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Social Security Disability (SSD) payments are intended to help support injured Americans.  These benefits are available in a couple different ways, but typically come in the form of monthly checks to cover your expenses.  Receiving disability means that you still need to pay for any medical expenses billed to you instead of your healthcare provider or Medicare.  If you are behind on your medical bills, it is important to understand whether your doctor’s billing services can begin to garnish your SSD checks.  For help with a disability claim or for help understanding your benefits, contact Fayetteville, AR Social Security Disability lawyer Ken Kieklak today.

When Can the Government Garnish Wages for Hospital Bills in Arkansas?

The government is permitted to garnish wages in limited situations.  For taxes, child support, defaulted student loans, and other court orders, the government can dip into any paychecks you receive and take out a portion of the funds.  This is not a punishment, but rather a tool to ensure that debts are paid if the debtor does not pay them voluntarily.  These types of payments are able to get wage garnishment automatically, but other creditors can get a court order for wage garnishment.

If you are behind on credit card bills or medical bills, the company you owe may be able to go to court, get a judgment against you, and get a court order to garnish your wages.  This allows doctors and hospitals to whom you owe money to get an order against you and begin withdrawing money directly from your wages.

The federal government and many state governments place restrictions on how much of your wages can be garnished at a time.  The federal law puts a complex cap on wage garnishment, which we will explain in a moment.  Some states place a stricter limit, but in Arkansas, the federal rule is the limit.

Wage garnishment limits are calculated on a weekly basis.  The government can either take any weekly wages over $217.50 (the federal minimum wage for 30 hours of work), or 25% of your paycheck – whichever is less.  The maximum limit on SSD for a non-blind individual in 2018 is $1,180 per month, which comes to $295 per week.  With the federal limits, this means you can face garnishment of up to $73.75 per week (25% of $295).

If you receive disability benefits, you may have no wages other than the disability checks.  This means that your disability checks would be garnished.  In some situations, the type of disability payments you receive may prevent garnishment and help protect your benefits.

Are Social Security Disability Payments Safe from Wage Garnishment?

There are two ways that your disability benefits might be paid through Social Security.  You either apply for disability through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  The primary difference between SSDI and SSI is why the Social Security Administration (SSA) is paying the funds.  For SSDI, payments are made to those who qualify based on their work history.  If you would be eligible to claim some Social Security retirement benefits, you can instead claim them early if you become disabled and cannot work.  Alternatively, SSI is paid on the basis of need.  Even without a work history to support Social Security benefits, you may still be able to claim SSI if you qualify for disability benefits.

When it comes to calculating wages for wage garnishment, the court looks at your post-tax wages.  This “disposable income” includes any pay you receive.  That means if you can perform some work on top of your SSD benefits, the total income you receive is used to calculate the wage garnishment limits (25% or excess of $217.50 per week).  However, any need-based payments are excluded from the income calculation.  That means that SSI payments cannot be garnished for any reason and are exempt from the wage calculation for garnishment.

If you receive SSDI, you may still face some wage garnishment.  However, even if you are receiving the maximum 2018 payments (for a non-blind individual) your garnishment could be capped as low as $73.75.

If you receive SSI, your SSI payments are not included as income when calculating garnishment.  This means that with no other sources of income, the court must calculate garnishment based off $0 of weekly income.  That means they cannot garnish any money from your wages.  However, if you receive other wages and still maintain SSI eligibility, you may lose at most 25% of those wages to garnishment.

Fayetteville Disability Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffers from a disability that prevents them from going to work, it is important to understand how your Social Security Disability payments could be affected by things like outstanding medical bills.  For help with a disability claim or to understand how to better protect your SSD payments, contact Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, today.  Ken is a Fayetteville disability attorney offering free consultations.  Call (479) 439-1843 today to schedule your consultation.

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Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law