§ 422.810. Salary offset for current employees.

(a) Purpose. This part prescribes the Social Security Administration's (SSA) standards and procedures for the collection of debts owed by current SSA employees to SSA through involuntary salary offset.

(b) Authority. 5 U.S.C. 5514; 5 CFR part 550.

(c) Scope. (1) This part applies to internal collections of debt by Administrative Offset from the current pay accounts of SSA employees without his or her consent. The part does not apply to current SSA employees indebted to another Federal agency or employees who separate from SSA.

(2) The procedures contained in this part do not apply to any case where an employee consents to collection through deduction(s) from the employee's pay account, or to debts arising under the Internal Revenue Code or the tariff laws of the United States, or where another statute explicitly provides for or prohibits collection of a debt by salary offset (e.g., travel advances in 5 U.S.C. 5705 and employee training expenses in 5 U.S.C. 4108).

(3) This part does not preclude an employee from requesting a waiver of an erroneous payment under 5 U.S.C. 5584, 10 U.S.C. 2774, or 32 U.S.C. 716, or in any way questioning the amount or validity of a debt. Similarly, this part does not preclude an employee from requesting waiver of the collection of a debt under any other applicable statutory authority.

(4) Provided a debt is not affected by fraud and does not exceed $100,000, nothing in this part precludes the compromise of the debt or the suspension or termination of collection actions in accordance with §§ 422.846 and 422.848 of this title.

(d) Definitions.

Administrative Offset means withholding funds payable by the United States to, or held by the United States for, a person to satisfy a debt owed by the payee.

Agency means an executive department or agency, a military department, the United States Postal Service, the Postal Rate Commission, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, a court, court administrative office, or instrumentality in the judicial or legislative branches of the Government, or a Government Corporation.

Creditor agency means the agency to which the debt is owed or SSA, including a debt collection center when acting on behalf of a creditor agency in matters pertaining to the collection of a debt.

Day means calendar day. For purposes of computation, the last day of the period will be included unless it is a Saturday, Sunday, or a Federal holiday, in which case the next business day will be considered the last day of the period.

Debt means an amount of funds or other property determined by an appropriate official of the Federal Government to be owed to the United States from any person, organization, or entity or any other debt that meets the definition of “claim” or “debt” under 31 U.S.C. 3701(b), excluding program overpayments made under title II or title XVI of the Social Security Act.

Debt collection center means the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) or other Government agency or division designated by the Secretary of the Treasury with authority to collect debts on behalf of creditor agencies in accordance with 31 U.S.C. 3711(g).

Debtor means an employee currently employed by SSA who owes a delinquent non-tax debt to the United States.

Delinquent debt means a debt that the debtor does not pay or otherwise resolve by the date specified in the initial demand for payment, or in an applicable written repayment agreement or other instrument, including a post-delinquency repayment agreement.

Disposable pay means that part of the debtor's current basic, special, incentive, retired, and retainer pay, or other authorized pay remaining after deduction of amounts we are required by law to withhold. For purposes of calculating disposable pay, legally required deductions that must be applied first include: Tax levies pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code (title 26, United States Code); properly withheld taxes; Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA); Medicare; health, dental, vision, and life insurance premiums; and Thrift Savings Plan and retirement contributions. Amounts deducted under garnishment orders, including child support garnishment orders, are not legally permissible deductions when calculating disposable pay as specified in 5 CFR 550.1103.

Employee means any individual currently employed by SSA, as defined in this section, including seasonal and temporary employees and current members of the Armed Forces or a Reserve of the Armed Forces (Reserves).

Evidence of service means information retained by the agency indicating the nature of the document to which it pertains, the date of mailing the document, and the address and name of the debtor to whom it is being sent. A copy of the dated and signed notice provided to the debtor pursuant to this part may be considered evidence of service for purposes of this part. We may retain evidence of service electronically so long as the manner of retention is sufficient for evidentiary purposes.

Hearing means a review of the documentary evidence to confirm the existence or amount of a debt or the terms of a repayment schedule. If we determine that the issues in dispute cannot be resolved by such a review, such as when the validity of the claim turns on the issue of credibility or veracity, we may provide an oral hearing.

Hearing official means an administrative law judge or appropriate alternate.

Paying agency means the agency employing the employee and authorizing the payment of his or her current pay.

