McCaskill Bill Prevents Seniors from Being Forced into Poverty in an Attempt to Recoup Student Loan Debt
Senator’s legislation would protect seniors’ Social Security benefits from forced garnishment due to student loan debt
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill introduced legislation this week that would prevent seniors from being pushed into poverty due to garnishments on Social Security benefits from student loan debts.
“Tens of thousands of seniors are being pushed into poverty due to decades old student loan debt—and many thousands more will suffer the same fate if we don’t act,” McCaskill said. “This undermines the promise of Social Security that seniors should be able to retire with dignity—it’s not right and I won’t stand for it.”
McCaskill’s Protecting Seniors with Student Loans Act legislation would increase the Social Security benefits protected from Department of Education garnishment from the $750 monthly limit enacted in 1996 to be annually adjusted for inflation, bringing the amount of monthly benefits protected in 2018 to $1,183. This would ensure that when the federal government recoups defaulted student loan debts, it does not send seniors below the federal poverty line, while ensuring wealthier Americans would not escape collection of Department of Education debt.
This legislation comes following a report McCaskill requested by the Government Accountability Office that showed that in the previous ten years the amount of student loan debt among seniors skyrocketed, as had the number of seniors whose Social Security benefits are being garnished in order to recoup that debt. Additionally, the report found that since 2004, the number of seniors whose Social Security benefits have been garnished below the poverty line has increased from 8,300 to 67,300, and more than 70% of garnished Social Security benefits were going toward fees and interest, and not paying down seniors’ principal balances—leaving many seniors with a reduced standard of living, in a cycle of debt they could not escape.
Protecting Social Security benefits and advocating for the program’s recipients have been top priorities for McCaskill throughout her time in the Senate. McCaskill supported a change that would modify the cost of living adjustment used to determine the annual increase in Social Security benefits to better reflect the expenses seniors face, including out-of-pocket medical expenses. Additionally, McCaskill backed the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act that would repeal provisions in law that reduce Social Security payouts for individuals who paid into Social Security, yet are also eligible for pension benefits from public sector jobs outside the Social Security system.