The Norman Transcript

Features

December 11, 2012

Can Social Security checks be garnished?

NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior,I have some outstanding debts and would like to find out if my Social Security checks can be garnished. What can you tell me?

Old and Indebt

Dear Old,

Whether your Social Security benefits are garnishable or not depends on who 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.

Creditor protections

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 (those you owe).

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. But they can’t take the money you receive from Social Security. Nor can they touch Supplemental Security Income (SSI), veterans benefits, federal employee and civil service retirement benefits, and benefits administered by the Railroad Retirement Board Administration.

To ensure your Social Security or other government benefits are protected from creditors, you need to have them direct deposited into your bank account, or to a Direct Express Debit MasterCard account (see godirect.org). Benefits deposited by check into your bank account aren’t protected. Also, be sure you don’t transfer your benefits to another account, or else the protection is void. And don’t have credit cards or other loans at the bank where your benefits are deposited. Money owed to a bank, if it also holds the deposit account, can be frozen.

Government garnishment

If, however, you owe money to Uncle Sam, it’s a very different story. The federal government can garnish a portion of your benefits for repayment of several types of debts, including 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. (If you receive SSI, those benefits cannot be garnished under any circumstance.)

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Features
  • Norman resident honored as volunteer of the week

    Each week, we recognize a volunteer who is making a difference in the lives of veterans and surviving spouses in the area. This week’s volunteer has been making the trip each week to Goldsby for the last five years. I’m proud to say that ...

    April 23, 2014

  • Air travel tips for seniors with special needs

    Dear Savvy Senior, I would like to fly my elderly parents across the country next month for my daughter’s wedding but have some concerns about the flight. My mom has trouble walking long distances and my dad has COPD and needs an oxygen ...

    April 22, 2014

  • Couple with autistic children lead Thorn Bush Autism group

    For Leah and Christian Eisenbeis raising two children with Autism is not only a challenge but it’s been a blessing, too....

    April 20, 2014

  • Free pressure canner checks offered

    With warmer weather trying to get a grip on April’s temperatures, it’s time to get the dial on your pressure canner checked. This is a free service provided by the Cleveland County Extension Office, 601 E. Robinson St. in Norman....

    April 20, 2014

  • Norman artist pledges to continue painting until colors fade

    About five or six months ago, I came across an article in The Norman Transcript about local artist Almira Hill Grammer, who had a display of her work at the State Capitol....

    April 20, 2014

  • ‘Blood moon’ rising

    I guess we all have one thing in common right now. We survived a “blood moon.” What a whirlwind of a week. It seemed that, like Hillary Clinton, the universe was just tossing shoes at me left and right. Maybe it was a sign I need to slow ...

    April 20, 2014

  • What to know about use of BVO

    Q: I’ve heard about Brominated vegetable oil recently. Could you provide some more information? A: Brominated vegetable oil, also called BVO, is a food additive that is often used to keep citrus flavor emulsified in sodas and sports ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Blessing opens demo garden

    A blustery, gray day didn’t mute enthusiasm for the first Saturday of the spring season April 12 at the Cleveland County Master Gardeners demo gardens and the Norman Farm Market....

    April 20, 2014

  • OHCE members receive awards

    Cleveland County’s Oklahoma Home and Community Education members Carol Doner and Megan Doner were award winners at a recent OHCE District meeting in Mustang....

    April 20, 2014

  • Book signing set

    Author Jerry Webster, of Edmond, will sign copies of his book, “What Brings a Soldier to His Knees,” from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Hastings Books, 2300 W. Main St....

    April 20, 2014