Identification Number:
EM-14032 REV2
Intended Audience:RCs/ARCs/ADs/FOs/TSCs/PSCs/OCO/OCO-CST
Originating Office:DCBFM OFPO
Title:Handling Inquiries about the Acting Commissioner’s Halt of the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) Referrals for Debts 10 or More Years Delinquent and Processing Instructions for Refunding Payments Withheld via the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) – One-Time-Only Instructions
Type:EM - Emergency Messages
Program:Title II (RSI); Title XVI (SSI)
Link To Reference:See References at the end of this EM.
 
Retention date: March 19, 2019



Revision: We are revising the EM to provide clarifying language and procedure that we left off when we first published the EM.

Since our last revision on May 27 of EM-14032 REV, we determined that some debtors with debts 10 years or more delinquent did not receive proper due process before an offset occurred. In these situations, Program Service Centers 1 through 6 will review and take action on the 8,105 offsets that occurred before we gave proper due process. We updated EM-14032 to include instructions to the Field Offices and the National 800 Number Network for handling these cases if a debtor calls or visits his or her local field office.

A. Purpose

The purpose of this emergency message (EM) is to provide instructions for responding to inquiries about the Acting Commissioner’s (ACOSS) halt of the TOP referrals for debts 10 or more years delinquent, including processing instructions for issuing a refund when we did not provide the debtor with at least 60 days due process before collecting a debt via TOP. This EM also includes notices you should use when processing these refunds.

NOTE: These instructions are for debtors with debts 10 years or more delinquent.

B. Background on TOP delinquent debts

Since 1992, SSA has referred delinquent debts to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) for collection via the offset of tax refunds. In 1998, we began participating in TOP, allowing Treasury to offset any Federal payment, which includes tax refund offset, due a debtor to recover our delinquent programmatic debts. Currently, TOP reduces or withholds Federal and State income tax refunds and other administrative Federal or State payments to recover our delinquent programmatic debts.

Previously, regulations prevented the referral of debts 10 years or more delinquent to Treasury for collection. In October 2011, we amended our regulations to allow us to refer debts 10 years or more delinquent to TOP for collection to comply with legislation. In June 2012, we began notifying the affected debtors of this change and our ability to recover their delinquent debt via TOP.

Effective April 14, 2014, the ACOSS halted further referrals under TOP to recover delinquent debts owed to the Agency that are 10 years or more delinquent. The ACOSS directed that we cease the referral of these delinquent debts to TOP, pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law.


Based on this directive, sites can expect to see an increase in inquiries about their overpayments and Treasury offsetting their tax refunds, especially those that are 10 years or more delinquent. Because of the age of these debts, it is important to remember that many individuals may not remember the circumstances that resulted in the overpayment. In addition, it is possible that we sent the notice to a former address, which was the most current address we had available on our records, and the individual did not receive the notice. This address may precede the address where we sent the debtor’s last Social Security Statement. We obtain addresses for the Social Security Statement differently than we obtain addresses for these notices.

C. Handling inquiries

If the field office (FO) receives a Congressional or public relations Title II or Title XVI tax refund offset (TRO) or TOP inquiry, notify the regional office (RO).

Regardless of when we established the overpayment (i.e., recently or many years ago), use current overpayment policy and procedures. If a debtor contacts you because he or she received an External Collection Operation (ECO) notice about a delinquent debt or because of an offset of his or her Federal or State payment to recover a delinquent debt, use the instructions below.
      · Review the Master Beneficiary Record (MBR) or Supplemental Security Record (SSR) for Special Message, “8105 TOP overpayment case. Special handling required. Contact PSC DMS unit for assistance.” If this message appears on the MBR/SSR, do not take any actions to correct the case. Contact the Program Service Center (PSC) Debt Management Section (DMS) of jurisdiction for further action. (See instructions in EM-14038.)

