The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

95. Do I have to repay an unintentional program violation?

First, DTA will decide if the overpayment was “intentional” (for example, fraud) or “unintentional” or was the result of a DTA mistake, called an “agency error.” 

If the overpayment happened because of your mistake or a DTA mistake and DTA agrees is an “unintentional overpayment,” DTA does not seek recovery (repayment) of an overpayment

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. See 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:

  • If DTA says you were overpaid, you can appeal. See Question 87. 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 you should tell them.
  • DTA may suspend collection for an unintentional program violation 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.
  • If you failed to report a change, but it would not have affected your benefits, then there is no overpayment (for example, if you failed to report income considered noncountable).
  • If you do not 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: Cross Programs > Overpayment and Recovery > Unintentional Program Violations. For example, you usually have 10 days to report a change and then DTA has to give you at least 10 days’ notice before it takes action to reduce or terminate 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. 
  • DTA can offset an underpayment (money DTA owes you) by an established overpayment (money you owe DTA). 106 C.M.R. § 706.210.

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