Dear Dr. Don,
Can credit card companies garnish my disability check if I stop paying my bills? I have gotten in way over my head
and can't make my credit card payments due to illness and the cost of my medical bills and medicine. I have been
paying only the amount due but have fallen way behind and now owe late fees and over-the-limit fees.
I can't get a break to catch up, so I have stopped paying and am worried they will try to take my
disability check. Thank you for any advice you can give me.
-- Rose Refrain
Yours is a common question concerning supplemental
security income disability payments. The Social
Security Administration's Web
site has information about garnishment on
a frequently asked questions page.
According to the Web site, Social Security benefits are protected from assignment, levy
or garnishment in all but five cases.
|5 exceptions to Social Security protection:
However, the Web site also goes
on to note that supplemental security income, or SSI, payments "cannot be levied
A key to avoiding garnishment is to not commingle your benefits with other monies in the account.
Maintain a separate account for benefit payments.
You need to look beyond your fear of garnishment to how you are going to get your finances back on
track. Talking with a credit counselor about your debt is a good first step. By doing so, you may be able to end the
late fees, and over-the-limit fees you're racking up in these accounts.
The FTC Facts for Consumers publication, "Fiscal
Fitness: Choosing a Credit Counselor," is required
reading before you start interviewing credit counselors.
Bankruptcy may be your best solution.
Part of the new bankruptcy law is a requirement
to get credit counseling, so that step won't be
wasted. The FTC has some required reading there
as well with its publication, "Before
You File for Personal Bankruptcy: Information
About Credit Counseling and Debtor Education."