Consumer Financial Protection

The Office for Older Americans Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a new consumer advisory on federal benefits and garnishment in May 2015. The message, which includes links to additional information, reads as follows:

Did you know that Social Security and VA benefits are generally protected from garnishment to pay a debt to a private person or company? Most debt collectors can’t garnish money in your bank account to pay a debt. 

Here’s how the federal protection works:

  • Banks must automatically check your account history to see if Social Security or VA benefits were direct-deposited to your account in the last 2 months.
  • If so, your bank must protect 2 months’ worth of benefits in your account and let you use that money.
  • If your account has more than 2 months’ worth of benefits, your bank can freeze the extra money. 

Consumers can also use a new sample letter to tell a debt collector that their Social Security or VA benefits are protected from garnishment.

Additional Resources

If government funds, such as Social Security, are being spent on things that are of no benefit to a vulnerable adult, call Adult Protective Services at (888) 277-8366.

Call the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs at (615) 741-4737 or toll free at (800) 342-8385 to complain about unscrupulous business practices.
If an investment is involved, call the Tennessee Securities Division at (615) 741-2947 or toll free at (800) 863-9117.

For resources on financial protection for older Americans, click on