Social Security Debt: Do You Owe and Should You Worry?

Controversial debt-collection practices from the Social Security Administration have raised controversy. Find out how you could be affected.

Dan Caplinger
Dan Caplinger
Apr 18, 2014 at 8:35AM
Investment Planning

Social Security is a vital part of people's financial security. But some recipients received overpayments in the past, and the Social Security Administration has historically gone after those people -- and even their family members -- to recoup that money by garnishing tax refunds and other controversial practices.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, looks at the Social Security Administration's practice in collecting debts. Dan notes that the SSA identified 400,000 people who owe a total of more than $700 million, and has thus far collected about $55 million by seizing tax refunds. But lawmakers are now questioning the fairness of this practice, especially when it involves taking money initially paid to other family members years ago. Dan runs through some of the reasons why you might owe money to the SSA, and while he points out that the SSA has suspended its debt-collection practice pending more investigation, that's no guarantee that you won't have to pay back overpaid benefits at some future time.

Have general questions about Social Security? Email them to, and they might be the subject of a future video!