UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 29, 2009

CREDIT CARD COMPANIES ILLEGALLY BLOCKING SOCIAL SECURITY OF DEBTORS

Unsilent Generation - As New America Media reports, debt collectors for credit card companies and other creditors are now going after Social Security payments, which are supposed to be exempt from garnishment in such situations. Their tactics include freezing the bank accounts into which a beneficiary's Social Security checks are direct-deposited. When this happens, often without warning, old and disabled people find themselves suddenly without the resources to buy food and medicine, which can trigger a desperate medical crisis. . .

Margot Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center estimates that "tens of thousands of people every month," who are elderly or disabled, are being forced into dire financial circumstances. Bank account freezes and illegal garnishments of exempt funds, including veterans' benefits, are shredding safety nets. . . .

According to SSA, its payments provide baseline financial solvency for 13 million Americans, who would otherwise be in poverty. However, a 2008 report by SSA's inspector general, estimated that direct-deposit beneficiaries across the United States have incurred $177.7 million in total garnishments. The report did not attempt to estimate the near incalculable damage of bank account freezes.

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