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Boustany, Johnson Demand Answers for the American People on Treasury Debt Recovery Program

April 15, 2014

Washington, DC – Today, Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., M.D. (R-LA) and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Acting Social Security Administration (SSA) Commissioner Carolyn Colvin regarding media reports that adults who may have once received Social Security benefits as children were having their tax refunds withheld by Treasury for overpayments made to their parents decades ago.  Parents of some of those affected are deceased and many of the taxpayers never received notice that they owed a debt as provided under law.

Yesterday, Colvin announced the SSA would stop further referrals of debts owed to Social Security that are ten years or older to the Treasury Department for collection under the Treasury Offset Program.

The letter requests a full explanation to this Committee and the American people as to how their implementation of the law may have led to unjust and outrageous results.

Boustany and Johnson stated, “SSA’s decision to stop referrals was the right thing to do.  However, Treasury and Social Security still owe an explanation to the American people. While the government must protect taxpayer dollars, it is difficult to justify the practice of seizing innocent Americans’ tax refunds to pay debts resulting from benefits they may or may not have received when they were children, with little or no notice or evidence documenting the overpayment.  The sooner we have those answers the sooner we can work to protect Americans from agency actions that are harsh and unfair.”

According to an April 10, 2014 article in The Washington Post, Treasury “has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year – $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years.”  Further, the article also states that the SSA has found 400,000 taxpayers who together owe $714 million in debts more than 10 years old.