TN 11 (08-91)

GN 02250.061 Misinformation From an Official Source — Waiver

A. Policy

A person is without fault for an overpayment if the person (or the person's representative) relied on incorrect information from:

  • An official source within SSA; or

  • Some other governmental agency which the individual has reason to believe was connected with the administration of RSDI benefits.

1. Active Seeking of Information

A person is misinformed only when he actively sought information which subsequently proved to be incorrect. Misinformation can be given both orally and in a notice. However, a routine notice is never cause for misinformation. For example, misinformation does not apply to the AERO notice received by a person who has received an incorrect benefit computation.

2. Misunderstanding Not Misinformation

Misunderstanding of correct information from an official source does not constitute misinformation. A person who misunderstood correct information may be without fault for the overpayment (depending on the circumstances), but misinformation would not be found.

3. How Misinformation Is Applied

Generally, a finding of without fault based on misinformation applies to the month misinformation is received and succeeding months.

However, misinformation can be found for months before a person gets incorrect information.

If misinformation is established, recovery is deemed to be against equity and good conscience (GN 02250.150).

4. Examples

Example 1:  A person who relies on misinformation that earnings after retirement will not cause deductions for months in the same taxable year may be found without fault for any overpayment in the year due to work even though he worked before retirement.

Example 2:  Similarly, if a person is misinformed and later in the same year SSA provides correct information, continued work and earnings do not preclude a finding of without fault for the months in which the person relied on misinformation.

B. Procedure

1. Statement of Person Alleging Misinformation

Obtain a full explanation for the person's reliance on incorrect information in the person's own words. Have the person describe the situation that created the need for information and the facts available to the provider of the information. Have the person summarize the information received and give the time and place it was received.

2. Correct Answer Incorrectly Applied

Be alert to situations where the person has incorrectly applied correct information. A correct answer to a general question may be incorrect when applied to a person's specific situation and would not constitute misinformation. Ascertain if the person alleging misinformation asked a general question which did not contain the specifics of his situation.

3. Resolve Any Doubt in Favor of Beneficiary

If development does not preclude a finding of misinformation and the detailed allegation is consistent with the facts of the case, resolve any doubts in favor of finding that the beneficiary did receive misinformation.

C. Examples

1. Situation Is Misinformation

Ellie Faunt reported her marriage in May 1990. Upon investigation, it is discovered that her young wife's benefits should have terminated in September 1988 when she divorced the number holder. She alleges that she called the FO to report her divorce and was told that since she was married for 10 years she could continue to receive benefits so long as her youngest child was under age 16. Misinformation can be established since the allegations are not inconsistent with the facts of the case.

2. Situation Is Not Misinformation

Jerry Lewis is overpaid due to work. He alleges that he called the 800 number and was told he could work part-time without losing benefits. He also indicated that when he got his job in March he was only working 10 hours per week and probably gave that as his estimate of earnings. Since then he received a raise and increased his work to 30 hours per week. Based on the facts in this case, it appears that Mr. Lewis misapplied correct information. Misinformation cannot be found.

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