Why is My Social Security Check Being Garnished Over a Credit Card?

Question:

Dear Steve,

I charged up my Military Star card to buy food and clothing for my grandchildren. I could not make my payment.

$256 is being garnished from my SS check each month to pay for this.

I thought the law protected my check from this. I am not trying to get out of paying this debt. I was trying to send them $50 a month, but they did not like it.

Now I can’t pay my rent or buy my food and my medicine. Thank you!

Sharon

Answer:

Dear Sharon,

Normally that would be true, but the Military Star card is a unicorn.

Your Social Security check can be garnished for debts owed to the federal government. For example:

  • Tax refunds
  • Wages, including military pay
  • Retirement, including military retirement pay
  • Contractor or vendor payments
  • Travel advances and reimbursements
  • Some federal benefit payments, including Black Lung (Part B) benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits (other than Tier 2), and Social Security benefits (other than Supplemental Security Income)
  • Other federal payments, unless the law or the Secretary of the Treasury says we can’t use them to pay the overdue debt

The Military Star card is offered by the Exchange Credit Program that runs under the Department of Defense through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). So it becomes a debt owed to the government.

Under the Treasury Offset Program (TOP), a government agency sends notice of the debt before an offset or garnishment can occur.

The letter must tell you:

  • What the debt is for
  • How much you owe
  • That the agency intends to collect the debt by taking money from a federal payment
  • What your rights are, including your rights to see, copy, and review information about the debt and the ways you can arrange to repay the debt

If the Treasury takes money from a federal payment to pay an overdue debt that you owe, you will get a letter notifying you of the offset.

See also  Military Star Card / Military Star Rewards MasterCard / AAFES Card- What You Need to Know First

You may get other letters or notices about the debt, but the law only requires the 2 letters: from the agency saying it intends to refer the debt to TOP and from Treasury if we withhold money from a payment.

You have a few options here.

Reconsideration

Once you are in an Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG), it will remain active unless you pay the debt in full or file for a waiver or ask for reconsideration. To ask for reconsideration, contact Military Star customer service. You specifically want to ask them how you apply for a hearing, waiver, or reconsideration of your Social Security Administrative Wage Garnishment because it garnishes your Social Security benefits. The reduction leaves you in danger facing financial hardship.

You are entitled “For a hearing in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section concerning the existence or the amount of the debt or the terms of the proposed repayment schedule under the garnishment order.” – Source

Administrative Wage Garnishment Hearing Request

Bankruptcy

If you have other debts and this is not an isolated issue, you could file for consumer bankruptcy protection, which would terminate the debt and the garnishment. You can find a good local bankruptcy attorney and have a free discussion about what bankruptcy would mean for you. Bankruptcy is the fastest way to get a fresh start for the least amount of money.

Attempt to Workout a Repayment Plan With Military Star

I have no idea how much you owe, but it must be significant if Military Star would not accept your payment of $50. But it sounds as if you were unable to make those payments regularly. Why negotiating a mutually agreeable payment is always possible? That sounds like an unlikely outcome since they already have the AWG. But it doesn’t hurt to ask again.

Sincerly,
Steve

You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.


Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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