Social Security Administration does the right thing, halts collections on decades-old “overpayments”

As the Post explains,

The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will immediately cease efforts to collect on taxpayers’ debts to the government that are more than 10 years old.

The action comes after The Washington Post reported that the government was seizing state and federal tax refunds that were on their way to about 400,000 Americans who had relatives who owed money to the Social Security agency. In many cases, the people whose refunds were intercepted had never heard of any debt, and the debts dated as far back as the middle of the past century.

The article goes on to note that a lawsuit was also filed last week. The Social Security Administration's action is a good reminder of the power of both public outcry and litigation. In a week where the Post is being celebrated (rightly) for its reporting on privacy and national security, we shouldn't forget the other contexts in which good muckraking journalism can make a difference, including issues affecting some of the most economically vulnerable individuals. (The D.C. tax lien issue covered by the Post last fall is another good recent example.)