A change in how benefits are paid by the Treasury Department may result in thousands of poor and disabled individuals losing their federal social security disability benefits. Previously states like Oregon were able to freeze 65 percent of an individual’s assets if they were behind in child support payments. The policy change would allow states access to the remaining 35 percent.
For many poor and disabled, their social security disability checks are their only source of income. Without these monthly disability checks, many will not be able to pay rent, buy food or sustain any type of reasonable standard of living. In many cases, child support payments lapsed because the parent wasn’t able to work due to a disability or because they were imprisoned or institutionalized.
Much of the money that is owed dates back decades and will not even go to the now grown children, but rather to individual states for repayment of welfare funds. One 44-year-old father, who stands to lose his benefits, currently owes more than $7,000 to the state where he resides for welfare benefits that were paid out to his now 22-year-old son. The man suffered a severe back injury and is disabled. He has not been able to work or subsequently pay child support since 2000.
The 44-year old disabled man went to court to appeal the debt owed, even having his grown son advocate on his behalf. The judge, however, claimed he was not able to wipe out the debt. Now the man is afraid he will likely face jail time as he has no means to repay the debt.
No one is questioning that parents who are able to work and earn an income that allows them to pay child support should do so. However many cases, especially those involving people on disability, are not so black and white. As more and more disabled individuals lose their benefits, the government will be forced to re-examine how they deal with those on permanent disability who are not able to work or pay child support.
Source: The Washington Post, “Poor who owe child support could lose federal benefits,” Associated Press, Feb. 26, 2012