A new consumer alert on Wednesday let seniors know that their Social Security, Veterans Administration and Supplemental Security Income benefits can’t usually be seized by creditors through garnishment.
The exceptions are when money is owed for back taxes or federal student loans, and debts for child or spousal support, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alert.
“According to the complaints we reviewed, threats to garnish these benefits cause older consumers and veterans significant distress, especially when they depend on this income to pay essential living costs,” the agency noted.
Garnishment can happen legally after a collector wins a lawsuit against a consumer for a debt. A collector can then ask the debtor’s bank or credit union to turn over money owed.
But the agency pointed out banks must protect two months of Social Security and VA benefits sent by direct deposit.
When wrongly threatened with garnishment, a senior should write the creditor the benefits can’t be taken.