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Social Security Mailbox

New to Social Security? Here's What You Should Know About Your Benefits

Find helpful information on when you'll receive checks, how the system works and more

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Q: Can my creditors garnish my Social Security benefits?

A: It depends on whom you owe money to. Generally speaking, banks and credit card companies can't touch your Social Security benefits. But when you owe money to the federal government — especially for unpaid taxes and student loan debt — a portion of your Social Security benefits can be taken. The feds also can tap into your benefits to enforce court orders for child support and alimony.

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Q: If I receive workers' compensation for a job-related injury, will those payments affect my Social Security disability benefits?

A: Perhaps. The answer depends on your individual situation. The bottom line generally is that your Social Security disability will be reduced if your benefits from workers' comp, Social Security disability and other programs total more than 80 percent of your average earnings in years before you became disabled. It's a complicated calculation that Social Security will compute.

A fuller explanation can be found in the fact sheet: "How Workers' Compensation And Other Disability Payments May Affect Your Benefits" (pdf).

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question? Check out the Social Security Mailbox archive. If you don't find your answer there, send an email to the Social Security Mailbox.

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