To recoup student debt, the government is leaving people who rely on Social Security with benefits that fall below federal poverty guidelines, the GAO says.
The number of older Americans defaulting on education loans has steadily increased in recent decades, as many have returned to college or co-signed loans for family members. Unpaid debt has resulted in the government garnishing the benefits of 114,000 people age 50 and older in the past year, more than half of which were receiving Social Security disability rather than retirement income, the GAO report said.
Garnishment exacerbates an already precarious financial situation for the 67,300 older borrowers who receive benefits below the poverty guideline, which is set at about $990 a month for a single adult. Even though no more than 15 percent of a recipient’s monthly Social Security payments can be taken in debt collection, that threshold has never been adjusted to reflect the increased cost of living.