Can Debt Collectors Take Your Social Security Disability Payments?

Social Security disability payments are payments made by the Social Security Administration to individuals who have suffered debilitating injuries that prevent them from working. These payments are meant to help a person pay for living expenses while unable to work. If a person on disability incurs a debt, the debt collector may attempt to garnish or seize money from his bank account. In nearly all cases, however, Social Security benefits are immune from garnishment and seizure.

Social Security Disability Benefits

There are two types of Social Security disability benefits. The first is Supplemental Security Insurance payments, also known as SSI, which are granted to low-income people with disabilities. The second is Social Security Disability payments, which are paid, like Social Security retirement benefits, to people who have previously been in the workforce but who are now incapacitated. Both kinds of benefits, like most government benefits, are unavailable to private creditors.

Debt Collection

Creditors and debt collectors can take a number of actions to receive payment of an outstanding debt, including garnishment and bank account seizure. When a creditor garnishes a person's income, a portion of the income is directly diverted from an employer or other income provider to the creditor. When a bank account is frozen, a creditor can take money out of it to recover money owed him.

Garnishment and Bank Account Freezing Laws

Both garnishments and bank account seizures are regulated by state and federal law. Under federal law, all federal benefits, including Social Security benefits, cannot be seized by private creditors. This means that a creditor can neither garnish a person's benefits by taking them before the person has received them nor remove benefits from a person's bank account after deposited.


Private creditors are totally barred from seizing Social Security benefits for payment of a debt. There is, however, an exception for the federal government. Federal law allows the federal government to garnish Social Security benefits from a debtor if the debtor owes money to the federal government. Such debts will usually be incurred through a failure to pay back taxes, student loans or child support payments.