Food for Thought: Social Security Benefits Can Be Garnished

A garnish is often considered to be something that is visually pleasing on a dinner plate when we order food at a restaurant. A sprig of parsley with an Italian entrée, an edible flower with a rice dish, or a strawberry wedge on a slice of pie enhances the culinary experience. Whether for decoration or added flavor, a garnish in this sense is a good thing. If you have too many bills on your plate, however, a garnish is quite not as appealing.

A wage garnishment is a court order that instructs an employer to withhold a certain amount of your wages in order to repay a debt. For those of us who are seeking court assistance in the payment of a debt, or for those of us who are at risk of having wages or other monetary assets garnished, we may want to know in advance whether or not Social Security benefits are at risk of garnishment. Can creditors seek relief from the courts by garnishing social security benefits?

Ironically, the government agency that will defend you and protect your Social Security benefits from creditors will turn around and take legal action against you, garnishing those same benefits in a number of circumstances.

According to information provided by the U.S. Social Security Administration, creditors cannot garnish your Social Security benefits. For example, credit card companies, mortgage companies, or automobile loan companies cannot tap your Social Security benefits to satisfy a debt. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are likewise resistant to related garnishments. The Federal government, however, does indeed have license to garnish Social Security benefits to enforce payment of alimony or child support, to collect unpaid federal taxes, and other similar liabilities.

Social Security benefits are a resource for retired citizens, disabled individuals, and family survivors. These benefits, while resistant to legal action by creditors, are not entirely exempt from garnishment when the Federal government is involved.  Regardless of your income or those benefits you receive, care should always be used in managing your finances.

Take steps ahead of time to protect your credit rating and to protect your money and investments from the interference of the courts. Pay your bills on time; honor your financial obligations. Keep your fiscal plate clean, and do not let a garnish become something distasteful and unappealing.

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