Social Security Drops Efforts To Collect Old Debts From Children of Debtors. Maybe.

Carolyn W. ColvinSocial Security AdministrationAfter a good deal of embarrassing coverage, the Social Security Administration announced it's suspending its efforts to collect old debts—those stretching into that past, beyond 10 years—on April 14. The official statement from Carolyn W. Colvin (pictured at right), Acting Commissioner of Social Security, carefully stays clear of any mention that they were often trying to collect these debts from the next generation.

I have directed an immediate halt to further referrals under the Treasury Offset Program to recover debts owed to the agency that are 10 years old and older pending a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law to refer debt to the Treasury Department.

If any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment under this program, I encourage them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment.

Controversy over the program swirled around both the age of the debts Social Security was trying to collect and the fact that it was putting the touch on people who were children when the debts were supposedly incurred by their parents and guardians.

People rarely keep documentation for decades on the off chance they may have to dispute future debt claims. And Social Security officials themselves admitted that they had no records of the alleged debts. They just wanted the money and were willing to take it.

Tapping the next generation for debts supposedly incurred by parents has been even more troubling to commentators, because it lies outside modern practice by demanding that people take responsibility for debts in which they have no say. Social Security claimed the modern generation benefited as children from overpaid public assistance and therefore personally owed the money.

Social Security officials are apparently surprised that anybody found this objectionable.

In an email, Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle said, "We want to assure the public that we do not seek restitution through tax refund offset in cases when the debt in question was established prior to the debtor turning 18 years of age." He added, "Also, we do not use tax refund offset to collect the debt of a person's relative. We only use it to collect the overpaid benefits the person received for himself or herself."

But that seems to have been Social Security's claim along, subject to novel interpretation. Which means some variant may well return once the fuss dies down.

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  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

  • Hugh Akston||

    Tapping the next generation for debts supposedly incurred by parents has been even more troubling to commentators, because it lies outside modern practice by demanding that people take responsibility for debts in which they have no say.

    Uh, isn't that exactly what the government is doing by spending more money than it has and taxing future generations to pay off the loan interest?

  • ||

    Shh, Hugh! You're giving away the "secret"!

  • sarcasmic||

    It's no secret. It's right there in that social contract that you signed in blood the moment your parents got you a social security number. Blame them.

  • Suki||


    Uh, isn't that exactly what the government is doing by spending more money than it has and taxing future generations to pay off the loan interest?


    Yes, exactly.

    Is there any other debt in the US that relatives can be forced to pay? If I lend you money to buy a car and you die, will a court ever order your kids to pay the debt?

  • UnCivilServant||

    If I lend you money to buy a car and you die, will a court ever order your kids to pay the debt?


    You may want an example where there isn't collateral that can be seized from the estate.
  • Agammamon||

    If I lend you money to buy a car and you die in a horrible wreck in that car, completely wrecking it and not leaving anything salvageable, will a court ever order your kids to pay the debt?

    And keep in mind that there is a difference between the *estate* and the inheritor.

    The debt is held against the estate and the estates assets are used to pay off creditors *before* the estate passes to the inheritors.

    If the total value of the debts is equal or higher than the value of the estate then that's it - you inherit nothing, including the remainder of that debt. The creditors are just SOL.

  • Adam330||

    Also, even if there is enough value in the estate to pay off the debts, and creditor doesn't come forward at the time the estate is being settled, he is SOL (unless he can show fraud).

  • prolefeed||

    Uh, isn't that exactly what the government is doing by spending more money than it has and taxing future generations to pay off the loan interest?

    Try translating this from statist-speak into anarchist-speak:

    "Uh, isn't that exactly what the mafia is doing by spending more money than it has and stealing from future generations to pay off the loan interest?"

    Put that way, this * transaction * can't be considered "demanding that people take responsibility for debts in which they have no say", since someone robbing me at gunpoint isn't me taking "responsibility" for whatever shit they want to buy next with the stolen loot.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    Tapping the next generation for debts supposedly incurred by parents

    I thought that this was congress' basic financial strategy?

