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Discharge of Unemployment Overpayment in Bankruptcy in Pennsylvania


Can You Eliminate Unemployment Overpayment Debt?

What Is Overpayment of Benefits?

As a general rule, the Bankruptcy Code permits the discharge of unemployment overpayments when you file for bankruptcy. These payments are usually treated as an unsecured debt and are dischargeable. This is the case whether you file for protection under Chapter 7 bankruptcy or under Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania debt for the unemployment overpayment will be treated the same as all other general unsecured creditors that you list in the Bankruptcy Petition.  If you file for bankruptcy protection, the automatic stay will stop collection activities by the state to collect for the overpayments that you were paid. If overpayment of benefits has occurred, you will receive an overpayment determination by mail.

Under Section 501(e) of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law, a determination becomes final unless an appeal is filed timely. For an appeal to be considered timely, it must be filed within 15 days of the mailing date of the determination.

The above is the general rule but there are exceptions. The big exception is fraud. If you commit fraud then Title 11 Section 523 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code provides that any debt incurred through fraud is not dischargeable.

Fault Overpayment

If you receive benefits that you are not entitled to because of your actions, such as withholding materials or providing fraudulent information, you must repay a fault overpayment.

Along with repayment, you will be required to pay interest on any fault overpayment not paid within the 15 day span after the Notice of Overpayment determination is issued or a Lein may be filed against you. If you still receive benefits, fault overpayment may be deducted along with any interest assessed and any fees and penalties.

How Can Unemployment Overpayments Happen?

By law, if the government pays you more then you are entitled to, you are obligated to repay that amount. In the first case, you reported all correct information. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by mistake paid you much more than you were entitled to receive. This is an example of an overpayment which is not your fault. In such a situation, the entire amount of the debt would be dischargeable.

Is Your Overpayment Dischargeable In Bankruptcy?

You collect unemployment for one year. For the first four months you were unemployed and not working. You then obtained a new job. However, for the next eight months you reported to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that you were not working at all. During this time you worked at your new job full time and received your full salary. You also received full unemployment benefits due to reporting that you had no income. In such a situation, the unemployment overpayment for the eight months when you were working full time would be non-dischargeable. That is because you made a false report about your financial circumstances with the intent to deceive the Commonwealth so that it would continue to pay you benefits. and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relied on your reported information in paying the full unemployment benefits.

When filing bankruptcy an unemployment overpayment is not a debt that is listed as exempt from discharge. It is subject to discharge in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy can provide significant relief from the collection efforts of the state. The automatic stay stops collection efforts from the state to get you to pay back the unemployment benefits.

If a creditor believes that fraud occurred and you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can file a Complaint – which is a lawsuit objecting to the discharge of your debt in order to determine the dischageability of the debt.

If you file for protection under Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can file a priority or secured claim which your attorney will either have to object to or file documents dealing with the claim. Otherwise you could wind up paying back Pennsylvania’s unemployment claim in full in the Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

To get answers to your specific unemployment overpayment questions in Bankruptcy, please call the Law Offices of David M. Offen at 215-625-9600.

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