How to Handle Benefit Overpayment in Pennsylvania
SNAP overpayment may occur to any residents currently receiving benefits in Pennsylvania or residents who have received benefits in the past. Since food stamps overpayment issues must be settled to avoid welfare fraud and the purposeful or accidental misuse of government aid, the County Assistance Office (CAO) accepts repayments for extra SNAP benefits. The distribution of benefits is extremely important to regulate, so overpayments must be reported to prevent inaccurate benefit distributions. Additionally, outstanding SNAP benefits that remain unpaid put residents at risk of serious consequences and complications with future food stamp benefits. Regardless of the reasons why SNAP overpayments occur in PA, all adult residents receiving food stamps are responsible for repaying overpayments once the mistake has been identified. To learn how to repay overpayments and why food stamp overpayments should be taken seriously, you may review the sections below.
What to Do if You Received Excess SNAP Benefits in Pennsylvania
A SNAP overpayment in PA is defined as earning more benefits than you are allowed during your benefits period or continuing to get SNAP benefits even if you are no longer eligible to receive them. If you suspect that a foods stamps overpayment may have occurred and have not been sent any notifications regarding excess payments yet, then you should contact your benefits provider to rescind any payments or benefits that you should not have been awarded. Additionally, you should respond to any overpayment information you receive from the Office of Inspector General Avoidance Recovery System (OARS) informing you on approved methods of collecting repayments.
Since the question, “Do you have to pay back food stamps that have been mistakenly given to you?” is not a common inquiry due to the infrequency of the incident, learning how to handle SNAP overpayments can be challenging. However, repayment of food stamps overpayment is mandatory and must be completed immediately following the issuance of any overpayment notices or the realization that unwarranted benefits were being delivered and/or used via your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
To find out how SNAP benefits are calculated in Pennsylvania, download our comprehensive guide.
The Importance of Repaying Excess Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits
The repayment of food stamp overpayment is essential to maintaining accurate and consistent government assistance operations. If a SNAP overpayment is administered, then fewer food stamps are available to other residents requiring financial assistance for purchasing food. Therefore, the Bureau of Fraud Prevention and Prosecution (BFPP) helps to limit the number of cases related to the abuse of programs run by the PA Department of Human Services (DHS) such as SNAP. However, you are obligated to report all SNAP overpayments and repay the appropriate benefit amount when necessary to ensure the proper distribution of benefits.
Additionally, if you do not repay food stamp overpayments after receiving sufficient notification, then you may be subject to penalties for welfare fraud. Repaying food stamp overpayments immediately eliminates the possibility of being charged with welfare fraud for outstanding payments. The court may also issue additional penalties such as higher fines if overpayment charges are disputed or unclear. To protect your current benefits and ability to receive future food assistance in PA, you must repay all excess benefits that were accidentally given to you.
The CAO must refer all beneficiaries, or previous beneficiaries, who have received SNAP overpayments to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Your local PA CAO has the right to perform the following actions to determine whether food stamp overpayments have taken place and if they may disqualify you from current or future food assistance:
- Decide if an overpayment has occurred
- Find the cause of the overpayment
- Collect verification of the resources that resulted in the overpayment
- Recommend how you should repay overpayments
- Provide pertinent information that may affect the overpayment
How to Know If You Received SNAP Overpayment in Pennsylvania
If you owe SNAP overpayment fees, then you will receive a notice in the mail describing your case, the amount of benefits you must repay and the method of repayment. Your food assistance overpayment notice will also explain how to request a hearing if you choose to dispute the charge or the decision to reduce your current benefits and how to check your current SNAP benefits.
Download our guide for details on the appeal process for denied SNAP benefits and food assistance benefit amounts.
How to Repay SNAP Overpayments in Pennsylvania
Knowing who to notify of SNAP overpayment issues is the first step in fully repaying your benefits. On the SNAP overpayment notice form, you will find the contact information the court or organization listed. PA residents who are not actively seeking benefits have three repayment options for unpaid benefits. They may repay food stamp overpayments by making single payments known as lump sum payments or by withdrawing residual benefits from their EBT cards. Partial payments or installments may also be accepted as repayment for overpayments. For installments, residents must pay predetermined amounts on a regular basis to be accepted. For residents who are still receiving benefits, a SNAP overpayment may be repaid using recoupment. This means that the benefit allotment or periods are reduced to compensate remaining benefit costs. The OIG authorizes, controls and approves recoupments for beneficiaries. If residents who are not receiving new benefits reinstate their benefits, then they may change their repayment plans by decreasing initial allotments through the recoupment process.
Note: The court may enforce specific repayment methods if SNAP overpayments result in prosecution cases.