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Overpayments and Fraud

Produced by Deborah Harris, Ruth Bourquin, Patricia Baker Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated December 2010

If you get more benefits than you are eligible for, DTA can recover the overpayment. An overpayment can happen because of a DTA mistake, your mistake, or because you got benefits while you were waiting for a hearing and lost the hearing. 106 C.M.R. § 706.220. If DTA thinks the overpayment happened because of your mistake or because you committed fraud, it may refer your case to the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI). 106 C.M.R. § 706.240.

DTA can also try to recover cash benefits you “knowingly” used to buy alcohol, tobacco products, lottery tickets, or other prohibited items. See What should you do if you need to replace or change your EBT card?. 106 C.M.R. § 706.250(D).

If the overpayment happened because of your mistake or a DTA mistake, DTA has a policy of not seeking recovery of an overpayment

  • if the overpayment occurred 12 or more months before DTA discovered the problem,
  • if the overpayment is less than $125 and you are not a current recipient,
  • to the extent you cannot repay the overpayment within three years without financial hardship. DTA will reduce the claim to the amount that can be recovered in three years. If you are a current recipient, DTA will not reduce the claim below what could be collected through automatic benefit reduction ($10 or 10 percent of the Payment Standard, whichever is greater). See 106 C.M.R. § 706.290; DTA Online Guide (Unintentional Program Violations)
    • The date of discovery is the date the overpayment is verified or the date the household fails to respond to or verify an overpayment inquiry. DTA Operations Memo 2014-35 (May 15, 2015).
  • DTA considers information it gets from a match with the original source of the information to be verified when DTA receives it. Examples are unemployment benefits reported by the Division of Unemployment Assistance and Social Security benefits reported by the Social Security Administration. In these cases the day DTA receives the match is the date the overpayment is considered verified.
  • DTA does not consider wage information it gets from the Department of Revenue to be “verified” when DTA receives it. Such information is considered verified when the household provides paystubs or when the household fails to respond to a notice to verify wage information.

DTA may suspend collection where the overpayment happened because of your mistake or a DTA mistake if you are no longer a recipient or DTA determines that collecting the claim will cost more than the amount it will be able to get from you.

Advocacy Reminder:

  • If you don’t report a change by mistake, the overpayment period begins when the change would have been effective if it had been reported on time. See DTA Online Guide (Unintentional Program Violations). For example, you usually have 10 days to report a change and then DTA has to give at least 10 days’ notice before it takes action to reduce or cut off your benefits. The overpayment therefore should not begin until the date the DTA notice would have been effective if you had reported on time, usually 20 or more days from when the change occurred. 
Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated January 2017

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