(PIX11) -- Jay and Michelle Levine of Old Bethpage, Long Island, say it’s a shame!
A year ago, Jay received a payment due letter from Social Security. It says Jay owes the government $2,614.50. But Jay insists it’s a mistake. He says the money Social Security wants him to pay is money the government overpaid his mother 40 years ago!
“She was getting checks in the mail as I was growing up”, Jay says of his mother, Suzanne Gary. After Jay’s father died when he was two years old, his mother began receiving Minor Child Social Security benefits for Jay and his brother until they were finished with school. Jay says, “How much she got or when she got it ... I had no idea when it stopped.”
That’s why he was so surprised to get the collection notice from Social Security last year, four decades after his mother stopped receiving those government benefits on behalf of her children.
It said a determination was made that Jay collected too much in benefits in 1974 and 1975. “They’re saying I was working part time as I was going to school and was making too much money," said Jay.
But Jay says he never got that money. He says the checks were sent directly to his mother. “If they made the check to me and I signed the back and put it in my account, that’s one thing. But I don’t know anything about it.”
Jay’s mother died three years ago and he says he has no records of the benefits checks she was sent. Nevertheless, the government is demanding Jay fork over $2,614.50. “It makes absolutely no sense how they can come after me for the money she was getting back then. His wife Michelle says “All of a sudden 40 years later, the government wants the money.”
A PIX11 Investigation finds that Jay and Michelle Levine are not alone. In the past couple of years, hundreds of thousands of people have received letters from Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service demanding payment of debt that is often decades old.
It is often debt incurred by their parents, debt they know nothing about. The reason for this aggressive collection effort is a little known change in the law that eliminated what used to be a 10 year statute of limitations for the government to collect old debt.
Now they can go back as far as they want to demand payment of money they say you owe. Jay says “It just blows me away that they can get away with this.” His wife, Michelle, adds, “That’s asking a child to pay the parents’ debts. Whether the money was supposed to go to him or not, it was her money. It was given to her to spend.”
Those who’ve received these payment due letters have the right to appeal. Jay Levine did just that, hoping to get the amount reduced by at least half. But no such luck. However, Social Security did agree to take $500 off the $2600 total.
The good news is Social Security recently put a temporary halt to its efforts collect old debt, pending a review of that law. The bad news is those who’ve already received the payment due letters still have to pay up.
If you’ve got a story idea for me, email me at PIX11Investigates@PIX11.com. Or you can fine me on Facebook or Twitter. Arnold Diaz—PIX 11 News.
Below is a link to a Washington Post article on the change in the law that eliminated the statute of limitations.