Salary offset means an Administrative Offset to collect a debt under 5 U.S.C. 5514 owed by a current SSA employee through deductions at one or more officially established pay intervals from the current pay account of the current SSA employee without his or her consent.

Waiver means the cancellation, remission, forgiveness, or non-recovery of a debt owed by an employee to the agency or another agency as required or permitted by 5 U.S.C. 5584, 8346(b), 10 U.S.C. 2774, 32 U.S.C. 716, or any other law.

(e) General rule. (1) Whenever an employee owes us a delinquent debt, we may, subject to paragraph (e)(3) of this section, involuntarily offset the amount of the debt from the employee's disposable pay.

(2) Except as provided in paragraph (e)(3) of this section, prior to initiating collection through salary offset under this part, we will first provide the employee with the following:

(i) A notice as described in paragraph (f) of this section; and

(ii) An opportunity to petition for a hearing, and, if a hearing is provided, to receive a written decision from the hearing official within 60 days on the following issues:

(A) The determination concerning the existence or amount of the debt; and

(B) The repayment schedule, unless it was established by written agreement between the employee and us.

(3) The provisions of paragraph (e)(2) of this section do not apply to:

(i) Any adjustment to pay arising out of an employee's election of coverage or a change in coverage under a federal benefits program requiring periodic deduction from pay, if the amount to be recovered was accumulated over four pay periods or less;

(ii) A routine intra-agency adjustment of pay that is made to correct an overpayment of pay attributable to clerical or administrative errors or delays in processing pay documents, if the overpayment occurred within four pay periods preceding the adjustment and, at the time of such adjustment, or as soon thereafter as practical, the individual is provided a notice of the nature and the amount of the adjustment and point of contact for contesting such adjustment; or

(iii) Any adjustment to collect a debt amount in accordance with the amount stated in 5 U.S.C. 5514 as amended by the DCIA, if, at the time of such adjustment, or as soon thereafter as practical, the individual is provided a notice of the nature and the amount of the adjustment and a point of contact for contesting such adjustment.

(f) Notice requirements before offset. (1) At least 30 days before the initiation of salary offset under this part, we will send a notice to the employee's last known address, informing the debtor of the following:

(i) We have reviewed the records relating to the debt and have determined that a debt is owed, the amount of the debt, and the facts giving rise to the debt;

(ii) Our intention to collect the debt by means of deduction from the employee's current disposable pay until the debt and all accumulated interest, penalties, and administrative costs are paid in full;

(iii) The amount, stated either as a fixed dollar amount or as a percentage of pay not to exceed 15 percent of disposable pay, the frequency, the commencement date, and the duration of the intended deductions;

(iv) An explanation of our policies concerning the assessment of interest, penalties, and administrative costs, stating that such assessments must be made unless waived in accordance with 31 CFR 901.9 and § 422.807 of this part;

(v) The employee's right to review and copy all of our records pertaining to the debt or, if the employee or the employee's representative cannot personally review the records, to request and receive copies of such records;

(vi) If not previously provided, the opportunity to establish a schedule for the voluntary repayment of the debt through offset or to enter into an agreement to establish a schedule for repayment of the debt in lieu of offset provided the agreement is in writing, signed by both the employee and us, and documented in our files;

(vii) The right to a hearing conducted by an impartial hearing official with respect to the existence and amount of the debt, or the repayment schedule, so long as a petition is filed by the employee as prescribed in paragraph (h) of this section;

(viii) Time limits and other procedures or conditions for reviewing our records pertaining to the debt, establishing an alternative repayment agreement, and requesting a hearing;

(ix) The name, address, and telephone number of the person or office who may be contacted concerning the procedures for reviewing our records, establishing an alternative repayment agreement, and requesting a hearing;

(x) The name and address of the office to send the petition for a hearing;

(xi) A timely and properly filed petition for a hearing will suspend the commencement of the collection proceeding;

(xii) We will initiate action to effect salary offset not less than 30 days from the date of mailing the notice, unless the employee properly files a timely petition for a hearing,

(xiii) A final decision on a hearing, if one is requested, will be issued at the earliest practical date, but not later than 60 days after the filing of the petition requesting the hearing unless the employee requests and the hearing official grants a delay in the proceeding;

(xiv) Notice that an employee who knowingly makes false or frivolous statements or submits false or frivolous representations or evidence may be subject to disciplinary procedures under chapter 75 of title 5, United States Code, Part 752 of title 5, CFR, or any other applicable statutes or regulations;

(xv) Any other rights and remedies available to the employee under statutes or regulations governing the program for which the collection is being made;

(xvi) Unless there are applicable contractual or statutory provisions to the contrary, amounts paid on or deducted for the debt that are later waived or found not owed to the United States will be promptly refunded to the employee; and

(xvii) Proceedings with respect to such debt are governed by 5 U.S.C. 5514.

