Can SSI be garnished?

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Can SSI be garnished?

The hospital told them that they had to pay $100 a month or they would garnish my father’s Social Security. Can anyone garnish his SSI? My parents wanted to make payment arrangements that they can afford but they refused.

Asked on November 3, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Michigan

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Federal law prohibits creditors from taking or garnishing SSI.  If this is his only source of income he is “judgment-proof,” meaning they cannot collect any of his income. If he has no other assets, he needn't worry. The creditor will probably not bother suing in court for the debt since they have no way of collecting the debt.

However, there are 2 things that he should be aware of.  First, to the extent that he and your mother have joint assets that are not otherwise exempt by state law, those assets can be seized.  Secondly, these SSI benefits must be identifiable as such. For example, if his SSI is directly deposited into a bank account, he should not deposit other non-SS assets or monies into the account. While such money is exempt from garnishment, his account may still be frozen by his creditor.  However, once he proves that the only income in it is his SSI, the money will be released to him.  It's a hassle but if he maintains but as long as he has a bank account this is a possibility.


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