September 14, 2023

Wyden Reintroduces Bill to Protect Social Security Benefits from Garnishment

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today reintroduced legislation that would restore federal protections of Social Security benefits to prevent the federal government from garnishing them for the repayment of all non-tax federal debt —such as student loans.

“It is plain wrong to take away the Social Security benefits seniors earned through a lifetime of work because of the increasing burden of student loan debt,” Wyden said. “It’s past time Congress protects seniors and the Social Security benefits they have earned with every paycheck. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce legislation that shores up protections for Social Security benefits and allows seniors in Oregon and nationwide to retire with the dignity they deserve.”

According to a Government Accountability Office report, at least 114,000 Americans have had their Social Security garnished because they could not make their student loan repayments, The same report found the number of retirees and people with disabilities whose Social Security benefits were seized by the government to pay off student loans increased more than five-fold between 2002 and 2016, driving many into poverty.  

The number of people age 60 and older who still have student loan debt has increased six-fold since 2004 to 3.5 million and the amount they owe is now 19-fold, amounting to more than $125 billion in student loans. More than 60% of older borrowers with outstanding student loan debt say they do not have enough savings to cover their expenses for three months in an emergency.

The Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act would restore federal protections of Social Security benefits, and protect railroad retirement and black lung benefits. 

The bill was introduced by Wyden in the Senate and Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., and John B. Larson, D-Conn., in the House.

The legislation is endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Social Security Works, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AFL-CIO, Justice in Aging, the American Federation of Government Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, National Organization of Social Security Claimant Representatives and the National Association of Disability Representatives.

The text of the bill is here.