I’m a Grandmother and Getting My Social Security Check Garnished For Student Loans. – Janis

“Dear Steve,

I’m a 68 yr old grandma of 2 young (10/14 yr old) grandchildren. I went to college to upgrade my employment status in 1998 or 1999, I don’t remember. I finished in 2000 and at that time had a student loan balance of about 3500.00.

Could not find a job and had to request forbarence to carry me. Over the years I forgot about the loan, dealt with poor health, had brain surgery in 2006 and the collection agents decided to collect for the loan in 2008.

Mind you, at no time during the 6-7 year gap did anyone remind me or let me know that I could make a minimum payment on the loan. Now that I am on Social Security, ( have been since I was 62) they have decided to garnishee my SS check to the tune of 15%.

I have not been employed since 2004 and have the two dependents who are not included on my check. I do not have enough income to have them take that amount of money from an already insufficient monthly income.

I don’t dispute that I owed them the 3500.00 but am wondering why they let it build up to somewhere around 17,000/20,000 before they attempted to collect. When I tried to reach some agreement with the collection agency they said I would hve to pay at least 250.00 per month and I just could not afford that.

I might add that they informed me of the offset to my check about 3 months before it was to happen. I have requested an appeal but have no response as yet. I have not even filled out any hardship forms.

I have an attorney (I think) looking into this but he gives me no response as yet. I have been looking for part-time work but I think that because of my 13 pages of student loan on the report no one is willing to hire me. The even have the wrong dates on the report. It is reported like it just happened recently (06, 07) and that is not true. My associate degree is dated December 2000.

Is there anything I can do to relieve some of this pressure as my granddaughter is graduating from middle school in may and going on to high school and I expect to have lots of expenses.


Dear Janis,

Most people thing that their social security can’t be garnished, but we both know that’s wrong and it can be under certain situations.

Section 207 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 407) protects Social Security benefits from assignment, levy, or garnishment. However, the law provides five exceptions:

  • Section 459 of the Act (42 U.S.C. 659) allows Social Security benefits to be garnished to enforce child support and/or alimony obligations;
  • Section 6334 (c) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 6334 (c)) allows benefits to be levied to collect unpaid Federal taxes;
  • Section 3402 (P) of the Internal Revenue Code allows beneficiaries to elect to have a percentage of their benefits withheld and paid to the Internal Revenue Service to satisfy their Federal income tax liability for the current year;
  • The Debt Collection Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134) allows benefits to be withheld and paid to another Federal agency to pay a non-tax debt the beneficiary owes to that agency. (And this is what your student loans fall under): and
  • The Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-34) authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to collect overdue federal tax debts of beneficiaries by levying up to 15 percent of each monthly payment until the debt is paid.
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According to the Department of Education website, there is a process to ask for relief from the Social Security garnishment.

Federal law authorizes the Department or the student loan guarantor that holds a defaulted loan to collect the debt by non–judicial wage garnishment – a withholding order issued by the Department or the guarantor without the need for entry of a court judgment against the debtor.

Prior to garnishment, the debtor must be offered an opportunity to repay the debt voluntarily or to obtain a hearing at which the debtor may object to garnishment either because the debtor believes that the debt is not owed, or that garnishment would cause financial hardship.

To avoid garnishment, a debtor must object within the deadline explained in the notice – failure to do so will result in issuance of the garnishment order. A debtor who misses the deadline may obtain a hearing on a financial hardship objection, but withholding may start and continue through the hearing process.

Hardship objections must be presented to the party – the Department or the guaranty agency – that sent the notice. If a debtor misses the deadline but requests a hearing, garnishment may start but cannot continue for more than 60 days from the hearing request date, unless a decision is issued that garnishment should continue.

If you are unable to afford to make payments toward your defaulted loan, you should complete and return a “Statement of Financial Status” along with evidence of your current financial situation, which evidences your inability to pay (i.e. paycheck stub, copies of billing statements) to the servicing agency or the collection agency servicing your account. Based on the information provided, a payment plan which is both acceptable to the agency, and affordable to you, will be established.

If you have already followed the dispute process but you have not heard anything back, you may want to contact the Department of Education at drghelp@ed.gov and ask for them to examine your claim.

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However, I would not use the “never contacted” excuse. They are fairly clear about that. Here is what they say.

You must make payments on your loan even if you do not receive a bill or repayment notice. Billing statements are sent to you as a convenience, and you are obligated to make payments even if you do not receive any notice from the holder of the loan. If you have not received any billing statements from us, you may not have properly notified the servicing agency of your current address.


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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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8 thoughts on “I’m a Grandmother and Getting My Social Security Check Garnished For Student Loans. – Janis”

  1. someone stoled my id. and used $12,ooo so now ihave have bad credit !! but i get $700 amonth & i need a honest $3,000 loan,i can pay $250 amonth to pay it back !! but i dont want aloan for $3000 & have to pay back $6,000 you know what i mean ??

  2. And what happens when the government passes off your loan to NCS financial debt collectors? That’s what they do. They sell if off to a private company. NCS then gets a bite out of that by piling on more fees and penalties. And that’s just the beginning. The way that these laws were written by John Boehner in the 90s, you’re chained to a student loan until you die. I have been unemployed for over 3 years, and fell into default. My 60.000 loan is now over 160,000, and I still can’t find a job decent enough to pay even a portion on this. The cost of living etc. 

    So people that got thrown under the bus by this Depression and joblessness are mortgaged to a debt for which there is never ever any relief or amnesty, even partial. And then on top of that they will garnish your social security? I’m seriously thinking I’ll just kill myself. The kids getting out of college now with loans are not the only ones suffering under student loans. 

    • Guest, please don’t kill yourself, I’ve been through some tough times all my life and still struggling.  Think about your beautiful kids and family members who love you and know all the sacrifices you have made.  Please, please take that thought out of your mind because believe me when I say you will and have weathered whatever obstacles have been in your path and you will remove these obstacles.  Stay positive and stay the strong person you are.  P.S. I was visiting this website looking up info for a friend of mine and discovered you.

  3. Garnishing social security (retirement not disability) for non-payment of school loans:

    Can they only garnish a percentage of the social security benefits??


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