Can Social Security and retirement income be garnished?

Submitted by hbchiefs on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 22:09

i can't pay my credit card bills, what can they do to me? They sent me a letter saying if I dont pay they will get a judgment and do so. I thought that retirement income source and Social Security income couldnt be garnished? Can a credit card company garnish my wages?

No, the credit card company cannot garnish your Social Security income for repayment of your debts. Garnishment of retirement pay and Social Security income are not allowed under Federal Law. However, SS income can be garnished under certain circumstances. The SS benefits can be garnished if you have an outstanding federal tax or alimony and child support obligations. However, the creditor can bring judgment to garnish your bank account to recover the outstanding debt amount.

Thu, 01/22/2009 - 06:00 Permalink

Since you have got the collection letter, the first step is to send a debt validation letter by certified mail. If they cannot validate the debt, you need not worry since even if the creditor sue you to the court they cannot bring judgment against you . However, if they can validate the debt and if you have the ability to repay the debt, come to a settlement plan, negotiate for a discount on the outstanding debt and repay it off. This is because even if they cannot garnish your Social Security and retirement income, the credit card judgment can damage your credit score.

Thu, 01/22/2009 - 06:10 Permalink
s_14 (not verified)

i can't pay my credit card bills, what can they do to me? Is garnishment of Social Security and retirement income possible? They can attach my bank account even if my income is only from SS and retirement income sources? Thats what goes into my bank every month.

Thu, 01/22/2009 - 15:48 Permalink

If the only money going into your account is from Social Security income then they can not attach that account. You will need to make them aware of this and maybe they will not proceed. Now they can not attach your account at all until it goes in front of a judge and the judge would issue a garnishment. Legally he will not be able to do this if you can show these are Social Security income. Hope this helps.

Thu, 01/22/2009 - 23:58 Permalink

Yes, the creditor can attach your bank account to recover the outstanding debt. But since the Social Security income cannot be garnished, you should inform the bank in writing that the money that gets credited into your account is the Social Security income and so it is protected from garnishment. You can also inform the court that your only source of income is the Social Security and retirement income. Garnishment of retirement pay and SS benefits cannot take place.

Fri, 01/23/2009 - 07:27 Permalink

Carol is right and they will attach it, they don't care where the funds come from. You should alert your bank to the possible attachment and let them know that the only funds going into the account is your Social Security income. They may be able to keep an eye on things and let you know if anyone attempts to attach it.

Sat, 01/24/2009 - 20:48 Permalink

Doesn't the judge who issues the bank account garnishment set up an amount that can be legally garnished per month? If not how could people pay their bills without worrying that the checks would bounce? Yes a person could do money orders but I can not see a judge letting a company garnish everythign in a bank account.
What happens if the bank account is in the spouses name too?..This meaning both spouses are on the account but yet one is only leagally responsible for the debt? Okay now what if the spouse whom is legally responsible for the debt does not contribute to that account?

Sun, 01/25/2009 - 18:06 Permalink
Smiling Cobra (not verified)

I have retired from the U.S. Civil Service (Not Military). I find that I do not have enough income to continue to pay my credit card debt. Will the federal government allow credit card companies to garnish source of retirement income? Is garnishment of civil service pension permitted?

Alimony and child support are not an issue, so you don't need to tell me about that.

Mon, 02/16/2009 - 05:14 Permalink
Christine12 (not verified)

I take care of my parents and they are broke from medical costs, we have been unable to pay there credit cards can the credit card companies garnish Social Security income and my dads pension? We are in the state of Oregon

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 17:43 Permalink

Hi Smiling & Christine

Social Security and retirement income can never be garnished in any state in US to repay a credit cards debt. However, if you have any outstanding Federal tax debts, garnishment of retirement pay is possible, and for that there is no need for the Federal Government to bring judgment against you. Garnishment of civil service pension is not allowed by the Federal Government.

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 03:46 Permalink
Misty (not verified)

I recently received a judgment against me from a credit card. Now, I received a garnishment notice. I do not work, and I don't own anything other than a van, the value of which is only $600. I do not have a checking account, but my husband does. What can they do as far as the garnishment? Can they take it from my husbands pay? We only make about 1500 a month, 3 kids, he's the head. I don't mind making payments to the company, but right now all we can really afford is about $20 a month. Do I call them? The court? Can anyone point me in the right direction? I live in Missouri.

Sun, 03/08/2009 - 00:59 Permalink

Hi Misty
If it is a wage garnishment order, then since you are not working anywhere they cannot garnish your wage. However, if the judgment is for garnishment of your bank account, they cannot do so because you do not have a checking account. Now, since the judgment has been brought against you, they cannot garnish your husband's income or his bank account.

Mon, 03/09/2009 - 06:58 Permalink
Bill12 (not verified)

I read that credit card companies cannot garnish source of retirement income. But what about vehicle reposession? I cannot make payments on my motorhome any longer. If they reposess it, they will sell it at auction and I'm responsible for the deficit. Can these circumstances allow garnishment of Social Security and retirement income?

