Although a New Jersey resident’s Social Security benefits may be essential for an injured or ill person’s survival, federal agencies are allowed to take a portion of a person’s SSD payments. It is important to remember that private business and banks are not still not allowed to garnish a person’s social security benefits.
The government is only allowed to take SSDI benefits and may not take SSI benefits. (The difference between SSDI and SSI was explained in last week’s blog post.) The agency wanting to take the money must also give notice to the person receiving the benefits and give that person an opportunity to be heard. While this does not mean that a person will be able to argue about an already agreed-upon debt, he or she may be able to make reasonable payment arrangements.
The government also cannot just take a person’s entire social security check, but it is subject to certain limits. Specifically, the first $750 a person gets paid each month is safe from collection. Moreover, the government must also not take more than 15 percent of a person’s monthly benefit no matter what the monetary amount of the benefit is.
By way of example, if a person gets paid $1,250 a month, then he or she would only have to turn over $187.50, or 15 percent, even though he or she is getting paid $500 over the $750 safe harbor.
What this means for those New Jersey residents who are considering filing for disability benefits is that they should take account of any debts that they owe to federal agencies, including items like back taxes and student loans. While it may not possible for a person to pay those debts off right away, he or she could at least work out a reasonable plan of attack so that the debt does not catch them off guard.