Dear Dr. Don,

Is it possible or appropriate that being in default on a William D. Ford Direct Student Loan can cause garnishing of benefits after being awarded Social Security Disability? I was deemed 100 percent disabled before the garnishment was initiated. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you,

— Peter Predicament

Dear Peter,

If unpaid, federally guaranteed student loans may prompt the federal government to garnish disability checks, whether from Veterans Affairs or Social Security. There are limits on how much the government can take each month.

Rather than focusing on timing of your disability status and garnishment, I’d suggest that you pursue a disability discharge of the loan or loans. That would eliminate the need or desire to garnish your disability benefits. With a discharge, you would no longer be required to repay a student loan.

Federal direct student loans have provisions for a total and permanent disability discharge. I’d suggest pursuing this discharge to end your obligation to repay the student loan. Fairly recent legislation changed the standards for such discharge effective July 1, 2013. If you applied for discharge before July 2013, the old standards apply. But if you hadn’t previously applied (and it sounds like you didn’t), then the new standards are in effect. There is reason for hope!

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