      · Follow the instructions below for all other cases.
        · Review the record, particularly for any notices. ECO notice information can be found in the ECO query. The query is at the end of the MBR or SSR. (See MSOM DMS 014.007C). The address used for the ECO notice is the current address found in the Debtor Information Section of the ECO query, and
          · Use the appropriate tools (e.g., the Overpayment Wizard (OPWIZ)) to provide a thorough explanation as to the cause, the amount, and period of the overpayment.
            NOTE: If the FO is unable to explain the Title II overpayment, input the ‘E’ protest indicator and refer the case to the PSC of jurisdiction via Modernized Development Worksheet (MDW). The PSC will provide an explanation to the debtor.
          · Inform the debtor that current laws authorize us to refer delinquent debts to Treasury for offset of Federal and State tax refunds and other administrative Federal or State payments.
          · For general information on Title II and Title XVI overpayments, see GN 02201.000.
          · For the collection of Title II overpayments by tax refund offset (TRO), see GN 02201.030.
          · For the collection of Title XVI overpayments by TRO, see SI 02220.012.
          REMINDER: The debtor may request a waiver of the overpayment at any time. If you are unable to obtain any pertinent overpayment documents from the claims folder and you cannot get them through the Online Retrieval System, Paperless, NDRED, or any other electronic means, you are legally bound to assume the debtor is without fault and you have to approve the waiver request.
          · For more information on waiver of Title II overpayments, see GN 02250.000 Waiver Provisions for Title II and Title XVIII Overpayments
            · For more information on waiver of Title XVI overpayments, see SI 02260.000 Waiver Provisions for SSI Overpayments
          1. For debtors who have a debt 10 years or more delinquent and no offset occurred:

            · Notify the debtor that the Agency is reviewing this policy and procedure, and we will send notification of any future decisions made that affect the case. In the interim, we must follow our current policy.
              · If additional questions arise about the ACOSS’ “halt on further referrals,” please let the individual know that this means:
                  At this time, we are not sending additional cases that are 10 years or more delinquent to Treasury for collection under this policy. However, the Agency has not made any further decisions related to cases already selected for collection.

              a. Program Service Centers (PSCs) and Field Offices (FOs) procedures
                  · For handling Title II TRO debtor inquiries and protests, see GN 02201.030D and for handling Title XVI TRO debtor inquiries and protests, see SI 02220.012D.
                  b. National 800 Number Network (N8NN) procedures
                    · For handling TRO debtor inquiries and protests, see TC 27010.020.
                2. For debtors who have a debt 10 years or more delinquent and offset occurred:
                  a. If the debtor admits to receiving the ECO notice 60 days prior to offset:
                  Respond to the debtor and include the following language:
                      “The statement made by the Acting Commissioner of Social Security does not apply to your overpayment because we referred your debt to Treasury before the statement and you received proper notification prior to the offset. If you think you should not have to pay us back for another reason, you may request a waiver. For us to waive collection of your overpayment two things must be true:
                          · It was not your fault you got too much Social Security or Supplemental Security Income money AND

                          · Paying us back would mean you cannot pay your bills for food, clothing, housing, or medical care, or it would be unfair for some other reason.”
                        i. PSCs and FOs procedures
                          For handling Title II TRO post certification/post offset inquiries, see GN 02201.030E or for handling Title XVI post certification/post offset inquiries, see SI 02220.012F.

                        ii. N8NN procedures
                          For handling TRO post certification/post offset inquiries, see TC 27010.030.
                      b. If the debtor admits to receiving the ECO notice, but not 60 days prior to the offset, and

                        · Our records indicate a notice was sent and no subsequent undeliverable was posted to the record, we may be able to refund the offset amount to the debtor:
                      Respond to the debtor and include the following language
                            “Our records show that we sent you proper notification prior to the offset. If you can provide us with recent documentation that reflects your current mailing address is different from what we have on our records (i.e. current driver’s license, utility bill, paystub), we can refund the money and discuss other repayment options since refunding the money will not eliminate your overpayment. If you think you should not have to pay us back for another reason, you may request a waiver. For us to waive collection of your overpayment two things must be true:
                              It was not your fault you got too much Social Security or Supplemental Security Income money AND

                              Paying us back would mean you cannot pay your bills for food, clothing, housing, or medical care, or it would be unfair for some other reason.”
                            Note: Some examples of acceptable evidence may include, but are not limited to, utility bills, current driver’s license, mortgage bills, W-2’s, financial statements, or payment stubs. All evidence must be recent, in the debtor’s name, and match his or her current identification
                          · Our records show an undeliverable notice posted to the record after or less than 60 days before the offset, we can refund the offset amount to the debtor:

