TN 24 (01-05)

GN 02201.042 Employer Issues Regarding Collection of Title II/XVI Overpayments by Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG)

A. Background

The AWG business process creates a variety of situations requiring interaction between SSA and the employer. Contact occurs when:

  1. The employer has questions about AWG or otherwise requires help from SSA, e.g., the employer wants an explanation of AWG or wants to know how much money to withhold from the person's pay. See GN 02201.042B for instructions on how to handle this type of employer request.

  2. The employer reports changes or information that affects AWG, e.g., that the debtor was laid off or fired. See GN 02201.042C for instructions on how to handle employer reports.

  3. The employer refuses to cooperate or is nonresponsive, e.g., employer refuses to honor the AWG order. See GN 02201.042D for instructions on how to handle employer noncooperation.

Contact between SSA and the employer usually occurs first as a result of the AWG Employer Package sent by SSA to the employer. The AWG Employer Package contains the AWG order, the employer certification and other related AWG information, plus scannable payment coupons which the employer can use to make garnishment payments.

In response to the AWG Employer Package, the employer is likely to have questions about AWG. The employer is also expected to report the debtor's employment status to SSA on the SF-329D (Employer Certification). See GN 02201.040B.4. for more detailed information about the AWG Employer Package. Also see GN 02201.042C.1. for detailed instructions on processing the SF-329D.

In addition, contact between SSA and the employer will arise from the various AWG update actions, such as SSA's notice to stop AWG when waiver is requested. See GN 02201.040D for more detailed information about AWG update actions.

IMPORTANT: During any contact with the employer, be sure to obtain the name, telephone number and address. Enter the information on the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010.)

B. Procedure - employer requires help from SSA

1. Employer asks for explanation of AWG

a. General explanation (TSC/FO/PC action)

If the employer is asking for a general explanation of AWG, provide the following basic information about the program:

  • The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134), section 31001(o) (1), authorized Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG).

  • AWG is the process whereby a Federal agency issues an AWG order to the employer of a person who owes a debt to the agency and the employer withholds amounts from the employee's wages and pays those amounts to that agency. A Federal agency collecting delinquent non-tax debt may garnish the wages of a delinquent debtor without first obtaining a court order. (See GN 02201.040A.2.)

  • Based on the AWG order, the employer withholds up to 15% (or more if the debtor requests it) of the debtor's disposable pay. (See GN 02201.040B.4.b.)

  • The employer is not required to change the normal pay and disbursement cycles to comply with the AWG Order.

Record the information provided on DMS Remarks.

b. Specific explanation (TSC/FO/PC action)

  • Provide the appropriate explanation using information as necessary from GN 02201.040A.

  • Record the information provided on DMS Remarks.

IMPORTANT: Other than the amount of the overpayment, the employer is not entitled to know anything about the debtor's Social Security entitlement. Do not divulge any other information about the debtor.

2. Employer asks for help calculating AWG amount

SSA notifies employers to begin AWG by means of the AWG Employer Package described in GN 02201.040B.4. The AWG Employer Package includes the Wage Garnishment Order (SF-329B) and the Wage Garnishment Worksheet (SF-329C), both of which are used by the employer to determine the AWG amount. For copies of the forms, see the following Internet website which is maintained by the Department of the Treasury's, Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS), formerly known as the Financial Management Service (FMS) at www.fms.treas.gov/debt/awg/SF329.pdf.

IMPORTANT: Unless SSA and the debtor have previously agreed to an AWG amount, it is the responsibility of the employer to: (1) Determine which AWG calculation method to use, and (2) Calculate the garnishment amount. SSA cannot do this on behalf of the employer. We can, however, try to help the employer by directing attention to the proper forms used in calculating the AWG amount.

TSC/FO/PC employees should proceed as follows when the employer asks for help in calculating the AWG amount:

  • Go to BFS’ website at www.fms.treas.gov/debt/awg/SF329.pdf.

