Under current law, Social Security benefits cannot be garnished to repay private debts, including secured debts (private mortgages) and unsecured debt (credit card debt). However, under current law, it is permissible for the federal government to reduce Social Security benefits to repay any federal debt, including outstanding student loans, Federal Housing Administration loans, overpayments for government assistance, or tax debts. Garnishment of Social Security benefits is also permissible to collect child support, alimony, and victim restitution. Up to $9,000 annually in benefits is protected from all forms of garnishment.
The restriction on garnishing Social Security benefits for the collection of private debts recognizes that the benefits are fundamental to the financial security of millions of individuals and their reduction could lead to impoverishment. Federal debts should not be prioritized over the payment of Social Security benefits, with few exceptions.
GARNISHMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS: Policy
Social Security benefits should not be garnished, levied, or offset to collect any public or private debts, with limited exceptions for child support, alimony, and victim restitution funds.