Social Security helps give aging and disabled Americans peace of mind. No matter how destitute we become, Social Security is meant to give us some measure of confidence that we will be able to get by.
Social Security and other federal benefits are not as secure as they used to be. A major change occured in 1996 when Congress allowed federal agencies to seize portions of Social Security payments to collect debts owed to those agencies. Certain other critical benefits are also part of this authority, including certain Railroad Retirement and Black Lung benefits. (The Treasury Department has a list of federal benefits that cannot be taken).
Seizing Social Security is an extraordinary collection tool. If you are facing seizure (also known as offset), you should consider whether you are eligible to cancel the loan or whether you can get out of default and select an affordable repayment plan.
If these options don’t work for you, you can still request a suspension or reduction of the offset due to financial hardship. It is within the Department of Education’s discretion whether to grant a hardship claim. Our new self-help packet helps you understand the process and includes forms for you to use to request a suspension or reduction of offset. A Spanish version should be available soon.