§ 404.506. When waiver may be applied and how to process the request.
(a) Section 204(b) of the Act provides that there shall be no adjustment or recovery in any case where an overpayment under title II has been made to an individual who is without fault if adjustment or recovery would either defeat the purpose of title II of the Act, or be against equity and good conscience.
(b) We will apply the procedures in this paragraph (b) when an individual requests waiver of all or part of a qualifying overpayment.
(1) For purposes of this paragraph (b), a qualifying overpayment is one that accrued during the pandemic period (see § 404.501(a)) because of the actions that we took in response to the COVID-19 national public health emergency, including the suspension of certain of our manual workloads that would have processed actions identifying and stopping certain overpayments.
(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subpart, we will presume that an individual who requests waiver of a qualifying overpayment is without fault in causing the overpayment (see § 404.507) unless we determine that the qualifying overpayment made to a beneficiary or a representative payee was the result of fraud or similar fault or involved misuse of benefits by a representative payee (see § 404.2041).
(3) If we determine under paragraph (b)(2) of this section that an individual or a representative payee is without fault in causing a qualifying overpayment we will also determine that recovery of the qualifying overpayment would be against equity and good conscience. For purposes of this paragraph (b)(3) only, “against equity and good conscience” is not limited to the meaning used in § 404.509 but means a broad concept of fairness that takes into account all of the facts and circumstances of the case.
(4) If we determine that a primary beneficiary is not without fault with respect to a qualifying overpayment under paragraph (b)(2) of this section, because it was caused by fraud or similar fault or because of representative payee misuse, we may still find that any auxiliary beneficiaries on the primary beneficiary's record are eligible for waiver of recovery of the qualifying overpayment under this paragraph (b). If an auxiliary beneficiary requests waiver of a qualifying overpayment in accordance with this paragraph (b), we will waive recovery of the overpayment if the auxiliary beneficiary meets all of the requirements of this paragraph (b).
(5) The provisions of this paragraph (b) will apply to a qualifying overpayment identified by December 31, 2020.
(c) If an individual requests waiver of adjustment or recovery of a title II overpayment within 30 days after receiving a notice of overpayment that contains the information in § 404.502a, no adjustment or recovery action will be taken until after the initial waiver determination is made. If the individual requests waiver more than 30 days after receiving the notice of overpayment, SSA will stop any adjustment or recovery actions until after the initial waiver determination is made.
(d) When waiver is requested, the individual gives SSA information to support his/her contention that he/she is without fault in causing the overpayment (see § 404.507) and that adjustment or recovery would either defeat the purpose of title II of the Act (see § 404.508) or be against equity and good conscience (see § 404.509). That information, along with supporting documentation, is reviewed to determine if waiver can be approved. If waiver cannot be approved after this review, the individual is notified in writing and given the dates, times and place of the file review and personal conference; the procedure for reviewing the claims file prior to the personal conference; the procedure for seeking a change in the scheduled dates, times, and/or place; and all other information necessary to fully inform the individual about the personal conference. The file review is always scheduled at least 5 days before the personal conference. We will offer to the individual the option of conducting the personal conference face-to-face at a place we designate, by telephone, or by video teleconference. The notice will advise the individual of the date and time of the personal conference.
(e) At the file review, the individual and the individual's representative have the right to review the claims file and applicable law and regulations with the decisionmaker or another SSA representative who is prepared to answer questions. We will provide copies of material related to the overpayment and/or waiver from the claims file or pertinent sections of the law or regulations that are requested by the individual or the individual's representative.
(f) At the personal conference, the individual is given the opportunity to:
(1) Appear personally, testify, cross-examine any witnesses, and make arguments;
(2) Be represented by an attorney or other representative (see § 404.1700), although the individual must be present at the conference; and
(3) Submit documents for consideration by the decisionmaker.
(g) At the personal conference, the decisionmaker:
(1) Tells the individual that the decisionmaker was not previously involved in the issue under review, that the waiver decision is solely the decisionmaker's, and that the waiver decision is based only on the evidence or information presented or reviewed at the conference;
(2) Ascertains the role and identity of everyone present;
(3) Indicates whether or not the individual reviewed the claims file;
(4) Explains the provisions of law and regulations applicable to the issue;
(5) Briefly summarizes the evidence already in file which will be considered;
(6) Ascertains from the individual whether the information presented is correct and whether he/she fully understands it;
(7) Allows the individual and the individual's representative, if any, to present the individual's case;
(8) Secures updated financial information and verification, if necessary;
(9) Allows each witness to present information and allows the individual and the individual's representative to question each witness;
(10) Ascertains whether there is any further evidence to be presented;
(11) Reminds the individual of any evidence promised by the individual which has not been presented;
(12) Lets the individual and the individual's representative, if any, present any proposed summary or closing statement;
(13) Explains that a decision will be made and the individual will be notified in writing; and
(14) Explains repayment options and further appeal rights in the event the decision is adverse to the individual.
(h) SSA issues a written decision to the individual (and his/her representative, if any) specifying the findings of fact and conclusions in support of the decision to approve or deny waiver and advising of the individual's right to appeal the decision. If waiver is denied, adjustment or recovery of the overpayment begins even if the individual appeals.
(i) If it appears that the waiver cannot be approved, and the individual declines a personal conference or fails to appear for a second scheduled personal conference, a decision regarding the waiver will be made based on the written evidence of record. Reconsideration is then the next step in the appeals process (but see § 404.930(a)(7)).
[61 FR 56131, Oct. 31, 1996, as amended at 73 FR 1973, Jan. 11, 2008; 85 FR 52914, Aug. 27, 2020]