NOTICE: I received so many comments and questions about the issues of child support and Social Security disability that I set up a separate blog about this topic – www.childsupportandsocialsecuritydisability.com. Please visit this new blog to post comments and ask questions.
Can you SSDI benefits be seized to pay past due child support? Yes, according to Social Security Ruling 79-4, the Social Security Administration can withhold a percentage of a claimant’s benefits in an amount equal to what SSA could withhold to pay delinquent income tax debt.
No interest or penalties may be withheld, and before the first withholding may commence, SSA must give the claimant 60 days notice.
There is a question in my mind as to whether SSI benefits may be seized to pay delinquent child support. The web site esocialsecurityappeal.com states that a “custodial parent has no right to any of the proceeds from SSI.” Tim Moore, the editor of DisabilitySecrets.com also states that SSI recipients will not have their monthly disability benefits and past due benefits seize. According to Mr. Moore, the rationale to protect SSI from levy relates to the nature of SSI as a welfare benefit: “since SSI is essentially a public welfare benefit and does not derive not from a claimant’s earnings record, SSI benefits cannot be taken for other purposes, just as food stamps and AFDC funds, likewise, cannot be seized.”
I have looked at Social Security’s official web site, but I cannot find anything directly from Social Security that confirms the disparate treatment between SSDI and SSI. Mr. Moore and esocialsecurityappeal.com may be entirely correct, but until I am able to find source materials to confirm their assertions I will keep this blog post indefinite.
You should also note that auxillary benefits paid to dependents of SSDI (not SSI) recipients do not equate to child support. In other words if a disabled claimant with children is awarded SSDI and those children begin receiving benefits as a dependent of the claimant, those auxillary benefits do not offset the claimant’s obligation to pay child support.
Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 29 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.