BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A local man was surprised when the federal government asked him to pay a debt that is more than 40-years-old, for money that wasn't even paid to him.
Michael Fafara can't understand why the government is trying to make him pay back a debt his mother owed more than 40 years after she died.
"I think it is just absurd, crazy," he said. "You are guilty until you prove yourself innocent, and I don't think I am guilty of anything, except losing my parents at a young age."
Fafara was a teenager when his father died and his mother was granted Social Security survivor benefits. A couple of years later his mother died and the survivor benefits went to him for about a year until he turned 18 and joined the Navy.
The government discovered Fafara's mother had received too much from Social Security and made him pay it back, in monthly installments, until he stopped receiving the benefits 40 years ago.
Now they say Fafara still owes more than $1,300.
"I thought Social Security benefits were there to help people when their parents pass away, like mine did. Instead of helping me, now it is coming back to haunt me, or be a nightmare," Fafara said.
Kenmore attorney Richard Abbott says the government does make mistakes with benefits, and when it does, someone in the household has to pay.
"I have seen where the government has waited years and years to collect an overpayment, but 45 years has to be a world record of ineffectiveness," Abbott said.
But Abbott added Fafara can ask for a waiver and eventually get his day in front of a judge.
"It is a pain, but as long as you follow the procedures, you will have your day in court, and you can get it fixed," Abbott said.
While it might seem absurd the government is going after Fafara 40 years after his mom was overpaid, there are exceptions. Abbott says the best thing anyone can do is fill out the paperwork, because in this case, the government has to find those 40-year-old documents to prove Fafara still owes the money.
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