NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Social Security is a safety net for millions of Americans, either for retirement, disability or for the survivors of a qualified deceased family member. But there are situations when those benefits can be cut off or curtailed. Owing the government money – even for student loans – is one trigger.
While commercial creditors can’t garnish Social Security benefits, the IRS can take a 15% levy to satisfy a delinquent tax debt. And student loan debt – no matter how long ago you went to school – can put your Social Security benefits at risk. Other government agencies can also tap Social Security to resolve debts, including for federally-backed home loans, as well as unpaid child support and alimony.
There are two primary ways to lose disability benefits. Aaron Hotfelder, formerly a Social Security disability benefits attorney and now a legal consultant near Columbia, Mo., says an improvement in your medical condition is one common reason.
"If you had a serious heart surgery, that can put you out of commission for more than a year and qualify you for Social Security disability benefits, but it's also the kind of thing that people can recover from to some extent and at least be able to go back to some kind of job," Hotfelder says.
With periodic assessments every three to seven years, it's possible that a Social Security Administration review can conclude that -- with health improvement -- you don't still meet the requirements for the medical disability program.
"One of the tell-tale signs that you have gotten better is that you stop receiving medical treatment," Hotflelder adds. If Social Security reviews a case, requests medical records and finds none available, they might assume that you're well. But Hotfelder says often the opposite is true. Patients may give up hope on a serious medical condition, or sometimes can't afford continuing care.