Social Security Administration Ceases Practices Challenged in VSG Lawsuit
WASHINGTON, D.C. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued an Emergency Message, EM-17014, announcing that it is ceasing its practice of referring old debts (delinquent prior to May 19, 2002) for collection through the tax offset program. The Emergency Message further stated: “We will issue further instructions to issue refunds to debtors with a delinquency date of May 19, 2002 or earlier and a 10 or more year delinquent debt that we previously offset via TOP.”
Through this announcement, the SSA agreed to grant the most significant part of the relief that Vogel, Slade & Goldstein sought to achieve through a class action lawsuit that it filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Grice, et al. v. Colvin, Civ. Action 14-1082) and continued to pursue in an appeal to the Fourth Circuit (Hart, et al. v. Colvin, No. 16-1371). Consequently, VSG has withdrawn its lawsuit.
Once the SSA begins to issue the refunds, if everyone comes forward to claim the refunds to which they are entitled, the SSA will be refunding approximately $56 million to a group of approximately 65,000 people. VSG partner Rob Vogel was the lead counsel in the lawsuit, which was handled by the firm on a pro bono basis.
The original named plaintiff in the case, Mary Grice, as well as several other putative class representatives, were earlier provided with their tax refunds that had been withheld, as well as waivers of their alleged debts to the SSA. The case received extensive publicity, including in the Washington Post and on the Daily Show.