4 ways the government can take your Social Security

Image: 401kcalculator.org CC by SA 2.0

For many seniors, Social Security is their primary source of income during retirement.

So if it is interrupted or garnished by creditors, it can quickly lead to complete bankruptcy.

Fortunately, Social Security payments are not subject to many forms of garnishment:

Specifically, Section 207 of the Social Security Act says that payments aren’t “subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.

For many years, creditors got around this by attacking seniors bank accounts. However, a legal change in 2011 protects the last two months of Social Security payments if they were directly deposited in your bank account.

However, there are still four ways your checks can be garnished by the government:

Your payments can be garnished, levied, or offset in these cases:

  • Unpaid federal taxes
  • Unpaid court-ordered child or spousal support
  • Court-ordered crime victims restitution
  • Other debts to federal agencies, such as student loans owed the Department of Education

The bottom line is that your Social Security is safe from most creditors — but don’t mess with family court or Uncle Sam.