                            Respond to the debtor and include the following language:
                              “Our records show that we attempted to notify you; however, the post office returned the notice as undeliverable, but it was too late for us to stop the offset. We can refund the money and discuss other repayment options since refunding the money will not eliminate your overpayment. If you think you should not have to pay us back for another reason, you may request a waiver. For us to waive collection of your overpayment two things must be true:
                                It was not your fault you got too much Social Security or Supplemental Security Income money AND
                                  Paying us back would mean you cannot pay your bills for food, clothing, housing, or medical care, or it would be unfair for some other reason.”
                                i. PSCs and FOs procedures

                                ii. N8NN procedures
                                  See TC 27010.030 for handling TRO post certification/post offset inquiries.
                              c. If the debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice, and

                                · Our records show an undeliverable notice posted to the record after or less than 60 days before the offset, we can refund the offset amount to the debtor.
                                Respond to the debtor and include the following language:
                                      “Our records show that we attempted to notify you; however, the post office returned the notice as undeliverable, but it was too late for us to stop the offset. We can refund the money and discuss repayment options since refunding the money will not eliminate your overpayment. If you think you should not have to pay us back for another reason, you may request a waiver. For us to waive collection of your overpayment two things must be true:
                                        It was not your fault you got too much Social Security or Supplemental Security Income money AND
                                          Paying us back would mean you cannot pay your bills for food, clothing, housing or medical care, or it would be unfair for some other reason.”
                                        i. PSCs and FOs procedure
                                          For more information on what to do when a debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice, see GN 02201.030F.2 for Title II debts or SI 02220.012G.2 for Title XVI debts.

                                        ii. N8NN procedures
                                          For more information on what to do when a debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice, refer to TC 27010.030K.
                                      · Our records do not show an undeliverable notice was posted to the record prior to the offset, we may be able to refund the offset amount to the debtor:
                                    Respond to the debtor and include the following language:
                                          “Our records show that we sent proper notification to you and the post office did not return this notice as undeliverable. If you did not receive the notice, please provide us with recent documentation that reflects your current mailing address (i.e. current driver’s license, utility bill, paystub). If the evidence shows that you did not receive the notice, we can refund the money and discuss other repayment options since refunding the money will not eliminate your overpayment. ”

                                          If you think you should not have to pay us back for another reason, you may request a waiver. For us to waive collection of your overpayment two things must be true:
                                              It was not your fault you got too much Social Security or Supplemental Security Income money AND
                                              Paying us back would mean you cannot pay your bills for food, clothing, housing, or medical care, or it would be unfair for some other reason.”
                                          NOTE: Some examples of acceptable evidence may include, but are not limited to, utility bills, current driver’s license, mortgage bills, W-2’s, financial statements, or payment stubs. All evidence must be recent, in the debtor’s name, and match his/her current identification
                                          i. PSCs and FOs procedures

                                            For more information on what to do when a debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice, see GN 02201.030F.2 for Title II debts or SI 02220.012G.2 for Title XVI debts.
                                          ii. N8NN procedures

                                            For more information on what to do when a debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice, refer to TC 27010.030K.
                                    3. For debtors who have a debt that is not 10 years or more delinquent or have a debt that has not been selected for TOP referral

                                  Respond to the debtor using the following language:
                                      “On April 14, 2014, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security stopped further collections of overpayments 10-years or more delinquent using the Treasury Offset Program. This decision does not apply to your overpayment because your overpayment is not 10 years or more delinquent or we did not refer your overpayment to Treasury for collection.”

