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Can my Social Security or other federal benefits be garnished?

It depends. Many federal benefit payments are not subject to garnishment in most cases. These payments are known as exempt funds:

  • Social Security benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Federal student aid
  • Military annuities and survivors' benefits
  • Benefits from the Office of Personnel Management
  • Railroad retirement benefits
  • Federal Emergency Disaster Assistance

Your bank may be required to automatically protect two months' worth of federal benefits if they are directly deposited into your bank account by one of the following agencies:

  • Social Security Administration
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Railroad Retirement Board
  • Office of Personnel Management

Although other exempt funds are not automatically protected, you may be able to stop your creditors from taking other exempt funds from your bank account. Review the notice you should have received regarding the garnishment order or contact the creditor or the court that issued the order.

Protected funds are not always exempt from garnishment. For example, your Veterans Affairs, Social Security, or other government benefits may still be garnished to pay certain debts. These include:

  • Delinquent child support
  • Federal student loans
  • Federal taxes
  • Civil money penalties assessed by the Social Security Administration
  • Fines imposed as a result of federal criminal proceedings

The bank is required to follow the garnishment order in these instances even if the federal benefits are directly deposited into your bank account.

Last Reviewed: October 2020

Please note: The terms "bank" and "banks" used in these answers generally refer to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches or agencies of foreign banking organizations that are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Find out if the OCC regulates your bank. Information provided on HelpWithMyBank.gov should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion of the OCC.

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