(2) We will retain evidence of service indicating the date of mailing of the notice.

(g) Review of records relating to the debt. (1) To review or copy our records relating to the debt, the employee must send a written request stating his or her intention. We must receive the written request within 15 days from the employee's receipt of the notice.

(2) In response to a timely request as described in paragraph (1) of this section, we will notify the employee of the location and time when the employee may review and copy such records. If the employee or employee's representative is unable to review personally such records as the result of geographical or other constraints, we will arrange to send copies of such records to the employee.

(h) Hearings—(1) Petitions for hearing. (i) To request a hearing concerning the existence or amount of the debt or the offset schedule established by us, the employee must send a written petition to the office we identified in the notice (see paragraph (f)(1)(x) of this section) within 15 days of receipt of the notice.

(ii) The petition must:

(A) Be signed by the employee;

(B) Fully identify and explain with reasonable specificity all the facts, evidence, and witnesses, if any, that the employee believes support his or her position; and

(C) Specify whether an oral or paper hearing is requested. If an oral hearing is requested, the request should explain why the matter cannot be resolved by a paper hearing, which is a determination of the request for reconsideration based upon a review of the written record.

(iii) The timely filing of a petition for hearing will suspend any further collection proceedings.

(2) Failure to timely request a hearing. (i) If the petition for hearing is filed after the 15-day period provided in paragraph (h)(1)(i) of this section, we may grant the request if the employee can establish either that the delay was the result of circumstances beyond the employee's control or that the employee failed to receive actual notice of the filing deadline.

(ii) An employee waives the right to a hearing and will have his or her disposable pay offset in accordance with the offset schedule established by us, if the employee:

(A) Fails to file a timely request for a hearing unless such failure is excused; or

(B) Fails to appear at an oral hearing of which the employee was notified unless the hearing official determines that the failure to appear was due to circumstances beyond the employee's control.

(3) Form of hearings—(i) General. After the employee requests a hearing, the hearing official must notify the employee of the type of hearing that will occur. If an oral hearing will occur, the notice will state the date, time, and location of the hearing. If a paper hearing will occur, the employee will be notified and required to submit evidence and arguments in writing to the hearing official by the date specified in the notice, after which the record will be closed.

(ii) Oral hearing. An employee who requests an oral hearing will be provided an oral hearing if the hearing official determines that the matter cannot be resolved by review of documentary evidence alone because an issue of credibility or veracity is involved. Where an oral hearing is appropriate, the hearing is not an adversarial adjudication and need not take the form of an evidentiary hearing (e.g., the formal rules of evidence need not apply). Oral hearings may take the form of, but are not limited to:

(A) Informal conferences with the hearing official in which the employee and agency representative will be given full opportunities to present evidence, witnesses, and arguments;

(B) Informal meetings in which the hearing official interviews the employee by phone or videoconferencing; or

(C) Formal written submissions with an opportunity for oral presentations.

(iii) Paper hearing. If the hearing official determines that an oral hearing is not necessary, the hearing official will make the determination based upon a review of the available written record.

(iv) Record. The hearing official will maintain a summary record of any hearing conducted under this part. Witnesses who testify in oral hearings will do so under oath or affirmation.

(4) Written decision—(i) Date of decision. The hearing officer will issue a written opinion stating his or her decision. This opinion is based upon documentary evidence and information developed at the hearing, as soon as practicable after the hearing, but not later than 60 days after the date on which the hearing petition was received by the creditor agency. This is dependent upon whether the employee requested a delay in the proceedings and the hearing official grants it, in which case the 60-day decision period will be extended by the number of days by which the hearing was postponed. The recipient of an employee's request for a hearing must forward the request expeditiously to the hearing official to avoid jeopardizing the hearing official's ability to issue a decision within this 60-day period.

