Can Social Security Benefits Be Garnished?

Private Parties and Non-Governmental Entities Cannot Garnish Social Security

In short, as a general rule, no one can garnish your Social Security except the government.   That means that banks, medical providers, home lenders, etc cannot garnish these funds.

Example 1:  If VISA gets a judgment for an unpaid credit card balance and sends a Writ of Garnishment to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSA will reject VISA’s attempt to garnish your Social Security.

Further, as of May 1, 2011, a bank served with a Writ of Garnishment must also protect your Social Security benefits on deposit by looking at the source of auto-deposits for the sixty days prior to the garnishment.  To the extent they are Social Security, they are automatically protected.

Example 2:  If VISA serves a Writ of Garnishment on your bank where you have your Social Security deposited, the bank must then look at your account for the previous 60 days.  If you received a $1,200 Social Security auto-deposit in the prior month and another $1,200 auto-deposit in the month prior to that (i,e., the 60 days before the garnishment) then $2,400 is protected.  Social Security funds in the account from before the 60 days prior to the garnishment may be available to the garnishing creditor in you did nothing more.

To prevent garnishment of SS funds on deposit above the last two months’ SS auto-deposits, the account holder must fill out out and file with the court and the creditor a Claim of Exemption form that simply notes all the funds in the account are exempt Social Security.

The Federal Government Can Garnish Your Social Security

On the other hand, the federal government can garnish your Social Security benefits for repayment of certain debts, including the following:

  • federal income taxes
  • federal student loans
  • child support and alimony
  • nontax debt owed to other federal agencies
  • defaulted federal home loans and
  • certain civil penalties.

How Much Social Security Can Be Garnished By The Government?

How much Social Security can be garnished depends on the creditor that is seeking payment.

  • Taxes:   Social Security benefits are subject to a 15% levy to pay delinquent taxes regardless of what amount might be left for you.  (Federal Payment Levy Program)
  • Student Loans:  Social Security benefits are subject to a 15% levy to pay delinquent taxes, provided that your remaining monthly benefit cannot drop below $750.  (Federal Payment Levy Program)
  • Child Support:  Social Security benefits are subject to a 50% – 65% levy depending on the type of claim.   The maximum garnishment depends on the state where you live.   You can  lose up to 50% of your benefits if you are obligated to support a child or spouse in addition to the one for which the levy is sought.  If you do not have to support separate child or spouse, then you can lose up to 60%, but that can increase to 65% if you are more than 12 weeks in arrears.  (Court Ordered Garnishment System.)

The Process To Garnish Your Social Security

Normally, you will have about 120 days notice of the fedarl governments effort to garnish your Social Security benefits.  You will receive several notices.  During this period you can try to avoid garnishment by showing it is improper and should not occur or try to make voluntary payment arrangements.  You have 30 days from the date of the final notice to arrive at voluntary payment arrangements.   If it determined that the garnishment should occur, you will have a chance to appeal.

Want More Information on Garnishing Social Security and Protection?

For more information, you can go to the source of the rule and another article on the subject.

Social Security Garnishment – Options – Free Consultation

If you are concerned that your Social Security might be garnished, we are here to help.  Just call for a free consultation and we’ll help you sort it out.


  1. john keller says

    Hello, If there is a child support judgment won in court. What are the steps to get social security benefits garnished? I am in the state of Illinois, Thank you. 217 414 8945

  2. Roger D Skinner says

    HI John,
    I just received a letter for a pre-trial order concerning a law suit against me for a repo of a truck. At the time I purchased this automobile I was working . Earlier this year I got to where I had to be put on disability and social security. I am in need of help of what I can do to stop any garnishment of my fixed income. I surely cannot afford an attorney. Any information you could give me would be GRATELY APPRECIATED.
    Sincerely Roger Skinner,

    • Generally, Social Security and SSDI are exempt from the claims of creditors. If they try to garnish your bank account, your bank should automatically protect up to two months’ benefits. Depending on state law, you may also have to fill out an Exemption claim form to claim the entirety of the money in the account as exempt. You might check to see if you have a local legal aide office that can help you through this as well. In the end, your benefits should be protected.

  3. Hello,
    Social Security is reducing the amount of money sent to me from $500 to $350. They say they over paid me.
    Based on what my husband makes. He never shares any money at all with my disabled son and myself.
    This is my word against his, what do I do? Who can help me?

    • You should contact SSA and tell them you want to have the funds sent to a new bank/address. Then you open an account at a new bank in your name only. Now you have access and he does not. Having said that, my answer will work. However, you likely have other factors at play and might seek legal advice to see if there are any other issues/facts at play. For example, if he is your “payee”, then you likely cannot do that. So, call Social Security to start. also, Does you disabled son get SS? Anyway, he may be able to do the same.

  4. Jennifer Kirbach says

    Due to my mom’s health, she had to foreclose on her home a couple of months ago. She is 86 yrs. of age and I would like to know can her pension and SS funds be garnished due to this matter.

    Please let me know as soon as you can!!

    Thank you for your support in this matter!!

  5. Derrick Hatch says

    Me and my mother bought a car and there’s $20,000 still owed on it, and we are both on Social security. If we do a Voulentary repo can they garnish are social security? If they sell it, can we make arrangements for lower payments on what is still owed. my mother has a little money in the bank can they take that?

    • Social security cannot be garnished for the balance due on a car repossessed. They may sue you. They may try to garnish your bank account. But, if all you have in the account is Social Security, it cannot be taken by the garnishing creditor. IF you receive notice of garnishment on your Social Security account, just check with your bank to make sure they agree that the Social Security cannot be taken. Worst case, you might need to fill out a ‘Claim of Exemption’ form and point out that the funds in the account are exempt Social Security.

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