Can Social Security Overpayments be Discharged in Bankruptcy?

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Written by Andrea Wimmer, Esq..  
Updated June 22, 2020

Summary

If you owe money to the government due to an overpayment of social security benefits, you may be concerned about whether you’ll be able to eliminate this debt as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Keep reading to learn how to make sure you are able to discharge your debt for this overpayment.

If you owe money to the government due to an overpayment of social security benefits, you may be concerned about whether you’ll be able to eliminate this debt as part of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. After all, most debts owed to governmental units, like taxes, tickets, or court fines, are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. 

An overpayment of social security benefits canbe discharged in bankruptcy. It’s a general unsecured nonpriority debt. It just happens to be owed to the government. But, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can object to the discharge if it determines that the overpayment was the result of intentional wrongdoing on your part. If you received social security benefits even though you were not eligible for it because you failed to update the SSA after a change in your circumstances, it may be considered fraud

Making sure the SSA knows about your bankruptcy filing

Because it’s owed to the government, it’s very important to make sure that you include all required addresses for the SSA in your schedules and on your creditor matrix, so they’re timely notified of your filing. Without this, the debt may not be discharged even if you did nothing wrong! 

The good news is that the court’s Bankruptcy Noticing Center is the one that sends out the notices, so all you have to worry about is providing the correct addresses to the court. 

Local Office: Check any recent correspondence you received from the SSA to find their local address. You can also find the mailing address for SSA office in your area doing a simple zip code search on the SSA’s website

Main Office: In addition to their local office, you should list their main office as an additional address to send the notice to: 

Social Security Administration

Gen'l Counsel, Rm 611 Altmeyer Bldg

6401 Security Blvd

Baltimore MD 21235-6401

US Attorney for your District: Finally, because there is no such thing as giving too much notice when it comes to something as important as getting your bankruptcy discharge, you should add the US Attorney for the district you’re filing in as a second additional address for the SSA. You can find the mailing information for the US Attorney by clicking on the district your case is going to be filed in, on this directory. This will take you to the main page for the US Attorney’s Office in your district. You’ll find their contact information by clicking “Contact Us” at the top right of the page. 

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What happens if the SSA thinks I committed fraud?

If the SSA thinks that you accepted the social security benefits even though you knew that you were no longer eligible, they can ask the court to exclude this debt from your discharge under the fraud exception. It’s a general rule in bankruptcy that if you incurred a debt based on fraud, you can’t discharge it. 

If the SSA thinks that you should not be able to discharge the debt you owe them based on this, they will initiate an adversary proceeding against you. An adversary proceeding is like a mini-trial that is handled by the bankruptcy court. 

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Can Upsolve help me fight an adversary proceeding? 

No, Upsolve unfortunately can’t help. If you received a summons and complaint for an adversary proceeding in your bankruptcy case, you should seriously consider speaking to a local bankruptcy attorney or legal aid organization about your case. Ignoring the issue may result in you losing your ability to discharge the debt. 

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About the author

Andrea Wimmer, Esq.

Andrea practiced exclusively as debtors’ counsel in consumer chapter 7 and 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea handled all ban... read more

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