13 Federal Benefits Exempt From Garnishment

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Working in the finance industry, I am frequently asked if Social Security Benefits are exempt from garnishment…”can they garnish my wages or social security benefits”.  Just yesterday, a client called into the office to advise that he had fallen behind in payments on his medical bills. The client was deeply concerned because the collectors were threatening to garnish his social security benefits. He asked “are my social security benefits exempt from garnishment, well, in his case his social security benefits are exempt from garnishment. And, let me explain why they were exempt. The client’s medical debt was not owed to any Federal government agency. Therefore, his social security benefits are exempt from garnishment in this case. However, if the debt was for alimony, child support, student loans, taxes or for any other debt owed to a Federal government agency, then his Social Security Benefit would not have been exempt from garnishment. It is important to note that Federal benefits may be garnished in specific situations to pay some debts such as student loans, child support and delinquent taxes.
Federal benefits exempt from garnishment includes:

  1. Social Security Benefits
  2. Veterans’ Benefits
  3. Supplemental Security Income Benefits (SSI)
  4. Service Members’ Pay
  5. Railroad Retirement Benefits
  6. Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance
  7. Military Annuities and Survivors Benefits
  8. Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
  9. Compensation for Death, Injury, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors outside the U.S.
  10. Merchant Seaman Wages
  11. Longshoreman’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits
  12. Student Assistance
  13. Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits

In addition, you may qualify as exempt from garnishment, if any of the following are true:

  1. You receive food stamps
  2. You receive unemployment compensation
  3. You receive government medical assistance
  4. You live in public housing
  5. Your income is below the local poverty level based on family size
  6. Your only source of income is social security
  7. You pay a certain level of child support

So, the next time you are threatened with garnishment, or forced to ask yourself the question “Can They Garnish My Wages Or Social Security Benefits?, keep in mind that Federal benefits may be garnished in specific situations to pay debts such as student loans, child support and delinquent taxes. Although we are unable to provide legal advice, I hope you find this article educational. Please consider seeking free legal advice from your local Legal Aid Society, like the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, for additional information specific to your case.
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