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SSA “Streamlines” Select COVID-19 Overpayment Waivers

Empire Justice Center October 30, 2020

An interim final rule published by the Social Security Administration (SSA) on August 27, 2020, 85 Fed. Reg. 52909, established a new “streamlined” procedure for the waiver of select overpayments that accrued between March 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020.  SSA says it is identifying certain overpayments that accrued as a direct result of the workloads the agency had suspended due to COVID-19 from March through August 31, 2020.  The affected beneficiary must affirmatively request the waiver.

 

With the streamlined process, SSA is concluding that the beneficiary is without fault, and that collection would be against equity and good conscience.  It will include language in its overpayment notices informing all overpayment recipients that they may be entitled to a waiver simply by calling their local office and requesting one.  The notice will include a phone number for the local office for the individual to call and request the waiver.  SSA states it will identify eligible overpayments by December 30, 2020.

 

While this was intended as relief for COVID-related overpayments, this process will be available only for those resulting from workload suspensions. Excluded from the new process are many other overpayments caused by the pandemic, such as any resulting from any difficulties or the inability to visit a local office or report information.  The usual waiver process remains available for overpayments that SSA has not identified as eligible for the new streamlined procedure.

 

As an interim final rule, the change went into effect the same day without the usual notice-and-comment period.  However, comments were accepted through October 26, 2020.  Comments, including those from DAP providers, urged SSA to make the waiver automatic and to expand its application to other COVID-19-related overpayments, such as those related to a person’s inability to reach the local office to inform SSA of a change that might have changed the benefit amount.