Garnishment of Social Security


Q: I have a large civil penalty from a state and want to know if they can garnish my Social Security income when I start to draw payments.

A: Section 407 of the Social Security Act states that “none of the moneys paid or payable under this subchapter shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment or other legal process.” While this is generally true, there are exceptions; for example the collection of delinquent federal taxes or delinquent child support. And there are others. You’ll need to consult an attorney who can examine your particular situation and determine whether garnishment is possible.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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