Wed, 03/11/2009 - 10:59 Permalink

Social Security and retirement income can never be garnished to recover credit card debt or car debt. It can only be garnished to recover the outstanding Federal Tax debt and alimony and child support obligations. So, you need not to worry about garnishment of retirement income source and Social Security income.

Thu, 03/12/2009 - 09:51 Permalink
Jim (not verified)

I heard a rumor that President Obama is considering recalling the "Debtor's Prison Initiative" law dating back to the Civil War that puts people in the penitentiary for non-payment of debts. I heard that for every $1,000 in debt owed, a person might have to spend 1 year in federal prison; so that if you owed $4,000, you would have to spend 4 years in jail.

Sun, 03/15/2009 - 23:56 Permalink

WHAT????!!!! Where did you hear THIS from? THIS would mean a WHOLE lot of people would go to prison. Good grief.

Mon, 03/16/2009 - 01:30 Permalink
NT (not verified)

I have large credit card debt and only social security income. i know it cannot be garnished, but if i am sued will i have to pay a lien on my property or is this lien also exempt from payment? i own my home but have a small mortgagee which i am paying.

Mon, 03/16/2009 - 21:54 Permalink

Yes, the creditor can put a lien on your property if they cannot recover the debt. However, they can bring judgment against you to garnish your bank account so that whenever any money comes into your account, it will get debited by the bank and deposited with the creditor. So you should inform the bank that the money that gets credited into your account is your ss benefit.

Tue, 03/17/2009 - 05:24 Permalink
Helen Anderson (not verified)

I have not been able to pay Discover Card, but I have written them about this and told them I did want to pay them what I could. Now they are threatening me with legal action, an attorney, and a judgment against me. I have no house, no car, and no assets and live on Social Security and small pension. What can they do?

Wed, 03/18/2009 - 03:37 Permalink

If you live on social security, you need not fear about judgment because social security benefits can never be garnished for credit card debts. All that they can do is to garnish your bank account or your wage. Now, since you do not have a job, they cannot garnish your wage.

Wed, 03/18/2009 - 08:37 Permalink
Rathel (not verified)

The phone calls have just stated. I am three months behind in making my credit card payments. Is it too soon to file for bankruptcy?

Mon, 03/23/2009 - 14:57 Permalink

Can you tell me how much is your credit card debt and does your income permit payment the payment of the outstanding debt?
You can file bankruptcy, but it will hamper your credit score. Now, generally a creditor charges off an account if you have not made a single payment for a period of three months or more. You should immediately contact your creditor and pay off the outstanding debt through a repayment plan if you can afford to do so.

Tue, 03/24/2009 - 07:08 Permalink
Will (not verified)

My wife & I recently had a Chap 13 in which we surrendered one of our vehicles because it was too expensive. The loan company sold it & then tried to submit the balance to the trustee's office. The trustee basically told them to screw you, you should have sold it for more money. We later asked that our Chap 13 case be demissed. The loan co is now suing us in court to obtain a judgment. I was retired on a disability in 1999, and my wife retired this year. I get SS and a retirement check. My wife only gets retirement. Can the loan company garnish these? Thanks!

Mon, 03/30/2009 - 14:33 Permalink

No, social security payments cannot be garnished for mortgage repayments. All that they can do is to foreclose your home and sell it off to recover the debt. Social security can only be garnished to recover outstanding federal taxes and alimony and child support obligations.

Tue, 03/31/2009 - 09:10 Permalink
Mae (not verified)

I am a real estate broker with medical bills forcing maxing credit cards. No
commission in past 12 months. Credit cards going to collectors and attorneys.
I just started collecting Social Security - three months worth.

What can they attach? House in foreclosure and selling assets.

Wed, 04/01/2009 - 05:30 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I live on naval, postal, and social security only. can credit card companies attach my retirement

Mon, 04/06/2009 - 20:04 Permalink

No, social security benefit cannot be garnished for the recovery of the credit card debt. It can only be garnished for recovery of outstanding Federal Tax debt and alimony and child support obligations.

Wed, 04/08/2009 - 11:59 Permalink
Nilda (not verified)

How do I Know if the people contacting me are lawyers or collection agencies?

Mon, 05/18/2009 - 14:08 Permalink
raerae (not verified)

I am a civil service retiree in the State of Tennessee. I cannot pay my two credit cards and one store card debts totalling $15,000. I have not made payments for five months. I am purchasing my home and have some equity. I have the house on the market in order to pay my debts, but I am getting 30 day notices from the credit card companies. The housing market is lousy and I don't think my house will sell in time to settle my debts before the credit card companies take some action. I only get $1800 a month from my retirement and my house note is $1049 a month. I have never been late with the payment. What is left over after the house note is for food, utilities and other household bills. I have nothing left over. Can the credit card companies bring judgment to sell my house? What can I do?