(ii) Content of decision. The written decision will include:

(A) A statement of the facts presented to support the origin, nature, and amount of the debt;

(B) The hearing official's findings, analysis, and conclusions, including a determination whether the employee's petition for hearing was baseless and resulted from an intent to delay the creditor agency's collection activity; and

(C) The terms of any repayment schedule, if applicable.

(5) Failure to appear. In the absence of good cause shown, an employee who fails to appear at a hearing will be deemed, for the purpose of this part, to admit the existence and amount of the debt as described in the notice. If the representative of the creditor agency fails to appear, the hearing official will proceed with the hearing as scheduled and make a determination based upon oral testimony presented and the documentary evidence submitted by both parties. With the agreement of both parties, the hearing official will schedule a new hearing date, and both parties will be given notice of the time and place of the new hearing.

(i) Obtaining the services of a hearing official. The office designated in paragraph (f)(1)(x) of this section will schedule a hearing, if one is requested by an employee, before a hearing official.

(1) When we cannot provide a prompt and appropriate hearing before an administrative law judge or a hearing official furnished pursuant to another lawful arrangement, the office designated in paragraph (f)(1)(x) of this section may contact an agent of any agency designated in 5 CFR part 581, appendix A to arrange for a hearing official.

(2)(i) When another agency is the creditor agency, not SSA, it is the responsibility of that agency to arrange for a hearing if one is requested. We will provide a hearing official upon the request of a creditor agency when the debtor is employed by us and the creditor agency cannot provide a prompt and appropriate hearing before a hearing official furnished pursuant to another lawful arrangement.

(ii) Services rendered to a creditor agency under paragraph (i)(2)(i) of this section will be provided on a fully reimbursable basis pursuant to the Economy Act of 1932, as amended by 31 U.S.C. 1535.

(3) The determination of a hearing official designated under this section is considered an official certification regarding the existence and amount of the debt for purposes of executing salary offset under 5 U.S.C. 5514 and this part. A creditor agency may make a certification to the Secretary of the Treasury under 5 CFR 550.1108 or a paying agency under 5 CFR 550.1109 regarding the existence and amount of the debt based on the certification of a hearing official. If a hearing official determines that a debt may not be collected via salary offset, but we find that the debt is still valid, we may still seek collection of the debt through other means, such as offset of other Federal payments or litigation.

(j) Voluntary repayment agreement in lieu of salary offset. (1)(i) In response to the notice, the employee may propose to establish an alternative schedule for the voluntary repayment of the debt by submitting a written request. An employee who wishes to repay the debt without salary offset will also submit a proposed written repayment agreement. The proposal will admit the existence of the debt, and the agreement must be in such form that it is legally enforceable. The agreement must:

(A) Be in writing;

(B) Be signed by both the employee and the agency;

(C) Specify all the terms of the arrangement for payment; and

(D) Contain a provision accelerating the debt in the event of default by the employee, but such an increase may not result in a deduction that exceeds 15 percent of the employee's disposable pay unless the employee has agreed in writing to a deduction of a greater amount.

(ii) Any proposal under paragraph (j)(1)(i) of this section must be received within 30 days of the date of the notice.

(2) In response to a timely request as described in paragraph (j)(1) of this section, we will notify the employee whether the proposed repayment schedule is acceptable. It is within our discretion to accept a proposed alternative repayment schedule and to set the necessary terms of a voluntary repayment agreement.

(3) No voluntary repayment agreement will be binding on us unless it is in writing and signed by the employee and us.

(k) Special review. (1) At any time, an employee subject to salary offset or a voluntary repayment agreement may request a special review by the agency of the amount of the salary offset or voluntary repayment installments based on materially changed circumstances, such as, but not limited to, catastrophic illness, divorce, death, or disability.

(2)(i) In determining whether an offset would prevent the employee from meeting essential subsistence expenses (e.g., food, housing, clothing, transportation, and medical care), the employee must submit a detailed statement and supporting documents for the employee, his or her spouse, and dependents indicating:

(A) Income from all sources;

(B) Assets and liabilities;

(C) Number of dependents;

(D) Food, housing, clothing, transportation, and medical expenses; and

(E) Exceptional and unusual expenses, if any.

(ii) When requesting a special review under this section, the employee must file an alternative proposed offset or payment schedule and a statement, with supporting documents as described in paragraph (k)(2)(i) of this section, stating why the current salary offset or payments result in an extreme financial hardship to the employee.

