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The disturbing trend of people losing Social Security benefits to student debt

Source Date: 
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

To recoup student-loan debt, the government is leaving people who rely on Social Security with benefits that

fall below federal poverty guidelines, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday.

The number of older Americans defaulting on education loans has steadily increased in recent decades, as many

have returned to college or co-signed loans for family members. Unpaid debt has resulted in the government

garnishing the benefits of 114,000 people age 50 and older in the past year, more than half of whom were

receiving Social Security disability rather than retirement income, the GAO report said.

Garnishment exacerbates an already precarious financial situation for the 67,300 older borrowers who receive

benefits below the poverty guideline, which is set at about $990 a month for a single adult. Even though no

more than 15 percent of a recipient’s monthly Social Security payments can be taken in debt collection, that

threshold has never been adjusted to reflect the increased cost of living.

“We can’t be garnishing people’s Social Security in a way that puts them into poverty,” said Sen. Claire

McCaskill (Mo.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “We need to make sure that

we have adjusted the ability of the government to recover those loan amounts in a way that is not spiraling

people into poverty.”

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.”
– Earl Wilson
"Bankruptcy laws allow companies to smoothly reorganize, but not college graduates burdened by student loans."
– Robert Reich
“What I would like to do... once I take care of all my kids' student loans, is buy a red 1965 Mustang and fully restore it.”
– Mike Quigley
"There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt."
– P. T. Barnum
"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."
– Marie Curie
"If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going."
– Irwin "Professor" Corey
The road to success is always under construction
– Lily Tomlin