Wed, 05/20/2009 - 22:44 Permalink
JUDYKAY52 (not verified)


Tue, 06/02/2009 - 14:04 Permalink
sharon (not verified)

if a credit card is putting a judgement on you,can they go into your checking account and take money? if so ,can they take unemployment checks? it is the only income i have

Tue, 07/14/2009 - 13:40 Permalink
earl (not verified)

I receive retirement benefits from military, social security and general electric. Can they be garnished for unsecured debt (credit card)

Tue, 07/14/2009 - 16:57 Permalink
Trixie (not verified)

I was told that if a credit card company writes off a bad debt that they can send a debtor a 1099 form and that has to be reported when filing a person's income tax. I have never heard of this before. Is this a new tax law?

Wed, 07/22/2009 - 22:51 Permalink

Trixie, Yes they do have a 1099 form. This recently happened to my mother in law when they foreclosed and sold her home for tens of thousands less than what she owed. When she filed her taxes this year she found out she owed over $5,000 to the IRS. She recieved the 1099 in the mail about the same time she got all her other tax documents. When she took it to her tax accountant she ended up owing lots.
I am not sure how new it is. I have heard of this in the past. They probaly just enforce it more with bigger debts.

Thu, 07/23/2009 - 01:33 Permalink

Hi earl

Social Security benefits cannot be garnished. But if there is a direct deposit facility that you use and the funds from SS are going in to that account with the other money then your bank may unwittingly place a FiFa on the judgment. You could send a letter to your Creditor telling them not to garnish your Social Security income. Other assets may be subject to garnishment though.

Thu, 07/23/2009 - 06:08 Permalink
vincent (not verified)

I read all the answers on this but i read reports that a creditor
cannot harass you verbally and can be reported I have a dept
consolidator do I tell them to call them

Fri, 07/24/2009 - 03:06 Permalink
joey (not verified)

My parents are in their early seventies and are unemployed in Nevada. The bank is foreclosing on their house and and their car is being repossesed by the lease company. They also have about $10,000 in credit card dept that they cannot afford to pay. They have arranged to pay off this dept at $500.00 per month which they cannot afford. Their only income is from social security and a small disability veteran pension. I am going to rent them an apartment in Florida and lease them a car in my name. My question is if they do not pay the credit card dept what can happen to them?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 15:42 Permalink
alma (not verified)

I understand that creditors can 't garnish my retirement benefits. My bank account has nothing in it. I have a debit card, can the garnish funs from it?

Tue, 08/04/2009 - 20:51 Permalink
Patricia22 (not verified)

My mom experienced an illness which caused her to fall behind on credit card bills. This created a huge hospital bill which she can not pay either. Her only income is social security, she's 64. She owns a home and car that is paid for, however her home has a "reversed mortgage" loan on it. My question is, can they take her car or home from her? She has not been communicating with the creditors at all. What will likely happen? Will they attempt to sue her, the atty letters are starting to come in the mail now? She can not afford to file bankruptcy. I'm worried. Thanks!

Thu, 08/06/2009 - 03:08 Permalink
Marilyn (not verified)

Can a credit card company put a judgement on a home that is is a trust?

Thu, 08/06/2009 - 03:38 Permalink
Lydia (not verified)

I've been paying on my consolidated student loans since 1997, when I reach retirement for SS, can they take that to make the payments? Thank you in advance. L.T.

Fri, 08/07/2009 - 16:36 Permalink
eva (not verified)

I finally had to stop to pay credit cards, rates went to 27-29 %,
even minimum payments left me with no money for food .
I have very high debt, about 100k, all money were spent on lawyers fees .
My only income are alimony from ex, 1600/month, the money are deposited to my checking account every 1st of the month, and usully gone, almost entirely in few days for fixed payments .
I do not work for almost 8 years now.
If credit cards are going to suit me, is likely court order the garnish
of alimony money from my account ?

I also are waiting for the money from the 401 accumulated before divorce, same question, is court going to order garnishment of this money if they appear in my account ?

Tue, 08/11/2009 - 02:58 Permalink

Hi vincent

If you want a creditor to stop calling you can send a stern 'cease and desist' letter. This should take care of things.

Tue, 08/11/2009 - 12:14 Permalink

Eva if you have not been paying your dues for a long time a creditor might get a judgment against you and may garnish your account. Is there no way you can pay off the loan bit by bit? If not then I can see bankruptcy as your only recourse.

Tue, 08/11/2009 - 12:30 Permalink
In Distress (not verified)

All the properties (3 of them) I own are severely under water. No rental income coming in too. Lenders are not willing to help me! Would it help, if I go buy a house now, and let these 3 houses go? Can these lenders (from 3 properties) put a lien on the new property? My credit is still very good.

Can the lenders go after any bank balances, and retirement accounts, to collect their unpaid mortgage balances?

Fri, 08/14/2009 - 19:13 Permalink
beverly (not verified)

a credit card company put a judgement against me. if i sell my home will they get the money? i live in texas

Wed, 08/26/2009 - 16:42 Permalink
RoseMarie (not verified)

My husband and I own a home that we can no longer aford. We wish to walk away from the home but are concerned that Bank of America (FHA mortgage) and HFC (conventional 2nd mortgage) will be able to attach our Social Security income and/or my husband's retirement income from the city. Please advise.

Thu, 08/27/2009 - 14:56 Permalink