Skip to Main Content
Google Plus Logo
Home Nursing Services
At Home Therapies
Home Care FAQ
Bereavement & Grief
Hospice & Alzheimers
Hospice Pet Therapy
Special Care Programs
Your Care Team
Specialized Home Care
Patient-Centered Dementia Care
Congestive Heart Failure
Hypertension / Blood Pressure
Coronary Artery Disease
Mental Health and Depression
Home Care Support for Multiple Sclerosis
Paraplegia and Quadriplegia
Traumatic Brain Injury
Our Standard of Care
Caring Brands International
Aging in Place
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Home Health Aide
8 Dietary Tips for Improving Senior Heart Health
Talking About Substance Abuse as a Caregiver
How to Take Care of Aging Hair
4 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Seniors
Designing Outdoor Living Areas for Seniors
Getting A Grip: How and Where to Install Bathroom Grab Bars
Keeping Active: Tips for Senior Gardening
Alzheimer's and Dementia
Calculating the Cost
Certified Senior Advisors
Consumer Health Care Education
Advisor Care Giving Guide
Care in a Residential Facility
Check Your Home Care IQ
Elder Care Communities
Medicare and Home Care
Senior Care Resources
Senior Care Scams
Signs That Care At Home is Needed
Long Term Care
Mobility in Seniors
Home Safety Checklist
Home Safety Tips
Medications and Fall Risk
Reduce the Risk of Falling
Risk of Falling
Visiting the Doctor and Discussing Falls
What to Do If Someone Falls
Elder Care Videos
Hiring Your Own Caregivers
Family Care Giving Facts
Information for Seniors
Long Distance Caregiving
Starting the Conversation
The Stress of Family Caregiving
Taking Care Of Yourself as a Family Caregiver
Home Care Technology
Hospice Fact or Myth
Exercise and Older Adults
Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure
Seniors and Zika Virus
Stories From Home
Transitioning from a Facility
Independent Living Assessment
Where are you looking for Care?
Can a Debt Collector Take My Social Security Benefits?
Can a Debt Collector Take My Social Security Benefits?
Posted: 7/19/2018 8:33 AM by
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can my Social Security benefits be garnished if I have some outstanding debts? I just turned 62 and would like to start collecting my retirement benefits, but want to find this out before I apply.
Whether your Social Security benefits are garnishable or not depends on whom you owe. Banks and other financial creditors, for example, can’t touch your Social Security checks. But if Uncle Sam is collecting on a debt, some of your benefits are fair game. Here’s what you should know.
If you have credit card debts, medical bills, unpaid personal loans or pay day loans, you’ll be happy to know that your Social Security benefits are safe from your creditors. Section 207 of the Social Security Act prohibits debt collectors or a bankruptcy court from dipping into your bank account to take Social Security money for purposes of paying off what you owe.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans benefits, federal employee and civil service retirement benefits, and benefits administered by the Railroad Retirement Board Administration can’t be touched either.
But be aware that your creditors can still take legal action against you to recover what you owe them, and depending on your state’s law, they may be able to garnish your wages and tap into other allowable assets, if you have any.
If, however, you owe money to Uncle Sam, it’s a very different story. The federal government can garnish a portion of your Social Security benefits for repayment of several types of debts, including federal income taxes, federal student loans, state-ordered child support and alimony, nontax debt owed to other federal agencies, defaulted federal home loans and certain civil penalties. (If you receive SSI, those benefits cannot be garnished under any circumstance.)
How much can actually be taken depends on the type of debt you owe. In most situations, the government can pull 15 percent of your benefits to cover your debt, but under the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, it must leave you at least $750 each month. That is, unless the levy is for federal income taxes. In that case, the government isn’t required to leave $750 behind.
The other exception is for child support or alimony payments. Depending on your state laws, the court may be able to take half of your benefits or more to pay your obligations to your children or ex-spouse.
If you think your Social Security benefits might be raided to pay overdue bills, you need to address the problem – don’t ignore it. Most government agencies are happy to work with you so long as you’re willing to work with them.
The government typically sends several letters about a debt before it takes action. The final letter will inform you of the intent to levy Social Security payments, and after that, you have 30 days to contact the agency and work out a payment plan.
To get a handle on your debt problems, consider contacting a nonprofit financial counseling agency, which offers free and low-cost services on managing financial problems. To locate a credible agency in your area, use the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website at
or call 800-388-2227.
You also need to make sure you’re not missing out on any financial assistance programs. The National Council on Aging’s website (
) contains a database of more than 2,500 federal, state and local programs that can help seniors with prescription drug costs, health care, food, utilities, and other basic needs. The site will help you locate programs that you may be eligible for and will show you how to apply.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit
. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC
show and author of
“The Savvy Senior”