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Overpayments and Fraud

Produced by Patricia Baker, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris, Rochelle Hahn Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2010
Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

What if I was overpaid SNAP benefits?

If you get more SNAP benefits than you are eligible for, DTA can recover the overpayment. 106 C.M.R. § 367.490. An overpayment can happen because DTA made a mistake, you made a mistake, or because you got SNAP benefits while you were waiting for a hearing and you then lost the hearing. These mistakes are considered Unintentional Program Violations (UPVs) or Agency Errors (AE). 106 C.M.R. § 367.495. See Do I have to repay an “unintentional” overpayment? The overpayments include recovery of benefits that you got while you were waiting for a hearing decision and you lost the appeal. 106 C.M.R. § 367.275.

If DTA thinks the overpayment happened because you committed an Intentional Program Violation (IPV) or fraud, see What if DTA says I committed fraud or an “IPV”?

DTA will not pursue an overpayment if the amount is less than $125, unless you were getting SNAP when DTA was looking into the overpayment (or DTA discovered the overpayment in a quality control review). 106 C.M.R. § 367.870 If you are getting SNAP, DTA will take some of your SNAP each month to pay back the overpayment. See How does DTA collect an overpayment if I am getting SNAP?

How do I know if I have an overpayment?

DTA will send you a Notice of Overpayment and, in some situations, a Repayment Agreement. You have a right to appeal the Notice of Overpayment within 90 days. See Appeal Rights 

Under federal rules, DTA is supposed to establish the claim (send you a Notice of Overpayment) no later than the quarter after the quarter DTA discovered there was an overpayment. 7 C.F.R. § 273.18(d)(1). Contact Legal Services if you are concerned about how long it took for DTA to tell you about an overpayment. 

 

How does DTA calculate the amount of the overpayment?

DTA calculates the difference between what you got and what you should have gotten in SNAP.  DTA should include all applicable deductions, just like when it normally calculates your SNAP. See What deductions are allowed against my income? However, DTA will not include the 20% earnings disregard if it is a UPV or IPV, where the overpayment happened because of unreported income.  106 C.M.R. § 367.495(D)

For all overpayments, the first month of an overpayment is the month the change would have been effective if it had been reported by you timely, or acted on by DTA timely. 106 C.M.R. §§ 367.495(D), 367.500(A).

Federal regulations also require DTA to calculate the amount of an overpayment by doing a month to month calculation – not by averaging out an amount of income over the period of the overpayment. 7 C.F.R. 273.18(c)(ii)(A).

Example: Jane started a job in mid-June. She gets SNAP and TAFDC and is on change reporting (see How do I use SNAP benefits?). She was confused about the reporting rules so did not report her new job until October when she had her reevaluation for TAFDC and SNAP. DTA told Jane she had an unintentional program violation (UPV) overpayment. DTA should not average Jane’s gross earnings from July through September to figure out the amount of the overpayment. DTA must do a month-to-month calculation based on how much Jane was paid each month (based on her cyclical month for SNAP and the Change Reporting rules). 

What if DTA expunged benefits or owes you SNAP

DTA should reduce the amount of an overpayment by any amount of SNAP they erroneously “expunged” (took away by mistake). 7 C.F.R. 273.18(c)(ii)(C).  DTA should also reduce the overpayment by any underpayment of SNAP that DTA owes you. 106 C.M.R. §§ 366.550. 366.560 Contact a legal advocate if you are worried DTA did not do this. 

Can I get more information from DTA about my overpayment?

Yes! You have the right at any time to call DTA and ask for more information about your overpayment. This is especially important if you are filing an appeal and do not agree with the overpayment or the overpayment amount. You can ask for the packet of information related to your overpayment. DTA should give you information including:

  • The overpayment referral
  • Notes about your case and the overpayment
  • Relevant DTA notices
  • Any evidence or proof they got from other parties or agencies
  • Proof that the overpaid benefits were used 
  • Calculations for each month of the overpayment 

Advocacy Reminders:

  • At the time this Guide goes to print, DTA is considering some changes to overpayment policy. Contact MLRI if you have questions or for a copy of DTA’s most recent SNAP Claims Policy. 

  • If DTA says you were overpaid, you can appeal. See What are my rights if DTA denies, cuts or stops my SNAP? You can also ask DTA to send you a copy of the overpayment packet (overpayment information) in your case. If you think DTA made a mistake in the overpayment amount you should tell them.

  • There is no overpayment if you did not report a change that you were not required to report or would not matter. For example if you were on Simplified Reporting and you did not report an increase in income in between your Interim Reports and your Recertification, there is NO overpayment unless the increase put your household over the gross income limit. See When do I need to report change and what is Simplified Reporting? There is also NO overpayment if you did not report information that would not have affected your SNAP. For example, if your 16 year old high school student started working or you started to get Work Study – this income is considered non-countable. See What income is not counted? In order for there to be an overpayment, you or DTA need to have made an error (done something, intentionally or unintentionally, that goes against the rules of the program). 

DTA Policy Guidance:

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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