  • Loki||

    Which means some variant may well return once the fuss dies down.

    I think you can pretty much count on that. These shitheads never give up, especially when it comes to money.

  • Brett L||

    Social Security officials themselves admitted that they had no records of the alleged debts.

    Classic mob shakedown. "Give us the money you owe us!"
    But I don't own you any money
    "Your dad owed us before he kicked."
    He never said anything about that....
    "Fuck you, pay us."

  • WhatAboutBob||

    Just get rid of the IRS and the Federal Reserve. Both of them make a free and peaceful society impossible!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...I encourage them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment.

    You will receive the former, in the guise of a middle finger. Halting future collections is the bare minimum the administration must do to head off the PR nightmare. No money will be returned.

  • Brett L||

    Dear Mr. Etiquette:

    Thank you for your inquiry into the possible over repayment of benefits. At this time, it has been determined that you are not eligible for a refund because fuck you, that's why.

    Sincerely,
    The SSA

  • Root Boy||

    Plus, if you contact us again, we'll kill your dog.

  • Agammamon||

    In addition, review of your records has brought to light a significant overpayment.

    The SSA requests that you immediately refund the balance of that overpayment, along with late fees and penalties accrued.

    Failure to remit within 2 working days of this notice being posted may result in further administrative and/or legal action, including but not limited to:

    Further financial penalties
    Liens placed on real property
    Criminal sanctions, including jail time
    Heavily armed men breaking down your door at 5 in the morning and shooting your dog.

  • DontShootMe||

    If you do not own a dog, you will be ordered to procure one, then it will be shot.

  • wadair||

    He added, "Also, we do not use tax refund offset to collect the debt of a person's relative. We only use it to collect the overpaid benefits the person received for himself or herself."

    I love government euphemisms. "Tax return offset" is so nebulous.

    Withholding tax overpayment to "offset" an SS overpayment to the same person makes sense. But thieving the tax overpayment of someone who might have somehow unknowingly benefitted from the thievery of another is not "offset." It's stealing.

  • Root Boy||

    Yes, total doublespeak. What if you were a kid, your parents got SS by mistake and you happen to turn 18 when the last check came. They still try to put it on you for their fuckup.

    I think Grassley has a letter out (oh, the horror!) to SSA telling them what they did was illegal - not that it matters much to the gov about breaking their own rules.

  • Brett L||

    Honestly, it would be really great if the Senate in 2017 is held by the party that didn't win the Presidency. Imagine actual Senate confirmation hearings in which specific bad actors and agencies were discussed in detail in public.

  • Root Boy||

    Divided government seems to be the only way to slow down its growth, though a Bush with a Dem congress will still grow only a little slower than Obama did in '09-'10

  • Pulseguy||

    "We only use it to collect the overpaid benefits the person received for himself or herself."

    This, in and of itself, does not say they won't do this again in the future.

    If my parents collected welfare, for example, and 30 years later the gov decides it was fraudulent they might come after me for the child portion of it, since that was my benefit, collected by my parents. They might say I received the benefit via my parents. They could do the same with food stamps.

  • concerned cynic||

    I see no evidence that the Feds are agreeing to cease and desist from doing anything. SSA has only agreed to do "a thorough review of our responsibility and discretion under the current law". This prose was carefully crafted by an SSA lawyer, not Mrs Colvin.

    BTW, it is easy to arrange one's tax affairs so as to include a check with one's tax return, rather than to collect a refund. Doing this pretty much defeats this collection program.

  • Eric L||

    "In an email, Social Security spokesman Mark Hinkle..." So, this is what becomes of former chairs of the National Libertarian Party.

  • Silver Fang||

    Government is just out of touch with the general public? How could they think that people wouldn't be angered over their tax refunds being raped to pay off decades old debts that they themselves didn't incur and may not even exist?

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