Has the DUA asked you to return money they paid you?

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Greater Boston Legal Services

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is the agency that sends payments to people who claim unemployment benefits.

If the DUA says that you were overpaid, you can challenge their decision. You can also challenge the amount of the overpayment. Even if you agree that you were overpaid, you may not have to pay it back if you meet certain conditions.

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment is money you get that the DUA should not have sent to you. Maybe the DUA sent you more money than they should have, or sent you money they should not have sent. This can happen for different reasons:

  • If the Board of Review or a court looks at your claim and decides that you actually cannot get unemployment benefits, it "reverses the claim." If the DUA has already sent you money when they should not have, that money is an overpayment.
  • If the DUA does not get all the information they need, they can calculate the wrong amount to send you. If they send you more than you should get, they have sent you an overpayment.

It is very important to tell the DUA information as soon as you can, like when you get wages from a job. This information might change the amount of benefits you should get.

What happens when DUA sends me an overpayment?

If the DUA decides that they have overpaid you, you will get a letter from them called a "Notice of Overpayment".

If you were not "at fault" in causing the overpayment, you can apply for a waiver of the overpayment at any time during this process. A waiver cancels the overpayment.

If you do not appeal your denial or ask for a waiver, the DUA will start collecting the overpayment amount from your UI benefits if you still are getting them. Your UI benefits will be lower until you have paid back the overpayment or until you ask for a waiver.

DUA may also take money from your tax refund and try to recover overpayment that way.

Finally, if the DUA cannot collect all of the overpayment from you now and you get UI again in the future, the DUA will try to collect the rest then. You can still apply for a waiver of your overpayment when you apply for UI again. If DUA grants the overpayment at that time, they will not try to collect the overpayment from your benefits.

Do I have to pay the overpayment back or can I get a waiver?

Many people qualify for a waiver to cancel all or part of their overpayment, and to get a refund if they already paid back the overpayment to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

A waiver cancels an overpayment of benefits.

To have your overpayment waived you will need to show that:

  • It was not your fault that the DUA sent you an overpayment, and
  • It would cause you financial hardship, or it would somehow be unfair for you to have to pay it back.

What is "fault" in causing the overpayment?

“Fault” is lying to the DUA or purposefully not telling them all the information they need to calculate the right amount of Unemployment Insurance (UI) for you. This includes not telling the DUA information that you knew, or should have known, that would change whether you should get UI, or how much you should get. “Fault” is also accepting a UI benefit check you knew, or should have known, was incorrect.

For Example 

If you began working while you were collecting UI benefits and you purposefully did not report your wages to the DUA, you would be "at fault" in causing the overpayment. Or if you don’t have any children but you claimed a child as a dependent in order to collect the extra $25 weekly dependent allowance, you would also be at fault.

DUA has to show that you were at fault. If you disagree with the DUA's decision that you were at fault, you can file an appeal of that decision. But be sure to submit to DUA whatever proof you have to show you were not at fault.

How do I show financial hardship?

You must also show that paying back the UI benefits would cause you or your family financial hardship. You need to show that paying the money back would leave you and your family without enough money for daily living expenses.

Daily living expenses include:

  • food,
  • clothing,
  • rent,
  • utilities,
  • insurance,
  • job or job search-related transportation expenses, and
  • medical expenses for yourself and your family.

Submit copies of receipts for your expenses.

DUA will assume you are eligible for a waiver if you are receiving:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or
  • both SSI benefits and some Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, or
  • Emergency Assistance to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits.

Can I still get a waiver if I can't show financial hardship?

Yes. If you cannot show financial hardship, you may be able to show that paying the money back to the DUA would be "against equity and good conscience." This simply means it would be unfair.

For example, you went out and bought something you wouldn’t have without the extra money (like a new truck that you now cannot return). You can show that paying the money back to DUA would be unfair. And, if you passed up an opportunity to get other benefits like SNAP or cash assistance, then making you repay the money to the DUA would be unfair.

How do I apply for a waiver?

If you think you may be eligible for a waiver, file a Waiver Application form.

You can:

  • Visit your local Department of Unemployment Insurance (DUA) office to get the form.
  • Call the DUA Telephone Claims Center and ask them to send you a Waiver Application form.
    • DUA will email it to you. You can also ask them to send the waiver form to you by mail.
    • Check to make sure there is a DUA barcode on the top left corner, above your name and address.
  • Request the Waiver Application form through your UI Online account, under the "Manage Debt" tab.
    • Fill out the Waiver Application form online.

Fill it out as completely as you can. Make copies of the information that shows you were not at fault and it would be a financial hardship to repay the money. If you have a paper copy of the Waiver Application form, mail the form and your copies to the address on your Waiver Application. Keep a copy of everything you send.

How do I get DUA to stop collecting the overpayment while I ask for a waiver?

If you file the waiver request within 15 days of your notice of overpayment, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will not try to take back any of the money unless they deny your waiver and the waiver denial becomes final.

Even if DUA denies your waiver, you can "appeal" the denial. If you file your waiver request within 15 days of your notice of overpayment, the whole time you are appealing they cannot collect the overpayment from you. But it is very important to pay attention to the deadlines.

The only way to make sure the DUA doesn't collect the overpayment while you are asking for a waiver is to pay attention to all the notices you get. Respond to all the notices within the time frames they say.


In the notices, DUA will call collecting the overpayment "recoupment."

If I don't file the waiver application within 15 days, can I still file one later?
For Example

The DUA sends Joe a Notice of Overpayment because the initial decision approving his benefits was "reversed on appeal". By the time Joe receives the notice of overpayment, he is working again and would not meet the financial hardship test. A year later, Joe is laid off from his new job. He applies for UI benefits and files a waiver request on the overpayment because he was not at fault and it would be a financial hardship to repay the money he was overpaid.

Yes, you can file a waiver request at any time. In fact, you may want to wait to file your waiver application until you meet the "financial hardship" test.

If you file a waiver application after the 15th day, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will try to recover the money while it considers your application.

What happens if my waiver request is denied?

If your waiver request is denied, you have the right to appeal. Appealing the decision means you are asking for a hearing and you can show evidence at the hearing.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) must receive your appeal within:

  • 10 days of the date on the denial notice, or
  • 30 days if you have good cause, or
  • 60 days or more if you did not ask for a hearing earlier because DUA did not give you information in your primary language.

If you lose at the hearing, you can ask the Board of Review to look at your case.

If the Board does not agree to review or reverse the waiver denial, you can appeal to District Court.

Finally, you can write to the Director of the DUA, Department of Unemployment Assistance, 100 Cambridge Street Suite 400, Boston, MA 02114 within 1 year of the original decision and ask them to "redetermine the decision under Section 71 of the law".

There are strict time limits for all these appeals. Ask a legal services office for information on these appeal deadlines.

You can file a new overpayment waiver application in the future if your financial situation changes.

If I do have to pay the money back, how do I pay it back?

DUA sends you a “statement of account” which shows how much money you owe. It gives you the option to send DUA a check or pay by credit card. You can request a payment plan on UI Online.

DUA does not have a time limit for paying the money back. But, it can take money from your next tax refund or automatically take 50% of any UI benefits you receive in the future if you do not get a waiver.

When can I expect to hear from DUA after I file my overpayment waiver application?

DUA is processing overpayment waiver applications. If you have been waiting for a determination (decision), call the DUA’s payment status line at (617) 626-6563.

You can also call your state legislator to ask for help.

DUA should not collect on the overpayment while your waiver application is pending.

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