Can Social Security disability benefits be garnished?

Wallet With Money and a Wooden GavelThere are different Social Security disability garnishment rules for various types of debt. If you owe money and a court has issued a garnishment order, then it is essential to understand which debts may be garnished and how garnishment is calculated. Then, you can estimate your monthly Social Security disability benefits.

No Social Security Disability Garnishment for Private Debts

Only the federal government can garnish your Social Security disability benefits. Therefore, even if you are behind on other significant debts and a legal garnishment order is in place, your Social Security disability benefits may not be garnished. Privately owned debts include:

  • Credit card debt
  • Mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Bank loans
  • Private student loans

While private lenders cannot garnish Social Security disability benefits, you should regularly check your bank account to make sure that no mistakes are made and that private lenders do not wrongfully garnish your disability benefits.

Social Security Disability Garnishment for Other Debts

While the Social Security Administration cannot withhold any portion of your disability payments to pay your private loans, the agency can withhold a portion of your disability payments if there is a legal garnishment order in place for other types of debts. These debts include:

  • Child support
  • Alimony or spousal support
  • Restitution, or payment that is required to be paid to a victim after a criminal conviction
  • Overdue federal taxes
  • Federal student loans
  • Non-tax debts owed to other federal agencies

If you owe debts that may be legally garnished, then the garnishment should be calculated from your monthly benefit after other legal deductions. In most cases, your garnishment will be the weekly garnishment amount multiplied by 52 and then divided by 12 and rounded to the nearest dime. Typically, the garnishment is limited to either the state maximum or the federal maximum allowed under the Consumer Credit Protection Act, whichever is lower.

For child support payments, the federal maximum provides that you owe:

  • 50% of eligible benefits if you support a spouse or child who is not subject to the court order
  • 60% of eligible benefits if you do not support a spouse or child who is not subject to the court order

If you are more than 12 weeks late with your child support payments, then the percentage that you must pay rises to 55% if you support another child or spouse or 65% if you do not support another child or spouse.

Make Sure You Get the Social Security Disability Benefits You’ve Earned

Debt is a common part of life. Unfortunately, now that you are disabled and unable to work, it is more challenging than ever to make regular payments on your debts. That doesn’t mean that your disability payments should always go toward paying your debt, however.

The first step in getting the disability benefits that you’ve earned and satisfying your legal garnishments is to apply for Social Security disability benefits. If your application is denied, then you won’t have the money to live on or to pay your garnishments.

Accordingly, our experienced Social Security disability lawyers will work hard to get you the benefits that you’ve earned. We will thoroughly review your medical record and work history so that we can submit a strong and complete Social Security disability application on your behalf. If your application happens to be denied, we will fight hard on appeal to protect your rights.

Don’t let a potential garnishment prevent you from applying for Social Security disability benefits. If you are eligible for benefits, then some of your monthly payments may go toward satisfying your debts, but the rest will be yours to use as you wish.

Learn more about your rights for free. We invite you to contact our Boston area Social Security disability attorneys for a free consultation and to download a free copy of our book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer