Food Stamps, Cash Assistance Article


The Food Stamp and Cash Assistance Program: Overpayments

The Food Stamp and Cash Assistance Program: Overpayments

by Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc.

What if DES gives me too much money or too many food stamps?

If DES gives you too much money or too many food stamps, it is called an overpayment.

How do overpayments happen?

Overpayments happen for various reasons. For example, DES may not budget your correct income or resources. Or, you may receive payments when you are not eligible for those payments.

What happens to cause the overpayment?

Even if it is not your fault that you were overpaid, DES may still collect the overpayment from you.

What should I do if I discover the overpayment?

To stop the overpayment from getting larger, you should contact your DES worker immediately if you discover you are being paid too much. Even if you discover the overpayment before DES, you may still be charged with an overpayment and you will be required to pay it back.

What should I do if I disagree with the amount of the overpayment?

You should request a fair hearing immediately by contacting DES. You should ask DES to explain the reason for the overpayment. You should also check whether DES calculated the overpayment correctly. If you think DES is wrong, you should tell the Judge why it's wrong.

How will DES collect the overpayment?

If you are not currently receiving benefits, DES can collect the overpayment by any legal means. For example, DES could keep your income tax refunds or sue you in court to garnish certain wages. Your credit may be affected if DES obtains a judgment against you.

Can I stop DES from collecting overpayment?

Probably not, but you may be able to control the amount you have to pay each month toward the overpayment. If you do not request a fair hearing, or you lose the fair hearing, the overpayment decision will become final and you will be responsible for paying it back.

If you are currently receiving benefits, DES will keep a portion of your monthly benefits to repay the overpayments.

If you are not getting benefits, you can make a payment plan with a monthly payment that fits within your budget. If you make regular monthly payments in the agreed upon amount, DES will probably not take your income tax refunds or sue you in court.

If you have questions about the overpayment, you should contact the DES Office of Accounts Receivable and Collections office at 1-800-236-1475.

What if my only income is social security disability or SSI?

By federal law, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SSI benefits are protected from judgment. This means that if you are sued to repay the overpayment, a judge cannot order you to repay the debt from your SSDI or SSI.

However, if your Social Security Disability or Retirement benefits are more than $750 a month, DES can refer your food stamp overpayment to the U.S. Department of Treasury to collect the overpayment by reducing your SSA benefits. This is called administrative offset. Before your SSA check is reduced, you should receive a letter explaining the offset and advising you what to do if you disagree.

How can I get legal assistance?

There are various free legal service agencies throughout the state for people with low income, depending upon availability. For more information, contact the legal aid office in your area. Be sure to choose the county where you live on the right side of the page; and find an office near you under the "Find Legal Help" on this website.

Reviewed November 2003


Comments:

On 9/6/07
Jennifer said
My fiance and I suffer from serious mental illnesses and are unable to work. We've spent most of the year in hospitals.He hasn't got income and my SSDI is being terminated.

QUESTIONS

  • Is it illegal for me to use my Moms food stamp card while she is incarcerated?
  • If you are approved for kinship benefits how much money do you get.
  • Could people be reported for "food Stamp" fraud? How does one go about report someone for fraud?
  • at what age is one considered to be elderly?
  • do u have to live in AZ a certain length of time to collect food stamps?
  • where is the office located and the number
  • when i started i needed food stamps not cash now i need both can i add cash to my case
  • i forgot my eight digit case number
  • I am a receipient of a structured settlement...I have no funds left but I won't get another settlment until 2013....my name is on a bank account where my dad is the executor and will nto allow em access norwill tehbak allow me access so I can never use thjsoe funds for food or anythign else...how can I avoid that disallowing me from the food stamp program...I am unemployed and need food.
  • I was adopted at the age of 13 from Russia. My adopted American parents were abusive. At the age of 18 I left home. I have been homeless living with friends as I finished my high school diploma. I have not been able to pay anyone for living at their home. I have started community college full time, two of my classes are not college accredited as I was educationally deprive and have to catch up to take Eng. 101 and college math. I spend more time studying than the average student as English is my second language. I work 8 hours a week at a clothing store. I just started caring for a 90 year old lady, more than 20 hours per week, in exchange for a place to study & sleep. DES says I need to work 20 hours a week to get food stamps. Would my caring of the 90 year old count as working even though I do not get paid?

STORIES

  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .
  • If you get a divorce, make sure your date of birth is on the Decree if your name is changing!. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .

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OTHER LEGAL RESOURCES

  • State Bar of Arizona
    www.azbar.org
  • Maricopa County Bar
    www.maricopabar.org
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    www.pimacountybar.org
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    800-799-7233
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  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program
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