TYLER, TX (KLTV) - People across the country are still fighting for their income tax returns months after the checks were expected to hit their bank accounts. Some tax returns were seized when the Social Security Administration decided to take back the survivors benefits they overpaid to widows and widowers in the '60's and '70's. In 2008, a single line was eliminated from the Farm Bill which consequently lifted the 10 year statue of limitations on the government collecting old debt. As a result, peoples' children are being held responsible for the government's social security over payments.
When Janis Balusek got her income tax return in the mail, it was significantly lower than what she'd expected.
"Actually $1,035.20 lower that what I expected," says Balusek.
She had no idea why the government would be withholding her own money. After calls to her accountant, the treasury department and the social security administration, she learned it all traced back to checks the government says they gave her family in 1975.
"My father passed away when I was 11, so my mother received social security payments. What she did with the money to help us do whatever.. that's her business," she says.
However, now it's becoming Balusek's business because the government says they gave her family too much money 40 years ago and they're making up for that by taking it right out of her tax return.
"They're claiming that I or she or somebody... I don't know. That's the whole issue. I don't know who received the money," explains Balusek.
"There's a lawsuit filed in Virginia on this very issue," adds Tyler attorney Joe Thigpen.
Thigpen says the problem is popping up all over the country.
"They are going back years and years and years trying to collect these over payments, but there's no real authority for the proposition that you can collect from the child an overpayment to the parent," he explains.
Thigpen says the Social Security Administration has stopped seizing the funds until the lawsuit is settled. "People are entitled to be notified of the debt, an explanation of the debt and how it was arrived at before they have to pay it back," says Thigpen.
Balusek says she never received any notice that money was being withheld or why. The Social Security Administration told her they did send her that information, but to an address in Houston, where she hasn't lived in decades.
"What I need now is proof that they should actually keep that money. Show me something... a signed check or something to say somebody in that family received the money," Balusek asks.
It's money that Balusek says isn't going to make or break anything, but it's still money she had plans for and money she'd like to keep.
Before contacting KLTV, Balusek took her complaints to the local and national social security offices as well as Congressman Louie Gohmert's Office. After all of that, the government started to listen. On July 27, Balusek received a check in the mail for the rest of her withheld tax return. However, letters from the Social Security Administration say she might still be asked to pay that money back later.
The Social Security Administration said they have asked the Treasury Department to stop collecting debts ten years and older, pending a review. According to statistics from the SSA, they said between Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 – 2012 they paid approximately $2.9 trillion to retirement and survivors beneficiaries. Of that amount, $4.7 billion, or 0.16 percent was estimated to have been overpaid.
SSA estimates $6.6 billion of the $597.8 billion in payments made to disability insurance program beneficiaries was overpaid.
If any Social Security or Supplemental Security Income beneficiary believes they have been incorrectly assessed with an overpayment under this program, SSA encourages them to request an explanation or seek options to resolve the overpayment: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/contact/