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Case Processing Changes Implemented with Minor Release 05-01


Published: January 21, 2005


RE: Case Processing Changes Implemented with Minor Release 05-01

Dear Coordinators:

The Federal Offset Program will be migrating into production the changes for Minor Release 05-01 on January 28, 2005. In conjunction with this release, we would like to make states aware of processing changes being put into place to address the issue of ‘Zero Balance Deletes’. This occurs when an FMS offset brings the balance on the case to zero on the OCSE Master File and the case is deleted.

Currently, if an offset is received that reduces the arrearage amount to zero, the case is closed/deleted at OCSE, and the Debt Closed Date is set to the date the offset is processed by OCSE. The case is not closed at FMS so that if an offset payment is reversed and then subsequently re-eligible for offset, FMS will be able to process it. The problem is that under current processing OCSE deletes the case due to a zero balance, but the case at the state level continues to show a debt. If a state submits any transactions for a Zero Balance Deleted case (other than an Add or State Payment Transaction), the transaction is rejected with an Error Code 38 (Case Deleted). The only way the case can be reopened is to recertify the case via an Add Transaction. Analysis has shown that one in four offsets will satisfy a case’s arrearage in full. Since a majority of the states update the arrearage of their entire caseload at least monthly, the number of rejects with Error Code 38 can be quite high. More importantly, states have requested that OCSE provide states with more control regarding when cases are closed.

The change OCSE will implement builds an additional 45-day processing window into the Weekly Update Process for a Zero Balance Deleted case. This processing window provides the states a period during which the case can be updated with the accurate balance using the standard update process rather than forcing the state to go through the process of recertifying the case.

The 45-day processing period begins with the Debt Closed Date, and is applied in the following fashion:

  • Within 45 days of the case being deleted at OCSE because of an offset, if a state submits a Modify Arrearage Amount (M) transaction with a balance other than zero, the case will be reopened.
  • The Debt Closed Date will be set to spaces, and the case will no longer be deleted at OCSE.
  • The Modify transaction will create a detail record with a new message code, “Mod, Case Reopened”.
  • A new Pre-Offset Notice will not be created for the case if OCSE processes the state’s notices
  • If the state wants a new Pre-Offset Notice issued, they would include the request code of ‘P’ on the Modify transaction. If the state includes the ‘P’ request code on the Modify transaction, a second detail record will be created with the appropriate message code for the notice request.
  • Within the 45-day period, if a state submits a transaction other than an Add, Modify, or Delete (such as Name Change, Local Code Change, or Address Change), the transaction will be accepted and used to update the case. Currently, these transactions would be rejected with Error Code 38 (Case Deleted).
  • Any time after the case has been deleted at OCSE due to a Zero Balance Delete, if a state submits an Add Transaction for the case, it will be reopened as a recertified case; a Pre-Offset Notice will be required and the appropriate holding periods will be observed.
  • Any time after a Zero Balance Delete, if a state submits a Delete transaction (or a Modify transaction with an arrearage amount of zero), the case will be deleted using the same process as any valid Delete transaction from a state. Currently, the transaction would be rejected with Error Code 38 (Case Deleted), and the case would remain open at FMS. This change will allow the state to decide if the case should be deleted at FMS so that no future collections could be processed. Once the state-submitted Delete is processed, any subsequent Delete sent for the case would be rejected with an Error Code 38.
  • After the end of the 45-day period, if no Modify or Add transaction was sent, any transaction sent in by the state for the case other than an Add, Delete, or State Payment will be rejected with Error Code 38 (Case Deleted).

To assist states in knowing when an offset has caused a Zero Balance Delete to occur, OCSE will include a Zero Balance Delete Indicator in position 226 of the Collection and Adjustment Record. OCSE transmits these records to the state via the bi-weekly collection files. If the collection record is for an offset that caused the case to be deleted at OCSE, the indicator will be a ‘Y’. For all other offsets and all reversals, the indicator will be an ‘N’. These indicators will not affect a state’s ability to process the collection file. Please see the enclosed Output Record Specification for more information regarding the change to the Collection and Adjustment Record.

This change will be discussed during the Special Collections Unit state conference calls that will be held January 25 - 27, 2005.

If you have any questions concerning your state's collection files, or the content of this correspondence, please contact Brian Peeler at (202) 690-5377, or bpeeler@acf.hhs.gov


Donna J. Bonar
Associate Commissioner
For Office of Automation and Program Operations
Office of Child Support Enforcement

Enclosure: Federal Offset Output Record Specification

cc: State IV-D Directors
Regional Program Managers

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