  • Scroll down to the Form SF-329B (Wage Garnishment Order) and go to Section 2 – Wage Garnishment Amount.

  • Tell the employer to look at Form SF-329B (Wage Garnishment Order), Section 2 – Wage Garnishment Amount.

  • Ask the employer if Section 2(a) is pre-filled with an amount. If so, tell the employer to withhold that amount each payday until further notice by SSA.

NOTE: Section 2(a) will be pre-filled by SSA with a garnishment amount only when the debtor and SSA previously agreed to a specific dollar amount, e.g., to repay the debt sooner or to avoid financial hardship by the debtor.

  • If Section 2(a) is not pre-filled with an amount, then advise the employer that he or she is responsible for determining which of the three methods to use in calculating the AWG amount.

  • Tell the employer to review section 2(b) of SF-329B. That section explains what method to use in calculating the AWG amount.

  • When the employer determines the calculation method, he or she should then review Form SF-329C (Wage Garnishment Worksheet), which is also on the BFS’ website at www.fms.treas.gov/debt/awg/SF329.pdf.

  • Explain that the worksheet will help the employer determine the exact garnishment amount that should be sent to SSA as payment toward the person's debt.

  • If the employer asks you to calculate the AWG amount, tell him or her that it is the employer's responsibility and that SSA cannot take part in the calculation.

  • Tell the employer to complete and return the Form SF-329D (Employer Certification) to SSA as soon as possible. Stress that the employer should include the name and telephone number of a suitable contact in case SSA has questions or needs additional information.

3. Employer asks how to make payments

The AWG Employer Package sent by SSA to the employer contains scannable payment coupons and return envelopes for the employer's use in making garnishment payments. See GN 02201.040B.4. for more information about the AWG Employer Package.

The return envelopes are addressed to MATPC's remittance process in Philadelphia, PA. MATPC automatically processes the payment and compiles payment information to be updated to the overpaid person's record. SSA will accept any of the following types of payments from employers:

  • Checks, money orders, or bank drafts;

  • Cash;

  • Checks written in U.S. Dollars drawn on foreign banks;

  • Foreign checks drawn on foreign bank or foreign currency;

  • Credit Cards (American Express, Discover, Master Card, Visa and Diners Club) (see GN 02210.152, GN 02210.153 and GN 02210.205 for instructions).

NOTE: Currently, SSA cannot accept electronic payments such as debit card payments (unless the employer wants to use the debit card as a credit card). If the employer wants to repay by debit card, respond as shown in GN 02210.153B.3.

When the employer has questions about how to make payments or where to send them, proceed as follows:

a. TSC action

  • Tell the employer to enclose the payment with the payment coupon and return them to MATPC in the envelope provided with the AWG Employer package.

  • If the employer does not have any payment coupons, tell the employer that SSA can send more payment coupons.

  • Input the request for more payment coupons by selecting SEND PAYMENT STUBS on the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • If the employer wants to pay by credit card, follow the instructions in GN 02210.153.

b. FO action

  • If the employer calls your office, tell him or her to enclose the payment with the payment coupon and return them to MATPC in the envelope provided with the AWG Employer package.

  • If the employer does not have any payment coupons, tell the employer that SSA can send more payment coupons.

  • Input the request for more payment coupons on the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • If the employer visits your office to make the payment, follow the instructions in GN 02403.006D.

  • Remind the employer to include a payment stub with the next remittance and order some, if necessary, by selecting SEND PAYMENT STUBS from the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

c. PC action

  • Tell the employer to enclose the payment with the payment coupon and return them to MATPC in the envelope provided with the AWG Employer package.

  • If the employer does not have any payment coupons, tell the employer that SSA can send more payment coupons.

  • Input the request for more payment coupons by selecting SEND PAYMENT STUBS on the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • If the employer wants to pay by credit card, follow the instructions in GN 02210.205.

4. Employer requests additional payment stubs

An employer may request additional payment stubs to include with the AWG payment.

