Collecting Debts Through Federal Payments

The Treasury Offset Program Newsletter

If you’ve never heard it spoken, you probably have thought about it: “What’s the point of trying to collect fraud and program violation overpayments from people on public assistance?”  Simply answered, the point is what alternative exists; allow fraudsters and violators free reign to steal tax dollars?

We all should know that overpayments in public assistance can be collected through reduction in ongoing assistance grants.  But you’ve probably wondered about people who have left the program but have no discernible source of income or those who are disqualified and have no other eligible household members from which grant reduction can be imposed.  How can these debts be collected?

The Treasury Offset Program (TOP) was implemented to redirect all or a portion of any federal payments to individuals who owe states a debt arising from overpayments from a federally-funded program.  TOP focused on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Food Stamp) debts owed by individuals resulting from program violations or fraud.  It makes sense.  An individual who violated program rules in order to receive assistance to which he or she was otherwise ineligible to receive should not benefit further from unaltered federal payments until that debt is paid.

Through the efforts of UCOWF members, a pilot project is currently underway to expand beyond SNAP debts and include collection of other debts owed to the states arising from fraud or program violations in other public assistance programs that have a federal funding component.  Expanding the TOP is a huge step forward in helping states deal with mounting uncollected debt.

To learn read more about TOP and how it helps collect unpaid debts, click this link: Treasury Offset Program Newsletter and download the May 2012 newsletter.  It is only a two-page newsletter but it is filled with information that all program integrity professionals should know.