Can Social Security Disability be Garnished?

If you are one of the millions of Americans receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”)  income, you know how vital it is to your financial well-being. Missing a check or having your check not be nearly what you expected it to be can have immediate and severe economic consequences on your life. You do all you can to prevent this from happening. However, if you have some debts, you might wonder, can SSDI income be subject to garnishment? The answer is that it depends on the type of debt you owe.

What is Garnishment?

Garnishment is an effective method of collecting unpaid debts from an individual. The party wanting to collect an outstanding debt through garnishment must generally first obtain a judgment and an order for garnishment from the court. However, government agencies such as the IRS don’t need to go through this step. Then a garnishment order is sent to the employer or the party that controls another source of income, such as Social Security. A certain amount of the payment or check is withheld from the receiver to pay the party to whom the debt is owed. Garnishments can last as long as it takes to pay off the debt, and they can only take a certain percentage of the total amount of each check.

When Can SSDI Be Garnished?

Social Security disability can be garnished, but only by certain entities for certain debts. First, garnishments require court approval. For any type of income to be garnished, the party wishing to have the garnishment must get a court order. These orders can’t be granted unless a previous judgment states that the person to be garnished legally owes the other party a debt.

Second, SSDI can only be garnished for specific debts. These include:

  • Child and alimony obligations
  • Federal tax and debts owed to the IRS
  • Debts owed to federal agencies, for instance, for a federal student loan

If you are an SSDI recipient at risk for or already having your checks garnished for these types of financial obligations, speak to an experienced attorney who can help. You may be able to arrange a more affordable payment plan to pay these debts instead of being faced with garnishments that can negatively impact your budget.

Creditors can’t legally garnish Social Security Disability benefits, including:

  • Credit card companies
  • Finance companies
  • Auto lenders
  • Mortgage lenders
  • Other lenders
  • Collection agencies
  • Medical providers

It’s also unlikely that state or local governments can garnish your SSDI for unpaid fines or other debts.

It should also be noted that regular Social Security income can’t be garnished under any circumstances. Not even the federal government can garnish your SSI.

Do You Have Questions about SSDI and Wage Garnishment?

SSDI and wage garnishment are complex topics alone and become even more complex together. If you have questions or concerns about either, it’s best to take them to a seasoned Orange County SSDI attorney who can help you work through them and provide you with the best outcome possible.