Summary: Social security benefits are protected, but it is important to ensure the benefits are deposited into their own account. Supplemental Security Income benefits are usually exempt from any type of garnishment, but Disability and Retirement benefits may be garnished in some circumstances.
Social security benefits enjoy special protection under federal law. Social Security Disability and Retirement benefits may be garnished in limited circumstances. Supplemental Security Income may not be garnished at all. Even after the benefits are paid, the deposits are generally protected from claims of most creditor. These benefits deposited in a bank may be exempt (protected) under under both bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy law if the funds are segregated.
These benefits can usually not be garnished. There are some exceptions to this which involve garnishment for child support, alimony, and federal debt, such as taxes or student loans. Supplemental Security Income benefits (which are means-tested benefits) are usually exempt from any type of garnishment.
Unlike wages, even after the benefits are deposited into a bank account. As long as the recipient can prove the deposits are social security benefits, generally, most creditors cannot seize these funds. Depositing these benefits into a separate account is important. Social security will deposit funds to a debit card if requested. When preparing to file bankruptcy, requesting the Direct Express card offered by social security may be the best method of protecting the funds. If these benefits are deposited along with other funds, such as wages, it can be difficult to prove how much of the funds on deposit came from social security. The burden is on the depositor to prove what portion are social security. If a writ of garnishment is issued, taking quick action is important. Failure to timely assert one’s rights to object to seizure of social security benefits may result in waiver.
Many bankruptcy courts have held that social security funds are exempt under 11 USC 407 if the debtor is using the state exemptions. What this means is that those funds may not have to be used to pay creditors and the debtor can keep these cash funds without fear of losing them in bankruptcy.
Under federal law, filing bankruptcy will stop garnishments of social security.
Additional information on wage garnishments.
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