Unbeknownst to most people and only recently publicized, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has been seizing state and federal tax refunds from approximately 400,000 Americans who had relatives who owed money to SSA. This collection of monies involved many cases that are 10 years or older through seizures from children of parents who had impermissibly collected Social Security benefits. At the time these benefits were paid, these new debt payors were minors who had absolutely no idea of what had occurred and would not learn of this liability until a decade or more later. Some of the debts being collected went all the way back to the 1950's!!!!
Overall, SSA had collected nearly $2B dollars through interception of tax returns this year alone with $75M of that sum attributable to debts older than 10 years.
This practice by SSA was recently exposed by The Washington Post and has caused a firestorm resulting in SSA’s announcement that it would cease collecting debts that were over 10 years.
But, is SSA’s new course of action any more fair???? If a parent impermissible receives benefits, their child still could be held responsible for payment of this debt. For example, a child of 16 years old could have tax returns taken for many years for a parental debt for which they had no knowledge. Holding minors accountable for a parent’s debt does not occur anywhere else in American jurisprudence. For this reason, SSA’s new stance remains insupportable.
Given the backdrop of the ever-increasing backlog of disability cases, the reasonable course would be to direct activities to those in need rather than inventing ways of recouping monies from descendants of relatives received benefits a decade ago.
There is little doubt that SSA should reassess its priorities and remember its primary mission: assisting the elderly and disabled in this country.