Can My Social Security Disability Benefits Be Garnished?

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Social security disability benefits are a vital source of income and support for individuals with disabilities. However, if you have outstanding debt, it may be possible for debt collectors or the federal government to garnish your disability benefits to cover the debt. In such a case, you stand to lose the benefits in part or full, depending on the amount and conditions of the debt.

The silver lining is that disability benefits are typically not garnished for the common types of debt payments. Instead, they are garnished to pay for specific purposes such as paying your outstanding taxes, alimony or child support. Contact our Greenville disability attorneys for help today.

When Can SSDI Payments be Garnished?

Here’s a look at the different types of loans and due payments which can lead to garnishment of the social security disability benefits and the amount that may be garnished in each case.

Unpaid Federal Taxes

If you have unpaid taxes from the past, the federal government has the right to garnish your social security disability benefits to cover these. Specifically, the federal agency Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will garnish a portion of your monthly benefits to pay for the arrears. The good news is that IRS will not garnish any more than 15% of your monthly benefits.

Alimony and Child Support Payments

Your social security disability benefits can also be garnished to cover previous or current child support and alimony obligations. Such garnishment is typically authorized under the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA).

According to CCPA, the federal government can garnish up to 50% of your social security disability benefits if you have child support or alimony obligations. If you are not supporting either apart from the court order subject, the garnishment can be up to 60% of your benefits. If you have failed to fulfill your child support or alimony obligations for at least 12 weeks, the federal government has authority to garnish up to 65%. The garnished amount goes to cover the arrears as well as your current legal obligations.

However, it is important to note that many states have their own laws that govern the percentage of disability benefits that can be garnished for child support or alimony. The actual amount garnished is the lesser of the two amounts between the federal and state stipulations.

Defaulted Student Loan Payments

If a student loan was guaranteed by the federal government and you failed to make loan payments, the federal government can garnish your disability benefits to pay the loan. As with unpaid taxes, garnishment for student loans can’t be more than 15% of your monthly benefits or the monthly payment amount above $750.

In addition, SSDI payments can also be garnished for any other tax-free federal loans such as federal-backed home loans. Finally, a court can also order the garnishment of the benefits as restitution for a crime victim.

Things Not Covered by Garnishment

Apart from the expenses mentioned above, the federal government or any other entity can’t garnish your disability benefits for virtually any other purpose. This means that if you have outstanding credit card bills or a car loan that is due, the creditors can’t get legal access to your disability benefits.

Supplementary Security Income (SSI) and Garnishment

You may receive disability benefits through the SSI program of the Social Security Administration (SSA) instead of the SSDI. SSI offers monetary assistance and the only condition to qualify is if you have a legitimate disability and limited income or assets to financially support yourself.

Unlike SSDI, SSI has far better garnishment protection. SSI can’t be garnished for federal loans, alimony or child support, back taxes or for virtually any other private, public or federal loan.

What to Do if My Benefits Are Illegally Garnished?

If your SSDI benefits were garnished and you believe that this was illegally or unfairly done, you will need to take it up with the entity that authorized it. In the case of garnishment for taxes, this would be the IRS, for instance. Similarly, if your benefits were garnished for child support, you will have to take it up with the court that authorized it. In either case, it is best to hire a qualified attorney to help you with the process.

Hiring Disability Lawyers in Columbia SC

If your disability benefits have been garnished, it is possible that the garnishment was unfairly done. Here at Robert Surface Law Firm, our disability lawyers in Columbia SC help you take suitable measures in advance to protect your Social Security Disability benefits. In the case of garnishment, we also work with you to file an appeal with the right agency. Contact us today to book a FREE consultation with our attorneys.