TSC/FO/PC action

  • On the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen, select SEND PAYMENT STUBS. (See MSOM DMS 014.010.)

  • Advise the employer that four payment stubs and return address envelopes will be sent. Allow one week to receive them.

  • Tell the employer not to delay sending in the payment until a stub is received.

  • Tell the employer to include the debtor's name and credit agency tracking number (found on the SF-329B, number 3) along with an employer contact name and telephone number with the AWG Payment.

  • Remind the employer to send the information to: MATPC, P.O. Box 3430, Philadelphia, PA 19122.

C. Procedure - employer reports information that affects AWG

1. Employer returns Employer Certification (SF-329D)

The employer is required to complete and return the Employer Certification (SF-329D) to the PC of SSN jurisdiction within 20 days of receipt of the AWG Employer Package. Employers send certifications to the PC of SSN jurisdiction for Title II and Title XVI cases. The employer uses this form to report the debtor's employment status, so that SSA can monitor and control the next steps in the AWG process. See GN 02201.040B.5. for more information about the AWG Employer package, including the Employer Certification.

NOTE: For copies of the Employer Certification, see the BFS’ website at www.fms.treas.gov/debt/awg/SF329.pdf.

The Employer Certification has two possible responses regarding the person's employment status: (1) Debtor currently employed, and (2) debtor no longer employed. The responses are input to the appropriate DMS screens by the PC (as described below), thus enabling the ECO system to control the case for subsequent action.

NOTE: If the employer enters “0” in section 3 of the SF-329D, the debtor does not have adequate earnings to garnish. The ECO system sets an automatic control to periodically check for earnings. If the debtor meets the criteria for AWG in a following year, the ECO system resumes activity by sending another AWG Employer Package to the appropriate employer.

IMPORTANT: If the employer does not return the SF-329D or returns an incomplete form, no immediate action is required by the PC to followup with the employer. The ECO system sets controls for a series of automated follow-up actions. (See GN 02201.040B.5. for more information about the automated follow-up actions.)

The PC's input depends upon the debtor's employment status as reported by the employer on the Employment Certification. Proceed as follows upon receipt of the Employer Certification:

a. Debtor currently employed

When item 2(a) of the SF-329D is checked by the employer, indicating that the debtor is currently employed, take the following actions:

  • Go to the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen and enter all available contact information about the employer in the appropriate sections of the screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • On the TRER screen, enter a “Y” in the Debtor is Currently Employed section.

  • Entering a “Y” in the TRER screen will automatically take you to the AWG Debtor Currently Employed (TREE) screen.

  • On the TREE screen, enter all available information about the garnishment amount, other garnishments and pay period frequency. (See MSOM DMS 014.011 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • The preceding entries in the TRER/TREE screens will automatically set controls in the TOP/ECO system to look for garnishment payments within the next 35 days.

b. Debtor not employed

When item 2(b) of the SF-329D is checked by the employer, indicating that the debtor is not employed, take the following actions:

  • Go to the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen and enter all available contact information about the employer in the appropriate sections of the screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • On the TRER screen, enter an “N” in the Debtor is Currently Employed section.

  • Entering an “N” in the TRER screen will automatically take you to the AWG Debtor No Longer Employed (TREN) screen.

  • On the TREN screen, enter all available information about the employment termination date, termination reason or the date of the person was laid off (if applicable). (See MSOM DMS 014.012 for more detailed information about the screen.)

Depending on the reason for termination or the date of any layoff, the ECO system will automatically set controls for any future action required for AWG. You do not need to take any further action regarding AWG.

2. Employer reports going out of business

Proceed as follows when the employer reports going out of business:

  • Go to the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen and enter an “N” in the Debtor is Currently Employed section of the screen. Also, record the contact name and phone number on the TRER screen. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information on this screen.)

  • Entering an “N” in the TRER screen will automatically take you to the AWG Debtor No Longer Employed (TREN) screen.

