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Can the Government Take Away My SSD Benefits?

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Social Security benefits are meant to help disabled and elderly citizens with their basic needs. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are not bonuses awarded on top of an already-sufficient income. Nonetheless, under certain circumstances, even those benefits can be subject to collection and garnishment by the government. Continue reading to learn about when and how the government can garnish your Social Security Benefits, and call a knowledgeable Social Security Disability benefits attorney for help obtaining SSI or SSDI benefits, or for help protecting your benefits from collection.

Debt Collection and SSD Benefits

Social Security benefits are meant to be a lifeline for qualifying applicants. They are not meant to be treated as normal income, attachable by creditors. If you are receiving Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, those benefits cannot be garnished by creditors, including credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and others, in order to satisfy a debt.

Under certain circumstances, however, the federal government can garnish Social Security benefits. The government can rely on a specific program that allows them to garnish Social Security benefits for the purpose of paying child support, alimony, federal student loans, or to pay for court-ordered victim restitution. The government can also garnish your benefits for back taxes owed to the IRS, but the rules are slightly different, as discussed below.

SSI is Exempt from Garnishment

Notwithstanding the above, SSI benefits are not subject to garnishment by the federal government or anyone else. Regardless of what you may owe to the federal government and why, they cannot seek to garnish your SSI benefits, nor can any other typical creditor.

Limits on SSDI Garnishment for Federal Debts

Even if the federal government decides to garnish your SSDI or Social Security Retirement benefits, they cannot simply take all of your Social Security income every month. They are subject to two important limitations:

  • The government cannot take more than 15 percent of your regular SSDI check. If you receive $1000 per month in SSDI, the government can take $150 per month at most.
  • The government must leave you with at least $750 per month, or $9,000 per year, assuming you make that much. If, for example, you receive $800 per month in SSDI benefits, the government could take a maximum of $50 per month, even though 15 percent of $800 is $120. If you receive $700 per month in SSDI, the government cannot take anything.

Tax Debts and Alimony/Child Support

The limits described above apply to debts owed outside of tax debt. If you owe back taxes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may be able to take part of your Social Security benefits to pay those taxes. Tax debts may be subject to different rules and limitations. Nevertheless, the IRS will typically garnish up to 15% of SSDI payments.

Different limits apply to alimony and child support as well. If you have unpaid alimony or child support, up to 50% of your SSDI benefits can be garnished (or even up to 65% under certain circumstances). Talk to an experienced SSI/SSDI lawyer to explore your options for protecting your much-needed Social Security benefits.

Fight to Protect the California Disability Benefits You Need

For help collecting disability benefits in southern California or statewide, call the experienced and detail-oriented Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSD/SSI) attorneys Drake & Drake at 818-914-4055.

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Drake & Drake, P.C., is located in Calabasas, CA and serves clients in and around Woodland Hills, Wilmington, Harbor City, Carson, Torrance, San Pedro, Long Beach, Compton, Gardena, Paramount, Lynwood, Bellflower, South Gate, Los Angeles, Hawaiian Gardens, Artesia, Huntington Park, Cerritos, Bell, Norwalk, Maywood, Santa Fe Springs, Pico Rivera, Whittier and Los Angeles County.

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