How to Easily Stop a Social Security Wage Garnishment

I’m seeing more questions these days from people that are having their social security benefits garnished for old student loans or student loans they cosigned for. In addition I have received a few questions from people that are getting their social security garnished over old SBA loans as well.

The process to stop a social security garnishment is very easy. They key though is you want to get the ball rolling as soon as you receive a notice of garnishment.

Before actually garnishing social security benefits, the Social Security Administration will send a written notice of their intent to garnish and why. The notice should contain specific information about the government debt owed, the amount, and an estimated payment schedule.

How to Stop a Social Security Wage Garnishment

If you or someone you know has received a wage garnishment notice and feel the party to be garnished can not afford to be able to survive on the garnished funds then you can do the following:

  1. Request a review of the debt and garnishment action. This will immediately stop any pending garnishment until it is completed.
  2. Prove to the Social Security Administration the garnishment creates a financial hardship.

Financial hardship is defined as a situation in which withholding a particular amount from the individual’s pay would deprive the individual of income necessary to meet ordinary and necessary living expenses.

This request for reduction can be made at any time, and, no withholding will occur if the request is made within 60 days of the notice of garnishment.

social security card

In evaluating expenses the Social Security Administration uses the following guide:


1. Person’s Particular Circumstances Important

A persons particular circumstances and lifestyle determine whether expenses are ordinary and necessary. Patterns of living are established over time and these patterns must be considered when evaluating the facts. This policy, however, does not imply acceptance of unreasonable expenses which are neither ordinary nor necessary.

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2. Types of Expenses

Expenses include:

  • fixed living expenses such as food and clothing, rent, mortgage payments, maintenance,
  • utilities, transportation, necessary household help, insurance, taxes, etc.;
  • medical, hospitalization and other similar expenses not covered by insurance;
  • expenses for the support of others for whom the person is responsible;
  • miscellaneous expenses consistent with the individual’s life style, such as newspaper,
  • hairdresser, pet maintenance, entertainment, charitable donations, etc.


1. Determining Acceptable Expenses

  • Do not impose rigid restrictions on acceptable expenses.
  • Do not allow unlimited amounts for necessities such as food and shelter or exclude nonessential expenses such as entertainment.
  • Allow such expenses as are consistent with the person’s standard of living.
  • Do not allow extraordinary and unnecessary expenses (e.g., expenses related to a travel trailer used for vacationing) regardless of the person’s standard of living.
  • Do not allow expenses that help a person maintain a luxurious standard of living that developed as the result of the incorrect payments.
  • Fully document and explain any unusual individual circumstances.

2. Evaluation of Large Expenses

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If the person has an unusually large expense, determine if the expense should be prorated over the entire year or if it is a recurring expense. Prorate an expense over the entire year if it is for a onetime expense (e.g., a large medical bill) or for items which would be used in the entire year.

3. Expenses of the Household

Include the expenses of a person who is a dependent member of the household. Do not include expenses of a boarder or anyone else in the household who is not a dependent.

4. Expenses Not Always Fixed Amounts

Be alert for regular payments, such as charge account payments where the person is paying more than the minimum payment. Reduce to the minimum amount shown on the charge statements, where appropriate, to permit some payment on the overpayment. Also, be alert to the possibility that some installment payments may duplicate itemized expenses (e.g., the $50 monthly clothing expense was charged and is included in the $75 department store payment). – Source

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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29 thoughts on “How to Easily Stop a Social Security Wage Garnishment”

  1. HI Steve, I was served with papers for an outstanding credit card from Fingerhut (Jefferson Capital Recovery.) They were an online catalog company and debt sold be Jefferson. I’m to appear in court July 8. I am on social security retirement/disability. After my expenses each month, I am left with about $109 spendable income. This includes four credit cards and five online store cards. e.g. Wards. I have not worked for several years due to stroke and rebuilt my whole life after the stroke and moving to Colorado to rebuild from scratch. I was told I am not subject to garnishment by the representative from SSA. Is that correct? Should I call attorneys and try and settle? I really couldn’t afford very much. I am on low income housing (so far, will probably lose that status next month), Medicare and Medicaid and Food Stamps dropping to $19 a month after the first. Confused and worried about my options, whether I have any or not. Help please.]

    • Ralph,

      While you are most likely protected from garnishment, the creditor will most likely get a judgment. You will have to make the argument your income and assets are protected from the attempted levy or judgment.

      Your SS is protected except for things like federal student loan debt and other government debts.

      Filing bankruptcy would be a much better use of money instead of paying to try and settle debts. Bankruptcy is the fastest way to legally and totally eliminate the debt completely in the shortest period of time.

      So if you didn’t want to deal with all these debts once you are sued and lose, talk to legal aid or a local bankruptcy attorney for advice.


