TN 34 (12-13)

GN 02410.225 Other Garnishment Situations

A. Amended garnishment orders

In order to change or terminate an existing garnishment order, you must first receive a court order or an income withholding order (IWO).

B. Garnishment for benefits in suspense status

Do not terminate garnishment in the Court Ordered Garnishment System (COGS) without a garnishment termination order from the court or the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). This guidance applies regardless of the ledger account file (LAF) status.

1. Representative payee suspension development (S8)

Benefits suspended pending representative payee developments are subject to garnishment withholding. Notice is sent directly to the garnished beneficiary to inform him or her of the court order and our action until a payee is named. If the garnished beneficiary is legally incompetent, we will issue notice to his or her court-appointed representative.

2. Recurring garnishment suspensions

Suspend garnishment for the specific periods the garnishment order identifies as periods when we should not withhold benefits. For instructions on the coding of recurring suspensions, see SM 00832.250.

Example of garnishment with a recurring suspension:

For a child support garnishment, the IWO states that the child will reside with the non-custodial parent in July and August of every year. In this situation, we will suspend garnishment of benefits for July and August of each year for the duration of the current order.

C. Appeals and protests of garnishment

Neither the custodial parent nor the garnished beneficiary is granted appeal rights against SSA regarding garnishment orders. Rather, they must appeal to the issuing court to dismiss or modify the original order. If the garnished beneficiary files an appeal, it may result in a new or amended garnishment order being served on us. This could require adjustments to garnishment withholding.

Take the following actions when we receive an appeal to a garnishment order:

  • Review the current garnishment order. See if the proper garnishment action was taken. If we properly processed the order, inform the inquiring party of our findings and let them know that they must appeal the garnishment to the State.

  • Stop payover of garnishment in COGS when we receive a copy of an appeal with the State. Payover will not be made until we receive a response to the appeal. Contact the clerk of the court receiving the appeal or send it to the Regional Office (RO) for guidance. The RO submits the appeal to the Regional Chief Counsel (RCC). The RCC provides instructions on compliance with the original garnishment order while the appeal is pending.

  • If the garnished beneficiary notifies us that he or she intends to appeal the garnishment order, tell him or her that the appeal alone might not cause a change in the withholding. Tell him or her that we will honor a new court order issued as a result of the appeal.

D. Duplicate case numbers on separate garnishment orders

When we receive separate garnishment orders with duplicate case numbers (e.g., the court or SDU sends a second order for a one-time attorney fee or administrative fee), contact the court or SDU and inform them that, due to systems limitations, we cannot process the second garnishment order under the same case number.

For a listing of SDU contacts, refer to the Office of Child Support Enforcement State Income Withholding Contacts and Program Information.

NOTE: See SM 00832.400B.5, for instructions when a terminated garnishment order is being reinstated, and the state resurrects the garnishment order using the same court order number.

E. Incorrect benefit garnishment

Incorrect payments to a garnisher can occur in a number of instances as explained in this subsection. If the field office (FO) identifies an incorrect garnishment payment, refer it to the jurisdictional Payment Center (PC) for processing.

1. Death of beneficiary and garnishment payment issued after death

When a garnished beneficiary dies, do not terminate garnishment in COGS without a garnishment termination order from the court or the SDU. Contact the court or SDU using notice E3737 (Notice to Court Garnishment Ends). For an exhibit of the E3737 notice, see NL 00703.737. Take no further COGS action until we obtain an order to terminate garnishment. Fax all documentation from the court or SDU into the Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Documents (NDRED).

When we issue a garnishment payment in or after the month of death, process the case as follows:

  • Send a notice requesting refund from the court or SDU. For an exhibit of the notice to the court, see NL 00703.729;

  • Post the incorrect payment to Recovery of Overpayments, Accounting and Reporting (ROAR) using Type-of-Event (TOE) 52 (Unjust Enrichment), under the beneficiary’s identification code (BIC) per “Recovery of a Title II Overpayment When the Overpaid Person is in LAF T1 - Death Case” in SM 00610.720;

  • Send a follow up notice, if necessary, when the ROAR DIARY alert matures;

  • Control for a response to the follow up notice (only attempt two follow-ups); and

  • If collection is unsuccessful after the second follow up matures, discontinue debt recovery as a write off. (For instructions on suspension or termination of collection action for title II and title XVI debts, see GN 02215.235.)

NOTE: If the deceased beneficiary has a representative payee or there is a surviving joint owner of a direct deposit account, that person is not liable for repaying the garnished portion of the incorrect payment.

2. Death of custodial parent and garnishment payment issued after death

When the custodial parent dies, do not terminate garnishment in COGS without a garnishment termination order from the court or the SDU. We will continue withholding in accordance with the latest garnishment order. Continue to withhold for garnishment, but do not pay over.

Contact the court or SDU to determine if garnishment should continue.

For instructions on the COGS processing of the Manual Adjustment (OGMA) Screen, see SM 00832.340.

