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Financial
Jun 1, 2014

Due Process Lacking In Social Security Collection Efforts

Sponsored Content provided by Randy McIntyre - Partner, McIntyre, Paradis, Wood & Co.

Today I intend to vent rather than provide any particularly useful information. I want to touch on government’s misplaced priorities and lack of common sense and fair play. Just in the last two months I have read various news stories about situations that really irked me. 

A recent article by Marc Fisher of the Washington Post discussed efforts by the U.S. Treasury to collect overpaid Social Security benefits. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. But get this: They tried to collect it from one of the children (named Grice) when it was the parent who had received the Social Security for the children’s benefit. And get this, too: The debt was over 37 years old! Apparently Grice’s mother had five children. The father had died and the mother received Social Security benefits until each of the five children turned 18. Four years after the mother died, the government started coming after Grice even though there were four other siblings.

Social Security claims someone had been overpaid back in 1977 but they don’t know who. They grabbed Grice’s tax refunds from both the IRS and the state of Maryland. No notice was given. Social Security cannot prove that anybody received an overpayment, but still threatened to report the debt to the credit bureaus. Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. Apparently the policy is to collect from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.

And that’s not all. The Social Security Administration claims it sent Grice a notice, addressed to a Post Office box she had rented from 1977 to 1979. She had moved since then but had lived in the same place since 1984. One might think Social Security simply did not have a current address for her. Yet she has been receiving her Social Security benefit statements at her current address for years. Obviously, the computers at the Social Security Administration do not communicate with each other.

Another similar instance happened to a guy named Verbich. It only involved $172 that they grabbed from his tax refunds. Again, the Social Security office could not provide any documents to back up the claim. Verbich decided to pay the assessment. But when he asked about getting a receipt stating that the debt had been resolved, a clerk at the Social Security Administration told him she would submit the request but, in reality, he probably would not get anything. Now come on! You mean to tell me that the Social Security Administration, which collected on a debt it cannot prove, cannot type out a simple receipt? I am pretty sure their employees are qualified for that chore.

Now I am not an attorney but isn’t there something called “due process?” “Due process” is described in the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. But it is obvious that not many people in government have ever read it. And besides, is it fair to collect a debt from a child who never even knew about it?

Maybe a Presidential executive order could stop this absurdity!

Randy McIntyre is a Certified Public Accountant and a partner in McIntyre, Paradis, Wood & Company, CPAs. He has worked in public accounting since 1977, in Wilmington since 1992. His firm is built on a history of service, technical expertise, and innovative to provide the expertise of larger firms with a personal, one-on-one approach. To learn more about McIntyre, Paradis, Wood & Company, see www.mpwcpas.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or 910-793-1181.

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