42 USC 404 - Overpayments and underpayments

(a) Procedure for adjustment or recovery 

(1) Whenever the Commissioner of Social Security finds that more or less than the correct amount of payment has been made to any person under this subchapter, proper adjustment or recovery shall be made, under regulations prescribed by the Commissioner of Social Security, as follows:
(A) With respect to payment to a person of more than the correct amount, the Commissioner of Social Security shall decrease any payment under this subchapter to which such overpaid person is entitled, or shall require such overpaid person or his estate to refund the amount in excess of the correct amount, or shall decrease any payment under this subchapter payable to his estate or to any other person on the basis of the wages and self-employment income which were the basis of the payments to such overpaid person, or shall obtain recovery by means of reduction in tax refunds based on notice to the Secretary of the Treasury as permitted under section 3720A of title 31, or shall apply any combination of the foregoing. A payment made under this subchapter on the basis of an erroneous report of death by the Department of Defense of an individual in the line of duty while he is a member of the uniformed services (as defined in section 410 (m) of this title) on active duty (as defined in section 410 (l) of this title) shall not be considered an incorrect payment for any month prior to the month such Department notifies the Commissioner of Social Security that such individual is alive.
(B) With respect to payment to a person of less than the correct amount, the Commissioner of Social Security shall make payment of the balance of the amount due such underpaid person, or, if such person dies before payments are completed or before negotiating one or more checks representing correct payments, disposition of the amount due shall be made in accordance with subsection (d) of this section.

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(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, when any payment of more than the correct amount is made to or on behalf of an individual who has died, and such payment
(A) is made by direct deposit to a financial institution;
(B) is credited by the financial institution to a joint account of the deceased individual and another person; and
(C) such other person was entitled to a monthly benefit on the basis of the same wages and self-employment income as the deceased individual for the month preceding the month in which the deceased individual died,

the amount of such payment in excess of the correct amount shall be treated as a payment of more than the correct amount to such other person. If any payment of more than the correct amount is made to a representative payee on behalf of an individual after the individuals death, the representative payee shall be liable for the repayment of the overpayment, and the Commissioner of Social Security shall establish an overpayment control record under the social security account number of the representative payee.

(b) No recovery from persons without fault 
In any case in which more than the correct amount of payment has been made, there shall be no adjustment of payments to, or recovery by the United States from, any person who is without fault if such adjustment or recovery would defeat the purpose of this subchapter or would be against equity and good conscience. In making for purposes of this subsection any determination of whether any individual is without fault, the Commissioner of Social Security shall specifically take into account any physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitation such individual may have (including any lack of facility with the English language).
(c) Nonliability of certifying and disbursing officers 
No certifying or disbursing officer shall be held liable for any amount certified or paid by him to any person where the adjustment or recovery of such amount is waived under subsection (b) of this section, or where adjustment under subsection (a) of this section is not completed prior to the death of all persons against whose benefits deductions are authorized.
(d) Payment to survivors or heirs when eligible person is deceased 
If an individual dies before any payment due him under this subchapter is completed, payment of the amount due (including the amount of any unnegotiated checks) shall be made
(1) to the person, if any, who is determined by the Commissioner of Social Security to be the surviving spouse of the deceased individual and who either
(i)  was living in the same household with the deceased at the time of his death or
(ii)  was, for the month in which the deceased individual died, entitled to a monthly benefit on the basis of the same wages and self-employment income as was the deceased individual;

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(2) if there is no person who meets the requirements of paragraph (1), or if the person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this subchapter is completed, to the child or children, if any, of the deceased individual who were, for the month in which the deceased individual died, entitled to monthly benefits on the basis of the same wages and self-employment income as was the deceased individual (and, in case there is more than one such child, in equal parts to each such child);
(3) if there is no person who meets the requirements of paragraph (1) or (2), or if each person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this subchapter is completed, to the parent or parents, if any, of the deceased individual who were, for the month in which the deceased individual died, entitled to monthly benefits on the basis of the same wages and self-employment income as was the deceased individual (and, in case there is more than one such parent, in equal parts to each such parent);
(4) if there is no person who meets the requirements of paragraph (1), (2), or (3), or if each person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this subchapter is completed, to the person, if any, determined by the Commissioner of Social Security to be the surviving spouse of the deceased individual;
(5) if there is no person who meets the requirements of paragraph (1), (2), (3), or (4), or if each person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this subchapter is completed, to the person or persons, if any, determined by the Commissioner of Social Security to be the child or children of the deceased individual (and, in case there is more than one such child, in equal parts to each such child);
(6) if there is no person who meets the requirements of paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), or (5), or if each person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this subchapter is completed, to the parent or parents, if any, of the deceased individual (and, in case there is more than one such parent, in equal parts to each such parent); or
(7) if there is no person who meets the requirements of paragraph (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), or (6), or if each person who meets such requirements dies before the payment due him under this subchapter is completed, to the legal representative of the estate of the deceased individual, if any.
(e) Adjustments due to supplemental security income payments 
For payments which are adjusted by reason of payment of benefits under the supplemental security income program established by subchapter XVI of this chapter, see section 1320a–6 of this title.
(f) Collection of delinquent amounts 

(1) With respect to any deliquent[1] amount, the Commissioner of Social Security may use the collection practices described in sections 3711 (f), 3716, 3717, and 3718 of title 31 and in section 5514 of title 5, all as in effect immediately after April 26, 1996.
(2) For purposes of paragraph (1), the term delinquent amount means an amount
(A) in excess of the correct amount of payment under this subchapter;
(B) paid to a person after such person has attained 18 years of age; and
(C) determined by the Commissioner of Social Security, under regulations, to be otherwise unrecoverable under this section after such person ceases to be a beneficiary under this subchapter.
(g) Cross-program recovery of overpayments 
For provisions relating to the cross-program recovery of overpayments made under programs administered by the Commissioner of Social Security, see section 1320b–17 of this title.
[1] So in original. Probably should be “delinquent”.