It was one line in a 629 page federal farm bill.  But it gave the U.S. government sweeping new powers of debt collection.

Now, after public outcry and congressional backlash, the Social Security Administration has suspended its controversial program for recovering old debts.

FactFinder 12 Investigators reported about this program in February.

Several federal agencies, including social security have been taking advantage of a small provision in the 2008 farm bill that eliminated a 10 year statute of limitation on debt collection.

Paul Mattox of Hutchinson first brought the issue to the Investigators.  He was expecting a federal tax refund of nearly $2000.  Instead he got about 60% less.

The government determined he was overpaid for his father's social security death benefits.  Benefits that hadn't been received for 34 years.  

Under the law, the amount owed could be taken from his tax refund.

"Really? Are we hurting that bad for money?", asked Mattox when reached for his reaction to the suspension of the program.

Mattox accused the government of being "sneaky" and working like a "thief in the night."

"I think if they're going to suspend the statute of limitations it should be from the day the bill was active, forward," he said.

The Social Security Administration says it has identified about 400,000 Americans who owe a total of $714 million.  So, will the debt will be forgiven or the money refunded?

The head of the Social Security Administration says there are "options to resolve the overpayment," but it's not clear exactly what that means.

FactFinder 12 is waiting for a spokesman to give us a better explanation.  When it comes we'll post it here.