What Can I Do About A Social Security Overpayment That Occurred When I Was A Child?

Jan 9 2019 - 12:57pm

Social security sent me a letter stating that I was overpaid by almost $1400. I am 34 years old and never collected benefits. So when I called they said it was from 1995-1997-I was 11 years old and it was my father who ended up collecting the benefits when he had a work injury and wasn't able to work. His SSN is even on the letter, but they now have it under my account and it came addressed to me. They are threatening to garnish wages etc. I do not talk to my father and as far as I know he is homeless. It's a crazy situation, but i do not feel that I should be responsible since I was underage. What can I do? I also do not want to provide them with all my financial information because it is irrelevant. This was 24 years ago.

Hi,

Yours is an unfortunate circumstance, but if your father received child benefits on your behalf you could potentially be held liable for any overpayment of benefits that occurred. I don't know enough about the circumstances involved to know if the overpayment is correct, but assuming that it is it's likely that your only recourse other than repaying the overpayment would be to file for a waiver (forgiveness) of the overpayment.

In order for an overpayment to be waived you must establish that a) you were without fault in causing the overpayment, and b) you either can't afford to repay the overpayment, or recovery of the overpayment from you would be against equity and good conscience. It goes without saying that you would be without fault in causing an overpayment that occurred when you were 11 years old, but you would still need to meet one of the other conditions to get the overpayment waived. And, if you are financially able to repay the overpayment, that would only leave the 'against equity and good conscience' alternative.

If you weren't living with your father when the overpayment occurred, you would probably meet the against equity and good conscience requirement (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202250150). But if you were living with your father when the overpayment happened, the presumption would be that you benefited from receipt of the overpaid funds via support and maintenance that your father would have provided.

To be honest, I doubt if Social Security would actually garnish your wages to collect your overpayment, but they could ask the IRS to withhold any tax refund that you may be due. Or, they could collect the overpayment someday in the future when you eventually qualify for Social Security benefits. So, you'll probably want to deal with this issue now.

Best, Jerry