Can my Social Security benefits be garnished if I owe back child support?

Current regulations allow Social Security to garnish benefits for payment of back child support if the individual receives the following types of benefits: Social Security Disability (under Title II), Social Security Retirement (under Title II), Civil Service Retirement System, Federal Employees Retirement System, Service-connected VA disability if received in lieu of retirement or retainer pay, benefits paid or payable under the Railroad Retirement System.   However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is exempt from garnishment for various reasons. 

First, SSI is a means-tested benefit and is not based upon the earnings history of an individual; therefore, it is not viewed as a ‘wage’ or ‘wage-replacement’ benefit. Further, in order to be qualified for SSI, an individual must have little or no income and very few resources and must have been deemed to be disabled, blind, or found to be over the age of 65. 

Finally, this exemption from garnishment includes SSI benefits that are paid directly to an individual or paid to a representative payee on behalf of an individual. Agencies who typically oversee garnishment of these types of benefits (such as individual states or tribes) are to take care that individuals whose benefits are garnished do not suffer from an inability to meet their basic needs for livelihood while ensuring that proper garnishment does occur for the welfare of the affected child(ren).

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