Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Can my Social Security benefits be garnished by a creditor?

Financial problems can mount when a person is seeking disability benefits. That person is usually prevented from earning an income because of an injury or sickness, but the bills continue. To further complicate the matter, the length of time from the point a hearing is requested to that hearing date can be a year or longer. By the time the case is awarded, creditors have sometimes filed garnishments against a claimant seeking benefits. The question asked by many is whether the creditor can garnish those Social Security benefits when they are awarded.

The answer is NO. If a creditor other than the federal government tries to garnish your Social Security benefits, it is a violation Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407). Section 207 bars garnishment of a claimant’s benefits and can be used as a defense if those benefits are garnished. A timely objection to any such garnishment will need to be properly filed stating the source of the funds as Social Security benefits. A hearing may be held wherein it will be necessary to prove that the source of those funds is from Social Security benefits. Direct deposit information from Social Security listing the account attempting to be garnished, a fully favorable decision, and notices from Social Security setting out the amounts of money received as backpay and as monthly payments can be used to prove the matter.

However, Social Security benefits can be garnished. Some instances include enforcement of child support or alimony obligations, enforcement of court-ordered victim’s restitution, collection of unpaid federal taxes, and collection of federal income tax obligations. It is recommended that one seek an attorney immediately upon notice that a garnishment is being levied.

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