  • On the TREN screen, enter “Employer no longer in business” in the Termination Reason section. (See MSOM DMS 014.012 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • Take no additional actions regarding AWG. The ECO system will automatically take subsequent action to resume AWG when another eligible employer becomes available.

D. Procedure - employer uncooperative or nonresponsive

1. Employer refuses to honor the AWG order

TSC/FO/PC employees proceed as follows when the employer refuses to honor the AWG Order:

  • Tell the employer that noncooperation could result in a lawsuit by the Government against the employer.

  • Tell the employer they can be held accountable for any amount they refuse to withhold from the disposable pay. The employer can also be held liable for attorney fees, cost of the lawsuit and (in the court's discretion) punitive damages.

  • Advise the employer that SSA will annotate its records about the employer's refusal to cooperate.

  • Go to the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen and enter a “Y” in the Employer refuses to Cooperate section and enter available contact information about the employer. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • On DMS Remarks, enter the following words: “Employer contacted on (fill-in mm/dd/yyyy) and refused to honor AWG order.” If the employer explains why he or she refuses, briefly describe the reason in DMS Remarks.

2. Employer does not respond to the AWG order

The ECO system checks for an employer response to the AWG order about 35 days after the original AWG Employer Package was sent. If there is no response, the ECO system automatically follows up twice, at 15-day intervals. (See GN 02201.040B.5.c. for more information about how the ECO system controls and monitors unresponsive employers.)

If the employer does not respond after the automated followups, the ECO system generates a Processing Center Action Control System (PCACS) alert to the Debt Management Section (DMS) of the PC of jurisdiction. The alert has the legend, “No Employer Response or SF-329D Received.” The DMS must take action to follow up with the employer to inquire about AWG payments. (See SM 00610.080 for more detailed information about the PCACS alerts generated for follow-up action in the AWG program.)

Take the following action when handling the PCACS alert for unresponsive employers:

  • Go to the ECO Master Query which is accessible from the External Collection Operation Menu (TRMU). (See MSOM DMS 014.007 for more detailed information about the ECO Master Query.)

  • Identify the name and address of the employer to whom the original AWG Employer package was sent. If the AWG Information contains an employer contact name and telephone number, call the person. Follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.a.

  • If the query does not contain an employer contact name and telephone number, attempt to obtain the telephone number using the applicable skiptracing resources listed in GN 02210.213B.3. If you cannot obtain a telephone number, or after three calls to the known telephone number you do not get a response, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.b.

a. Employer contacted

  • Tell the employer you are calling about SSA's AWG order regarding the employee, and explain that SSA has not received the required SF-329D, Employer Certification.

  • Go to the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen and enter the applicable response by the employer. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more information about the screen.)

  • If the employer refuses to honor the AWG order, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.1.

b. Employer not contacted

  • Go to the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen and enter a “Y” in the Employer refuses to Cooperate section. (See MSOM DMS 014.010 for more detailed information about the screen.)

  • On DMS Remarks, enter the following words: “Employer telephone number not available or did not respond to calls. Follow-up action stopped.”

  • Take no additional action regarding AWG. The ECO system will automatically check for a new employer.

3. AWG mail to employer returned as undeliverable

The AWG process results in the mailing of two types of notices to employers: (1) the AWG Employer Package, and (2) notices telling the employer to stop, change or resume garnishment for a variety of reasons. See GN 02201.040B.4. for more information about the AWG Employer Package and GN 02201.040D for more information about the notices telling employers to stop, change or resume garnishment.

a. Undeliverable AWG employer package

Undeliverable employer packages are returned to central office, where they are scanned in an automated operation. The scanning operation results in the posting of undeliverable transaction 7001 to ECO. The ECO system then checks the ECO Master file and the Employer Identification File (EIF) to see if a more recent address has been updated. If so, the system automatically resends the mail to the updated address. If no new address is found, ECO looks for a new employer and if one is found, it sends an AWG Employer Package to them.