                                      NOTE: See MSOM DMS 014.007C to determine if we referred the debt to TOP.
                                  D. Procedure for processing refunds for overpayments 10 years or more delinquent
                                    NOTE: When the FO receives a Congressional or public relations title II TRO inquiry that requires a refund, refer the case to the PSC of jurisdiction via Manager to Manger. All other title II TRO inquiries requiring a refund should be referred to the PSC via MDW.
                                    1. Title II procedures

                                      If the debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice at least 60 days prior to the offset and our records show an undeliverable notice posted to the record, or the debtor provides recent documentation (i.e. current driver’s license, utility bill, paystub) that reflects that his or her current mailing address is different from the address on our records, you can refund the offset amount to the debtor. Some examples of acceptable evidence may include, but are not limited to, utility bills, current driver’s license, mortgage bills, W-2’s, financial statements, or payment stubs. All evidence must be recent, in the debtor’s name, and match his/her current identification
                                      a. Update the ECO record with the current address using the Debt Management System (DMS) b. Issue a refund

                                        Refund any amount offset by Treasury via Manual Adjustment, Credit, and Award Data Entry (MACADE) (see SM 00810.100). Do not send the A18 notice.
                                        c. Send a notice
                                        Send the TOP/TRO Refund Notice via AURORA Exhibit E4020.
                                          d. Post the refund to ECO
                                              Post the refund of the offset amount to ECO using the Correct Offset Amount screen (TRCA), which is requested from the Debt Management Menu (DMMU) function number 12-Treasury Offset Menu (TRMU) screen (see MSOM DMS 014.005). This action will also notify Treasury about the refund.
                                            e. Correct the overpayment balance or reestablish debt

                                              Correct the overpayment balance for the amount refunded, or re-establish the overpayment if the offset amount reduced the overpayment balance to $0.00 using the Establish Debt (SMED) screens in DMS. (MSOM DMS 002.003).
                                          2. Title XVI procedures
                                            If the debtor alleges non-receipt of the ECO notice and our records show an undeliverable notice posted to the record 60 days prior to the offset, you can refund the offset amount to the debtor.
                                            a. Update the ECO record with the current address using DMS b. Issue a refund
                                            Refund any amount offset by Treasury via A-OTP (see SM 01901.001).
                                            c. Send a notice
                                              Send the TOP/TRO Refund Notice via the Document Processing System (DPS). This new notice is located in the Overpayment folder.
                                            d. Post the refund to ECO
                                              Post the refund of the offset amount to ECO using the Correct Offset Amount screen (TRCA), which is requested from the Debt Management Menu (DMMU) function number 12-Treasury Offset Menu (TRMU) screen (see MSOM DMS 014.005). This action will also notify Treasury about the refund.
                                            e. Correct the overpayment balance or reestablish the debt

                                              Correct the overpayment balance for the amount refunded, or re-establish the overpayment if the offset amount reduced the overpayment balance to $0.00 (see SI 02220.012E.1.a.).

                                        Reminder: Direct all program-related and technical questions to your RO support staff or PSC OA staff. RO support staff or PSC OA staff may refer questions or problems to their Central Office contacts.


                                        E. Exhibits


                                        Exhibit A. – Sample ECO Notice Template


                                        External Collection Offset Notice.docExternal Collection Offset Notice.doc

                                        Exhibit B. – Sample ECO Query


                                        Sample ECO Query.docSample ECO Query.doc

                                        Exhibit C – DPS TOP/TRO Refund Notice

                                        DPS TRO notice .pdfDPS TRO notice .pdf


                                        Exhibit D – AURORA Exhibit Letter E4020

                                        sample of exhibit E4020.docsample of exhibit E4020.doc


                                        References:
                                        GN 02270.003 Claims Folder Information for Personal Conferences
                                        GN 02201.030 Collection of Title II Overpayments by Tax Refund Offset (TRO)
                                        GN 02250.000 Waiver Provisions for Title II and Title XVIII Overpayments
                                        SI 02220.012 Collection of Title XVI Overpayments by Tax Refund Offset (TRO)
                                        SI 02260.000 Waiver Provisions for SSI Overpayments
                                        TC 27010.020 Handling TRO Preoffset Debtor Inquiries/Protests
                                        TC 27010.030 Handling TRO Postcertification/Postoffset Inquiries
                                        EM-14038 SEN Field Office (FO) and National 800# Number Network (N8NN) Responses to Inquiries for Certain Treasury Offset Program (TOP) Notices
                                        EM-14032 REV2 - Handling Inquiries about the Acting Commissioner’s Halt of the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) Referrals for Debts 10 or More Years Delinquent and Processing Instructions for Refunding Payments Withheld via the Treasury Offset Program (TOP) – One-Time-Only Instructions - 06/10/2014