Food Supplement Overpayments: Do I have to repay?
January 2016 notice: You may have received a notice from DHHS telling you about automatic lowering of your overpayment amount. Maine Equal Justice sued DHHS and, by agreement, the judge ordered these overpayment reductions. This is a one-time automatic benefit. If you are charged with an “agency-caused overpayment” anytime after October 31, 2015, you need to ask DHHS to lower the amount. Read about those rules below.
Did you have an overpayment from before 10/31/15 but you did not get a notice from DHHS this month telling you that your overpayment has been lowered? Call: 287-2409 to find out about your overpayment. If you still have questions contact Maine Equal Justice Partners at 626-7058, ext. 202.
- What is an overpayment?
- If DHHS made the mistake, why do I have to pay them back?
- How does DHHS collect the overpayment?
- I really can’t afford to repay. Is there anything I can do?
- I don’t get Food Supplements anymore. Can I still get the compromise?
- I have an overpayment, but it’s not an “Agency Error.” What can I do?
- So what should I do if I disagree?
- What else do I need to know about Food Supplement overpayments?
What is an overpayment?
An “overpayment” happens when DHHS uses the wrong information to figure out your Food Supplement amount. This can be because you made a mistake or because they made a mistake.
There are three types of overpayments:
- “Agency Error”
- “Inadvertent Household Error”
- “Intentional Error” [also a household error]
If DHHS made the mistake, why do I have to pay them back?
The Food Supplement program is a federal program. Federal law requires DHHS to try to collect the overpayment, even when it is the state’s fault.
How does DHHS collect the overpayment?
There are several ways they can collect the overpayment from you.
If you are getting Food Supplement benefits now, DHHS will reduce what you get each month. The amount that DHHS will take depends on the type of overpayment you have.
In most cases, DHHS will take $10 or 10% of your monthly benefit – whichever is more. For example, if you get $100 a month or less, your monthly payment is $10. If you get $200 per month, your monthly payment is $20. So, your monthly benefit would be reduced to $180 while the debt is being repaid.
The amount DHHS takes will go toward what you owe them.
If you are not now getting Food Supplement benefits, DHHS will try to get you to agree to a repayment plan. If you do not agree, DHHS can take some of the other benefits you get, such as Social Security or Unemployment. They can also take your tax refund or part of your wages.
I really can’t afford to repay. Is there anything I can do?
Option 1: You can appeal. If you do not think you were overpaid or do not agree with the amount, you should file an appeal. You should also file an appeal if you do not agree with the type of overpayment. For example, if the notice from DHHS is for an “intentional error” and you think it was the fault of DHHS (or your mistake, but not “intentional”), you should appeal.
The type of overpayment makes a difference in your rights. You have only 90 days to appeal.
To appeal, call 1-866-348-1129. Tell them you want to appeal.
When you appeal, DHHS will send you more information about your overpayment. You will also get a notice for a Fair Hearing. At the Fair Hearing, you will have the right to give your side of the story to the “hearing officer.” This is a person who has not been involved with your case before. The hearing officer has a duty to be fair and to make sure that the rules are followed
Option 2: You can also ask for a “compromise” from DHHS. You can only do this if you have an “agency error” overpayment. You have to ask for the compromise. You have only 90 days to ask for a compromise.
You may be able to get a compromise if you are not able to repay the entire overpayment in 36 monthly payments. The monthly payments should be either $10 or 10% of your monthly benefit, whichever is greater.
For example, say your agency-caused overpayment is $1000. You get Food Supplement benefits now and DHHS reduced your benefit by $10 per month. At this rate, you would repay only $360 over the next 36 months. DHHS will reduce your payment by 40%. Instead of having to repay $1000, your overpayment is reduced to $600.
Go here to get the complete rules for compromise of “agency error”. (Scroll down to FS-700’s section.)
I don’t get Food Supplements anymore. Can I still get the compromise?
You may still be able to get a compromise even if you don’t get Food Supplement benefits now.
First, you have to do a Food Supplement budget to find out your “net Food Supplement income” would be if you still received them. If you would not able to repay your overpayment within three years by paying 10% of your “net Food Supplement income” each month, you may be able to get the “compromise.”
This means you need to do a Food Supplement budget to figure out what 10% of your benefit would be if you were still getting food benefits. You can use our Maine Food Supplement Estimator link to figure this out.
I have an overpayment, but it’s not an “Agency Error.” What can I do?
If you have an overpayment that is not an “agency error,” you can still ask for a compromise. You need to show that repaying DHHS will cause you “economic hardship.” DHHS has no rules for this type of compromise. If DHHS denies your request for a compromise, you can call Maine Equal Justice at (207) 626-7058 etc. 202. They can help you figure out if it would be worthwhile for you to file an appeal.
So what should I do if I disagree?
If you got a notice from DHHS about an overpayment and don’t believe you have an overpayment or you question the amount, call the number on the notice to speak to someone at DHHS.
If you have an “agency error” overpayment and believe you should get a compromise but still need help, contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance to see if we can help.
What else do I need to know about Food Supplement overpayments?
This is only a quick summary of the most important overpayment rules. To learn more, go to the DHHS rules. (Follow the link to FS-700’s.)