(3)(i) We will evaluate the statement and supporting documents and determine whether the original offset or repayment schedule impose extreme financial hardship on the employee.

(ii) Within 30 calendar days of the receipt of the request and supporting documents, we will notify the employee in writing of such determination, including, if appropriate, a revised offset or repayment schedule.

(4) If the special review results in a revised offset or repayment schedule, we will do a new certification based on the result of the review.

(l) Procedures for salary offset—(1) Method and source of deductions. Unless the employee and the agency have agreed to an alternative repayment arrangement under paragraph (j) of this section, the agency will collect a debt in a lump sum or by installment deductions at officially established pay intervals from an employee's current pay account.

(2) Limitation on amount of deduction. Ordinarily, the size of installment deductions must bear a reasonable relationship to the size of the debt and the employee's ability to pay. However, the amount deducted for any pay period must not exceed 15 percent of the disposable pay from which the deduction is made unless the employee has agreed in writing to the deduction of a greater amount, as outlined in paragraph (j) of this seciton.

(3) Duration of deductions—(i) Lump sum. If the amount of the debt is equal to or less than 15 percent of the employee's disposable pay for an officially established pay interval, the agency will collect the debt in one lump-sum deduction including lump-sum annual leave amounts.

(ii) If the employee is deemed financially unable to pay in one lump sum or the amount of the debt exceeds 15 percent of the employee's disposable pay for an officially established pay interval, the agency will collect the debt in installments. Except as provided in paragraphs (k)(5) and (6) of this section, installment deductions must be made over a period no longer than the anticipated period of active duty or employment.

(4) When deductions may begin. (i) Deductions will begin on the date stated in the notice, unless the agency and individual have agreed to an alternative repayment agreement under paragraph (j) of this section or the employee has filed a timely request for a hearing.

(ii) If the employee files a timely petition for hearing as provided in paragraph (h) of this section, the agency will begin deductions after the hearing official has provided the employee with a hearing and a final written decision has been rendered in favor of the agency.

(5) Liquidation from final check. If an employee retires, resigns, or the period of employment ends before collection of the debt is completed, the agency will offset the remainder under 31 U.S.C. 3716 from subsequent agency payments of any nature (e.g., final salary payment or lump-sum leave) due the employee as of the date of separation.

(6) Recovery from other payments due a separated employee. If the debt cannot be satisfied by offset from any final payment due the employee on the date of separation, we will liquidate the debt, where appropriate, by Administrative Offset under 31 U.S.C. 3716 from later payments of any kind due the former employee (e.g., lump-sum leave payment).

(m) Exception to internal salary offset. SSA may follow Administrative Offset notification requirements when attempting the collection of delinquent travel advances and training expenses, not those associated with Federal employee salary offset. Once the notification procedures have been followed, SSA has the authority to withhold all or part of an employee's salary, retirement benefits, or other amount due the employee including lump-sum payments to recover the amounts owed. No statutory or regulatory limits exist on the amount that can be withheld or offset.

(n) Salary offset when we are the paying agency but not the creditor agency. When we are the paying agency and another agency is the creditor agency, the creditor agency must provide written certification to Treasury that the employee owes the debt, the amount and basis of the debt, the date on which payment(s) is due, the date the Government's right to collect the debt first accrued, and that the Office of Personnel Management has approved the creditor agency's regulations implementing 5 U.S.C. 5514. We are not required or authorized to review the merits of the determination with respect to the amount or validity of the debt certified by the creditor agency.

(o) Interest, penalties, and administrative costs. Debts owed will be assessed interest, penalties, and administrative costs in accordance with § 422.807.

(p) Non-waiver of rights. An employee's involuntary payment of all or any portion of a debt collected under this part will not be construed as a waiver of any rights the employee may have under 5 U.S.C. 5514 or any other provision of law or contract unless there are statutory or contractual provisions to the contrary.

(q) Refunds. (1) We will promptly refund any amounts paid or deducted under this part when:

(i) A debt is waived or otherwise found not owed to us; or

(ii) We are directed by administrative or judicial order to refund amount deducted from the employee's current pay.

(2) Unless required or permitted by law or contract, refunds will not bear interest.

(r) Additional administrative collection action. Nothing contained in this part is intended to preclude the use of any other appropriate administrative remedy.