3. Incorrect payment to the garnisher

Any amount paid to the garnisher in excess of the garnishment order is an incorrect payment.

Example of incorrect payment:

In 08/10, we began deducting garnishment of $450.00 a month from the garnished beneficiary’s payment. However, a keying error caused an incorrect monthly withholding amount in COGS. In 11/10, we discovered that the withholding order indicated that we should withhold $350.00 monthly for child support garnishment. We corrected COGS to garnish $350.00 a month beginning 11/10. The keying error resulted in an incorrect payment to the garnisher of $300.00 (i.e., $100.00 a month for the period 08/10 through 10/10).

a. Currently garnishing benefits

When we are garnishing benefits and the garnisher receives more than the amount due, the PC will recover the incorrect payment from current and future garnishment payments as follows:

  • Change the PAYOVER to “N.” (For instructions on the COGS processing of the OGMA screen, see SM 00832.340.);

  • Add remarks to COGS explaining the incorrect payment and plans to recover the payment. For instructions on the COGS processing of the Remarks/Protest (OGRP) Screen, see SM 00832.360;

  • Send a notice to the garnisher explaining that garnishment payments will not be payable again until we fully recover the incorrect payment;

  • Diary for the first Current Operating Month (COM) that we can pay the full garnishment; and

  • When the diary matures, the PC will use the OGMA screen to issue any garnishment payment due and change the PAYOVER to “Y.” For instructions on the COGS processing of the OGMA screen, see SM 00832.340.

b. Benefits are not currently garnished

When the garnisher received more than he or she was due, (e.g., an order to stop garnishment is not received or action was not taken in a timely manner, etc.), seek refund of the incorrect payment(s) as follows:

  • Send a notice requesting refund from the court or SDU. For language to use in the “Notice to Court Garnishment Ends, We've Paid the Receiver Too Much,” see NL 00703.729;

  • Post the incorrect payment to ROAR using TOE-52 (Unjust Enrichment), under the garnished beneficiary’s identification code (BIC);

  • Send a follow up notice, if necessary, when the ROAR DIARY alert matures;

  • Control for a response to the follow up notice (only attempt two follow-ups); and

  • If collection is unsuccessful after the second follow up matures, discontinue debt recovery as a write off. For instructions on suspension or termination of collection action for title II and title XVI debts, see GN 02215.235.

c. Garnished incorrect beneficiary

If we made garnishment payments to the garnisher correctly, in the correct amount, but we garnished the wrong beneficiary, the PC will take corrective action as follows:

  • Repay incorrectly withheld amounts to the beneficiary who was improperly garnished and terminate the COGS action on that claim. For instructions on establishing a garnishment case, see SM 00832.400.

  • Establish current garnishment in COGS for the correct beneficiary.

  • Do not attempt to recover retroactive garnishment from the correct beneficiary.

F. Overpayments and garnishment

If we overpay a garnished beneficiary in current pay status, the beneficiary is liable for the entire overpayment, including all garnished amounts that we withheld.

If a deceased garnished beneficiary has a representative payee or there is a surviving joint owner of a direct deposit account, that person is not liable for repaying the garnished portion of the overpayment. For general overpayment policy, see GN 02201.001B.3.

G. Cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) with garnishment

When we garnish a percentage of benefits, a COLA will result in increases in the amount that the garnished beneficiary and the garnisher will receive. COGS will make necessary adjustments and send the proper notice.

If garnishment is for a specific monthly dollar amount and the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) limits apply, COGS will make necessary adjustments and send the proper notice.

If garnishment is for a specific dollar amount per month and the CCPA limits do not apply, we will pay the entire amount of the COLA to the garnished beneficiary. In that case, notice to the garnisher is not necessary.

H. Railroad board (RRB) cases

To notify RRB of the garnishment prior to making payment the FO sends the notice from NL 00703.710 or NL 00703.711. If a RRB garnishment alert occurs, see procedure on how to process for exception/alert OG02 in SM 00832.900.

Contact RRB to verify adjustment of the title II payment before paying the Court. The RRB contact is: PolicySystems-InquiriesfromSSA@rrb.gov.

If RRB tells us that they are currently withholding for the same garnishment order, terminate garnishment on the title II claim. You can find instructions for termination of a garnishment in COGS at, SM 00832.440.

I. Returned garnishment payments

When returning garnished payments, see “How to Reissue a Returned Check” in SM 00832.540.

J. Waiver of benefits

If a garnished beneficiary requests waiver of benefits, do not stop garnishment. A waiver of benefits can only apply when the full monthly benefit is being waived. For instructions on conditions required for waiver of benefits, see GN 02409.001B.1.

K. Requests for benefit history on the non-custodial parent’s record

State Child Support Service agencies may request the benefit history of dependents for payments received on the non-custodial parent's record in order to calculate balances for lump sum arrears.

When State Child Support Service agencies request benefit history for depende