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Are my federal benefits automatically protected by my bank from a garnishment order, or do I have to do something to protect them?

You do not need to do anything to keep automatically protected federal benefits from being garnished, but you should make sure that your specific benefits qualify as protected and are not subject to exceptions.

Banks must automatically protect some types of federal benefits if the funds are directly deposited to your account. These are:

  • Social Security benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Railroad Retirement benefits
  • Benefits from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

There are circumstances in which these funds are not protected, such as for the payment of delinquent federal taxes, federal student loans, or child support.

If no exceptions apply, then the funds are automatically protected, which means the bank must allow you to withdraw up to two months of these benefits, depending on the specifics of your account.

The amount automatically protected will never be more than the account balance on the day of review. For example, if you received $3,000 in federal benefit payments during the two-month review period, but your account balance is only $1,000 on the day of review, the protected amount will be $1,000.

If you have more money in your account than is automatically protected, the extra money is not automatically protected. For example, if you received $3,000 in federal benefits during the two-month review period, but your account balance is $4,000, then only $3,000 will be automatically protected.

Review a copy of the garnishment order because it may contain instructions or other information about how to protect funds from garnishment. If you did not get a notice about the garnishment of your account, ask your bank for a copy of the garnishment order that it received. You can also contact the creditor or the court that issued the order.

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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