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Overpayments and Fraud

Alert

DTA made a number of changes and suspended a number of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Guide notes in red when a rule was suspended during the pandemic.

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 9 2022
Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed March 9 2022

What if you are overpaid?

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 are the rules about what you can buy? 106 C.M.R. § 706.250(D).

DTA has different policies for collecting overpayments if the overpayment happened because

cover Intentional Program Violations in more detail.

 

Will DTA Collect the Overpayment?

 

 

How far back will DTA go?

What is DTA’s threshold for recovery?

Will DTA compromise or suspend recovery?

 

Agency Error

Recovery period begins no earlier than the 12 months before DTA discovered the overpayment

No recovery if the claim is less than $600

Claim reduced by 50% for TAFDC households

Unintentional Program

Violation

Recovery period begins no earlier than the 12 months before DTA discovered the overpayment

No recovery if claim is less than $125

No

Client Misrepresentation

(Intentional

Program Violation-IPV)

Recovery period begins no earlier than 6 years before DTA discovered the overpayment

No recovery if claim is less than $125

No

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.

Advocacy Reminders

  • An overpayment is a payment made in error. When does the overpayment begin if you don’t report on time? DTA says there was an overpayment in the month you did not report. But since you have 10 or 20 days to report a change for TAFDC, see When do you have to report changes?, the benefit that was paid before you had to report was not paid as a result of DTA error or recipient error, see 106 C.M.R. §§ 706.200, 706.220(C), and therefore should not be considered an overpayment.
  • Calculating the amount of an overpayment is complicated and DTA makes mistakes. Try to get a legal services advocate to help you figure out whether DTA’s claim is correct before you agree to pay it. See Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices for a list of legal services programs that may be able to help you.
  • DTA has the option to 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. For help, contact your local legal services office, Appendix D: Massachusetts Legal Services Offices.
 

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