If no new employer is found, the system creates a PCACS alert with the legend “ECO-AWG Alert H - Undeliverable AWG Package.” The alert is sent to the Debt Management Section of the PC of jurisdiction. (See SM 00610.080 for more information about processing AWG alerts.) Proceed as follows when processing the alert:

  • Go to the ECO Master Query which is accessible from the External Collection Operation Menu (TRMU). (See MSOM DMS 014.007 for more information about the ECO Master Query.)

  • Review AWG Information to determine if the AWG status is other than active. If it is other than active, no additional action is required.

  • If the AWG status is still active and no updates to the address have been made, attempt to contact the employer.

  • If necessary, attempt to obtain the telephone number using the applicable skiptracing sources listed in GN 02210.213.

  • If you contact the employer, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.a.

  • If you cannot obtain a telephone number, or after three calls to the known telephone number you do not get a response, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.b.

b. Undeliverable stop garnishment notice

SSA must stop garnishment in a variety of situations, e.g., debtor requests review, waiver, hardship and development is required before a decision can be made. When a debtor request requiring the cessation of garnishment is input to the system, ECO changes the AWG status to “suspended.” This changed status results in the ECO system automatically sending a Stop Garnishment notice to the employer.

Undeliverable Stop Garnishment Notices are also returned to central office, where they are scanned in an automated operation. The scanning operation results in the posting of the undeliverable employer notice transaction 7005. The ECO system then checks the ECO Master File and the Employer Identification File (EIF) to see if a more recent address has been updated. If so, the system automatically resends the mail to the updated address. If no new address is found, ECO produces a PCACS alert with the legend, “ECO-AWG Alert G-Undeliverable Stop Garnishment Notice.” The alert is sent to the Debt Management Section of the PC of jurisdiction. (See SM 00610.080 for more information about the AWG alerts.) Proceed as follows when processing the alert:

  • Go to the ECO Master Query which is accessible from the External Collection Operation Menu (TRMU). (See MSOM DMS 014.007 for more information about the ECO Master Query.)

  • Review AWG Information to determine if the AWG status was changed to “Active” after the alert was generated. If so, no further AWG action is necessary. Assume that the reason for stopping AWG has been resolved.

  • If the AWG status is still “Suspended” or “Inactive,” contact the employer and tell him or her to stop sending garnishment payments until notified by SSA.

  • If necessary, attempt to obtain the telephone number using the applicable skiptracing sources listed in GN 02210.213.

  • If you contact the employer, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.a.

  • If you cannot obtain a telephone number, or after three calls to the known telephone number you do not get a response, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.b.

c. Undeliverable change garnishment amount notice

SSA changes AWG amounts in two situations: (1) debtor requests and is granted a lower AWG amount due to hardship and (2) debtor requests a higher AWG amount. See GN 02201.041B.5. and GN 02201.041B.6. for processing Title II cases and SI 02220.018B.5. and SI 02220.018B.6. for processing SSI cases.

Undeliverable Change Garnishment Amount Notices are returned to central office, where they are scanned in an automated operation. The scanning operation results in the posting of the undeliverable employer notice transaction 7005. The ECO system then checks the ECO Master File and the Employer Identification File (EIF) to see if a more recent address has been updated. If so, the system automatically resends the mail to the updated address. If no new address is found, ECO produces a PCACS alert with the legend, “ECO-AWG Alert E-Undeliverable Change Garnishment Amount Notice.” The alert is sent to the Debt Management Section of the PC of jurisdiction. (See SM 00610.080 for more information about the AWG alerts.) Proceed as follows when processing the alert:

  • Go to the ECO Master Query which is accessible from the External Collection Operation Menu (TRMU). (See MSOM DMS 014.007 for more information about the ECO Master Query.)

  • Review the ECO Master Query to determine if the AWG status changed after the alert was generated.

  • If the AWG payment changed to “Inactive” or “Suspended,” no further action is necessary.

