.

2. Substitute Check (Courtesy Disbursement)

A substitute check is issued when the original is reported lost, stolen or not received. It is marked “Replaces CL     dated (MM/DD/YY).” The person is also advised to return the original check if it is received or found. Thus, a person who cashes both checks usually will be found at fault.

3. Critical Payment System (CPS)

In the notice that accompanies a CPS payment the person is advised that duplicate payment for all or part of the emergency payment should be returned to SSA or future payments may be withheld to recover the overpayment. The person is also instructed to check with SSA if unsure whether a future check represents a duplicate payment. Since very clear instructions are given about receipt of duplicate payments in CPS situations, a person who is so overpaid usually will be found at fault.

4. Erroneous Entitlement On More Than One SSN

If the person did not withhold information about filing on other records when he filled out his application, without fault may be established if the person could have reasonably believed he/she was entitled to benefits on both records.

5. Erroneous Payment of Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) Survivor Benefits

If a worker is alive, he/she can receive payments from both SSA and RRB. However, when the worker dies, only one agency (RRB determines which) has jurisdiction over survivor benefits.

There are cases where a person is being paid both title II and RRB survivor benefits when only RRB benefits are due. Absent evidence which indicates that the beneficiary was informed that they were not due SURVIVOR benefits from both agencies either when they filed for SURVIVOR benefits or when such benefits started, without fault will be established for any SSA overpayment.

  1. Without Fault

    Mr. and Mrs. Carrington were receiving benefits from both RRB and SSA. Mr. Carrington died in January 1990, and both SSA and RRB converted Mrs. Carrington to survivor benefits. The error was discovered in 1994, and SSA notified her of the SSA overpayment. She requested waiver stating that she didn't know that only RRB should have paid survivor benefits because she received two payments before Mr. Carrington's death and this continued after his death. Since Mrs. Carrington was not notified that she was not due the benefits when her benefits were converted to survivor benefits, she is found without fault in causing the overpayment.

  2. At Fault

    Molly Johnson applied for widows benefits with SSA giving her husband's years of service for the railroad. RRB subsequently notified her that only RRB would pay survivor benefits. However, through error, SSA also certified payment. At the time, she called SSA to question why she was also receiving title II benefits and was told that this was incorrect. Due to an exception, the SSA error was not corrected immediately and she continued to receive two payments. When the error was finally corrected, Mrs. Johnson was notified of the overpayment and she requested waiver. Since Mrs. Johnson was told that the title II benefit was not payable but she continued to accept and not return the payments, she is found at fault in causing the overpayment.

    In the example above, if Mrs. Johnson had been told that both benefits were due, misinformation would apply. See GN 02250.061.