Can Garnishments Be Put on Social Security or Pension Income?

by Melinda Hill Mendoza

Social Security payments and pensions can be garnished, but not for just anything. Consumer creditors, such as credit card companies or collection agencies, can't garnish your Social Security or your pension directly from your checks. However, if you owe child support, family support or back taxes, those can and will be garnished from your Social Security and pension payments.

Social Security

Social Security is a monthly benefit paid to retirees 62 and older and to the disabled. Federal law protects Social Security payments from consumer creditor garnishment before and after they are paid. Once the money is deposited into your account, a creditor might attempt to collect it, and the burden is on you to prove the money is from Social Security and protected. Back taxes and child support that you owe are garnished before you receive your Social Security payment.


A pension is a retirement benefit paid to retirees from governments or corporations. A pension is protected from garnishment before it's paid out, but not after it's paid to you. This means that a creditor can garnish your bank account once your pension has been deposited. Veteran's benefits are protected before and after payment, though.


Any consumer creditors must file and win a lawsuit before they can attempt to garnish your pension, Social Security or other income. If a creditor wins the lawsuit, the court issues a judgment and the creditor can garnish your income. If you are earning income in addition to your Social Security or pension, that income can be garnished. Only the Social Security or pension funds are protected. Back taxes, child support and family support can be withheld from your Social Security or pension without a court judgment.


If a creditor is attempting to garnish a bank account that has protected Social Security funds, contact your bank and the creditor immediately. If you need further assistance, contact the legal aid agency in your state. You can have your Social Security check mailed to you or received via a Direct Express debit card to eliminate the chance of your protected funds being commingled with unprotected funds that could be garnished.

About the Author

Melinda Hill Mendoza has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She worked as an editorial assistant for Forward Movement Publications in Cincinnati, Ohio. She wrote for several years for and edited and wrote a chapter for a book with Wooster Press. She graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

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