The Social Security Administration, which announced in April that it would stop trying to collect debts from the children of people who were allegedly overpaid benefits decades ago, has continued to demand such payments and now defends that practice in court documents.
After The Washington Post reported in April that the Treasury Department had confiscated $75 million in tax refunds due to about 400,000 Americans whose ancestors owed money to Social Security, the agency’s acting commissioner, Carolyn Colvin, said efforts to collect on those old debts would cease immediately.
But although some people whose refunds were seized were reimbursed in recent months, some of those same taxpayers have since received new demands from Social Security, asserting that the debts remain and seeking repayment.
In March, the U.S. government intercepted Mary Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. It turned out that after Grice’s father died in 1960, when she was 4, her mother got survivor benefits to help feed and clothe her five children. Social Security says it overpaid someone in the Grice family — it’s not sure who — in 1977. With Grice’s mother long since dead, the government came after Mary to pay the debt.
The Takoma Park woman, now 58, filed suit against Social Security, challenging the government’s right to take her money without notice to satisfy her mother’s debt. After The Post wrote about her case, the government returned Grice’s tax refunds to her. But in August, she received a new bill from Social Security, seeking the same $2,997 that the agency had refunded to her four months earlier.
“DID YOU FORGET?” the letter said, demanding that Grice “send us the full payment right away.”
There is no excuse or justification–none–for going after the children of those who allegedly (note that word: “allegedly”) received overpayments from the Social Security Administration. That this practice is continuing is an outrage. Equally outrageous: There hasn’t been any kind of sustained effort on the part of any elected official to shine a light on this nonsense and to shame the Social Security Administration into stopping its practice of hounding entirely innocent people.
Nota bene: This story is but one example of how big government can overreach and harm the rights and liberties of those it is supposed to represent. There are, of course, other such examples of government-perpetrated overreach and harm. Maybe those who sneer at warnings concerning big government should think twice before dismissing such warnings as nonsensical and overwrought.