  • If the last garnishment payment received (transaction 7010) equals the current garnishment amount shown on the ECO Master Query, no further action is necessary.

  • If the AWG payment does not equal the current garnishment amount shown on the ECO Master Query, contact the employer and tell him or her to change the AWG amount to the amount shown on the ECO Master Query.

  • If necessary, attempt to obtain the telephone number using the applicable skiptracing sources listed in GN 02210.213.

  • If you contact the employer, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.a.

  • If you cannot obtain a telephone number, or after three calls to the known telephone number you do not get a response, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.b.

d. Undeliverable resume garnishment notice

SSA must resume garnishment in a variety of situations, e.g., waiver denied, request for review of the debt denied, request for reconsideration of the overpayment determination denied. Based on inputs to the Debt Management System, the ECO system automatically changes the AWG status to “Active,” resulting in the automated mailing of a Resume Garnishment Notice to the employer.

Undeliverable Resume Garnishment Notices are also returned to central office, where they are scanned in the automated operation. The scanning operation results in the posting of the undeliverable employer notice transaction 7005. The ECO system then checks the ECO Master file and the Employer Identification File (EIF) to see if a more recent address has been updated. If so, the system automatically resends the mail to the updated address. If no new address is found, ECO produces a PCACS alert with the legend, “ECO-AWG Alert F-Undeliverable Resume Garnishment Notice.” The alert is sent to the Debt Management Section of the PC of jurisdiction. (See SM 00610.080 for more information about the AWG alerts). Proceed as follows when processing the alert:

  • Go to the ECO Master Query which is accessible from the External Collection Operation Menu (TRMU). (See MSOM DMS 014.007 for more information about the ECO Master Query.)

  • Review the ECO Master Query to determine if the AWG status changed to inactive or suspended after the alert was generated.

  • If so, then no further action is necessary because a subsequent event occurred that required stopping garnishment.

  • If the AWG status is active and no payment have been received since the date of the alert, then contact the employer to tell him or her that garnishment should be resumed.

  • If necessary, attempt to obtain the telephone number using the applicable skiptracing sources listed in GN 02210.213.

  • If you contact the employer, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.a.

  • If you cannot obtain a telephone number, or after three calls to the known telephone number you do not get a response, follow the instructions in GN 02201.042D.2.b.

4. Employer stops garnishment before debt balance reduced to $75.00

If the employer stops sending in garnishment payments, an AWG remittance Past Due alert will be generated in the PC. Proceed as follows when you receive the AWG Remittance Past Due alert:

  • Review the ECO data on the Collection Query attached to the query to determine if an AWG remittance has been received since the alert was created.

  • If a transaction code 7010 has been posted to ECO, no additional action is needed.

  • If a transaction 4111 (Non-ECO Remittance) has been received within that time period, it is possible that this is the garnishment payment but it was incorrectly identified when it came in via the remittance process. If the technician can determine that this is the missing garnishment payment, no additional action is needed.

  • If an AWG remittance has not been posted, contact the employer by telephone to report that a remittance has not been received.

  • If necessary, attempt to obtain the telephone number using the applicable skiptracing sources listed in GN 02210.213.

  • If you make contact, remind the employer to continue sending the garnished wages with the scannable coupons each pay period until SSA notifies the employer to terminate collections, OR the employer's obligation to pay the employee ends, OR the employer receives a Garnishment Order for family support (i.e., you receive a garnishment order with priority). The employer should contact SSA when this happens.

  • If the employer reports any changes, input the information via the AWG Employer Response (TRER) screen.

  • Document the telephone contact with the employer's name and telephone number on the DMS Remarks screen.

  • If you cannot obtain a telephone number, or after three calls to the known telephone number you do not get a response, follow the directions in GN 02201.042D.2.b.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0202201042
GN 02201.042 - Employer Issues Regarding Collection of Title II/XVI Overpayments by Administrative Wage Garnishment (AWG) - 09/06/2013
Batch run: 09/06/2013
Rev:09/06/2013