  2. I was issued a letter of resolution from IRS (4222) on a $5,000,000.00 that stated I am unable to pay dept. But the federal prosecutor office will not honor and cease SS deductions monthly. Help.

    • I’m not exactly sure about the facts. I think you might have had a federal tax lien on a property. If so, then the mention of a Form 4222 would make more sense. According to one attorney, “File Form 4222, Application for Certificate Discharging Property Subject to Estate Tax Lien

      If accepted by the IRS, the taxpayer will receive Letter 403, Conditional Commitment, followed by Form 669, Certificate of Discharge

      Tax lien will still be in effect on the taxpayer’s remaining property”

      So if that sounds about right, that would remove a lien on a property but not terminate the full tax situation.

      You really need to discuss your situation with a tax attorney, or other tax experts with experience in this situation who can review the full facts of your specific situation. There is more to the story.

  3. Steve, What can I do to withdraw from SS benefits. I have to go back to work. I have 4 adopted children and need to support them. I’ve been drawing benefits for 3 yrs. I’m currently 65 yrs old. Circumstances beyond my control due to divorce.

  4. Received survivor benefits when my dad died social security said they overpaid. I signed agreement with them for monthly payments now they are trying to garnish my wages. They have not even cashed my checks I have dropped off

  5. 1.) Request a review of the debt and garnishment action. This will immediately stop any pending garnishment until it is completed.
    2.) Prove to the Social Security Administration the garnishment creates a financial hardship.

    Does this mean I contact the debtor for a review and then the SSA?

    • It sounds like you have two different issues.

      1. The department claiming you owe them.
      2. SSA regarding the amount of the garnishment.

      Keep in mind the garnishment request may have come from the Department of the Treasury so I’d first start with SSA to get the garnishment adjusted, get your federal student loans current through rehabilitation, and then get on an income-driven repayment plan when you are current again. The SSA garnishment should stop after the 5th payment made through rehabilitation.

  6. Hello I am going to be summoned court papers due to defaulting on a payday loan. I am on Social Security Disability Income and the collection agency says that the judge would decide to do so. On those kind of predicaments, could my SSDI wages be garnished?

  7. I also need help. I have appropriately filed an appeal, re-filed for benefits, and filed out a request for hardship form. I feel like they are not being upfront. They didnot give me the informal or formal hearing I checked the box for, sent me a denial of my appeal letter and somehow are managing to send everything to the wrong address. So I am getting nothing for these very timely responses. I have been to the office to correct their error more than once & when the have correctly sent other things to the correct address. I spoke with the technician and told him they cannot lay garnishment considering I have not held a steady job: one job for one full year yet. He was sarcastic and said prove it. I needed that appeal from the initial July decision so we could adjust the amount they claim is due. He would not give me another appeal form. I told him if they are sending the information to the wrong address this is a good reason to let me file the appeal again. I also mentioned I checked a box that requires more than a letter: a hearing. He again told me prove it. I ask for copies of my appeal so I could see what they were going by and a copy of my denial of hardship. Which is where we can also come to some agreement about the amount. He would give me nothing but much sarcasm that doesnot apply. They are going back to 2007 and wanting all that money back I paid in. They did not even speak to all my Dr.s when they were reviewing for my disability. No information was exchanged with them I checked eith my Dr.s….HELP.

  8. Can I stop my SS being garnished to pay alimony because I wont get a job, I was medically retired in 2001 from GM after having a second back operation with (2) rods (6) screws (2) spaces (1) cage and bone graft from my rt hip to reinforce my spine so that I could have some kind of life during my retirement yrs Ralph

  9. I started receiving SSI when I was 19 yeas old. When my biological father passed, ( my abuser from sexual abuse ), I met the special circumstances to receive survivors benefits under his name. 4 months later, after I started getting social security survivors benefits, the government started garnishing me. I can’t get anyone to help me. I am now 54 and can’t even go buy food or my medications. What do I need to do? Please help me.. Its like being abused all over again, but this time it is the Treasury department. can you help??

  10. What if the garnishment has already started? My mother is a senior living on Social Security and with her Medicare coverage she pays for a lot of her prescriptions so with this garnishment taking affect she is left with not even enough to buy food so now that the garnishment has already started can we get that lifted?

  11. Question about this: can someone whose social security benefits are about to be garnished due to Parent Plus loan default apply for a hardship exemption to the garnishment? If so, for how long? I’m not talking about wage garnishment but garnishment of the actual social security checks. This article seems to cover both but I think they’re different. Another site I read said one could indeed apply for a hardship exemption to social security garnishment. Yet another said you could but that you’d have to reapply in a year. It didn’t specify if there was a cutoff or not. Very eager to get some clear answers on this!


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