Some federal benefits that are electronically deposited into your bank account are protected from garnishment. Money that is electronically deposited is put directly into your account; you don’t get a check that you deposit. They are:
- Social Security Benefits
- Supplemental Security Income
- Veteran’s Benefits
- Federal Railroad Retirement and Railroad Unemployment Benefits
- Civil Service Retirement System
- Federal Employee Retirement Benefits
To learn more about what money is exempt from garnishment, read Garnishment Exemptions.
If your bank gets a Writ of Garnishment against you, it must do a review of all the accounts in your name within two business days. It will look at your accounts to see if any exempt federal benefits were electronically deposited into your account in the past two months. This is the protected amount.
To learn more about garnishments, read An Overview of Garnishments.
Calculating the Protected Amount
The protected amount of your account is all the exempt benefits deposited in the past two months, or the entire balance of your account if it’s less than the amount of the exempt benefits.
For example, Mrs. Jones received $1,200 in electronically deposited Social Security benefits during the previous two months. If her bank gets a Writ of Garnishment for her account and there is $800 in the account, $800 is the protected amount.
If there is $1,600 in the account when the bank does its review, $1,200 is the protected amount, and the other $400 may be garnished.
Has It Been Two Months?
The bank can only protect exempt amounts from the past two months.
In the above example, if the bank gets the Writ of Garnishment on March 17, and does its account review that day, it will look back at Mrs. Jones’s account from January 16 through March 16 to see if there is any protected amount from electronically deposited funds.
What’s Not Part of the Protected Amount?
If you move money from an electronically deposited exempt federal benefit into another account, it won’t be part of the protected amount. You’ll have to file an objection to avoid having it garnished.
If you got money from an electronically deposited exempt federal benefit more than two months ago, it won’t be part of the protected amount, so you’ll need to file an objection to avoid having it garnished.
Read Objecting to Garnishments to learn more about when and how to file an objection to a garnishment.
If the garnishment is for a debt from the federal government, like back taxes, or for a child support debt, it will not be part of the protected amount, and it will be garnished.
What Happens to the Protected Amount?
If your account has a protected amount in it, the bank can’t freeze your access to that amount. But it may freeze any other money that’s in that account.
The bank can't charge any garnishment fees against the protected amount.