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Can Social Security disability be garnished by bill collectors?

A number of people with disabilities in Maryland struggle with debt. This is often because, of course, disability never strikes at a convenient time. Few people are financially prepared to leave the workforce when they become disabled. It can take months or even years to start receiving Social Security disability, and in the meantime bills can pile up. As a result, suffering a disability can result not only in medical debt but also significant credit card debt.

If you are disabled and you are dealing with bill collectors, you might be wondering whether the collectors will seize your disability checks--either now, or once you are finally approved for disability benefits.

The answer to this question depends on the type of debt and the type of disability benefits.

Social Security disability insurance benefits can generally only be garnished by government collectors. If you have past due taxes, child support or federal student loans, for example, it is possible that the government may choose to garnish your SSDI benefits. Other creditors who receive judgments against you, such as credit card companies for example, cannot garnish your disability. They may still threaten to do so, and in such a situation it may be important to contact the attorney general's office.

Supplemental Security Income, disability benefits paid to those with limited work history and financial resources, cannot be garnished by any creditors--not even the government.

If you are in the process of applying for disability benefits, or appealing a denial, it is important that you understand your rights in terms of debt collection should it become a problem. Collectors are known to intimidate and trick consumers, and you should not unwittingly turn over the disability benefits that you need and deserve.

Source:, "Can a Debt Collector Come After My Social Security?" Gerri Detweiler, May 23, 2014

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