20 CFR 255.11 - Fault.

§ 255.11 Fault.

(a) Before recovery of an overpayment may be waived, it must be determined that the overpaid individual was without fault in causing the overpayment. If recovery is sought from other than the overpaid individual but the overpaid individual was not without fault, then waiver is not available. However, see § 255.16 of this part for provisions as to when administrative relief from recovery may be granted in such circumstances.

(b) Fault means a defect of judgment or conduct arising from inattention or bad faith. Judgment or conduct is defective when it deviates from a standard of reasonable care taken to comply with the entitlement provisions of this chapter. Conduct includes both action and inaction. Unlike fraud, fault does not require a deliberate intent to deceive.

(c) Whether an individual is at fault in causing an overpayment generally depends on all circumstances surrounding the overpayment. Among the factors the Board will consider are: the ability of the overpaid individual to understand the reporting requirements of the Railroad Retirement Act or to realize that he or she is being overpaid (e.g., age, education, comprehension, physical and mental condition); the particular cause of non-entitlement to benefits; and the number of instances in which the individual may have made erroneous statements.


(1) Circumstances in which the Board will find an individual at fault include but are not limited to:

(i) Failure to furnish to the Railroad Retirement Board information which the individual knew or should have known to be material;

(ii) An incorrect statement made by the individual which he or she knew or should have known was incorrect (including furnishing an opinion or conclusion when asked for facts); and

(iii) Failure to return a payment which the individual knew or should have known was incorrect.

(2) Where any of the circumstances listed in paragraph (d)(1) are found to have occurred, the individual shall be presumed to be not without fault. This presumption may be rebutted, but the burden of presenting evidence to rebut the presumption is on the individual.

(3) For purposes of paragraph (d)(1)(i), furnishing information to the Social Security Administration or any other agency shall not be considered to constitute furnishing information to the Railroad Retirement Board.

(4) For purposes of this section, an error on the part of the agency shall not extinguish fault on the part of the individual.

(e) Circumstances in which the Board will find an individual not at fault include but are not limited to:

(1) The overpayment is the result of Board error of which the overpaid individual was not aware and could not reasonably have been expected to be aware (Example 1 of this section).

(2) The overpayment is the result of an adjustment to the overpaid individual's annuity because of entitlement of another individual to an annuity on the same record of compensation as that of the overpaid individual (Example 2 of this section).

(3) The overpayment is the result of the Board's continuing to pay an individual after he or she has notified the Board of an event which caused or should have caused a reduction in his or her benefit; provided that continued payment of the unreduced benefit led the individual to believe in good faith that he or she was entitled to the payments subsequently received.

(f) The application of this section may be illustrated by the following examples:

Example (1).
The Board makes a mathematical error in the computation of an employee's annuity, thus giving the employee a higher rate than he or she is entitled to but which is sufficiently close to the estimated rate given the employee at the time he or she applied for the annuity that the employee believed, in good faith, that the amount was correct. The employee is not at fault in causing the overpayment in this case. The overpayment may be waived if the requirements of § 255.12 or § 255.13 of this part are met.
Example (2).
The widow and four minor children of a railroad employee are receiving benefits from the Board under the family maximum. Another minor child not living in the same household as the above individuals is also determined to be the child of the deceased employee. The widow was not aware of the existence of this child. An award of benefits to this child causes a reduction in benefits to the other individuals under the family maximum benefit provision of the Social Security Act. Because of normal administrative delay this reduction does not take place for a period of 2 months after its effective date. The widow and her children are without fault with respect to this overpayment. The overpayment may be waived if the requirements of § 255.12 or § 255.13 of this part are met.

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