Knoxville woman faces Social Security garnishment mystery

Knoxville woman faces Social Security garnishment mystery

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Delores Padgett lives alone on a fixed income from a small money market account and Social Security. Delores Padgett lives alone on a fixed income from a small money market account and Social Security.
A bank record from July shows $1,215 from Social Security went directly to her account.  Now she's receiving $1,085.45. A bank record from July shows $1,215 from Social Security went directly to her account. Now she's receiving $1,085.45.
"I don't know. Feel like I'm going to cry. No! I'm not going to cry. I'm mad," said Delores Padgett. "I don't know. Feel like I'm going to cry. No! I'm not going to cry. I'm mad," said Delores Padgett.
"Well, what we want to find out is who doing the garnishment. Is it an accident? Is it something from her past? Did she miss some mail that explained what is happening? She doesn't know at this point," said Susan Bradford. "Well, what we want to find out is who doing the garnishment. Is it an accident? Is it something from her past? Did she miss some mail that explained what is happening? She doesn't know at this point," said Susan Bradford.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - An elderly Knoxville woman called 6 On Your Side because her Social Security check is being garnished and she doesn't know why.

Across America, almost 58 million people receive Social Security benefits. Among the elderly, nearly half of unmarried persons depend on Social Security for 90 percent of their income.

It is federal law that neither banks nor debt collectors can touch a person's Social Security benefits, but when the government is collecting on a debt, those funds are fair game.

The federal government can garnish your benefits for repayment of federal income taxes, federal student loans, or an overpayment from a government agency.

If that Social Security check is a huge part of your income, any cut in benefits can hurt.

Delores Padgett is no stranger to hard work. She grew up on a Wisconsin farm in the 1920s and 1930s. That work ethic served her well during World War II, when she was part of an all-female welding crew.

Married for 60 years and a mother of five, she and her late husband moved to Florida after the war, then five years ago came to Knoxville to be close to one of her sons.

With relatively good health, she lives alone on a fixed income from a small money market account and Social Security. That check from the government used to be just over $1,200 a month until two months ago.

Mrs. Padgett says she's called Social Security and the IRS, but says talking to a live person is difficult.

A bank record from July shows $1,215 from Social Security went directly to her account.  Now she's receiving $1,085.45.

The garnishment is a lot of money to Mrs. Padgett, but the mystery behind it is even worse. Mrs. Padgett says she can't get any answers.

An envelope from the Veterans Administration arrived a few days ago, but she can't figure out why it was sent. Neither she nor her husband had a VA pension, and she says it has nothing to do with the death of her son in the U.S. Army.
 
Padgett says her income taxes are up-to-date, and she has few debts, saying she doesn't like to owe people.

"Anything I got, I paid for," she said. "It's frustrating."

At the Office on Aging in Knoxville, Susan Bradford is trying to help Mrs. Padgett. Bradford is a case manager for Project Live, which helps seniors like Mrs. Padgett live independently in their homes as long as possible.

"Well, what we want to find out is who doing the garnishment. Is it an accident? Is it something from her past? Did she miss some mail that explained what is happening? She doesn't know at this point," said Bradford.

Bradford is trying to find an answer for Padgett,but with the partial shutdown of government services at places like Social Security, securing answers right now is difficult.

"I definitely feel for her. It is making her frantic," said Bradford.

"I don't know. Feel like I'm going to cry. No! I'm not going to cry. I'm mad," said Padgett.

The garnishment, the likely result of an overpayment, remains a mystery. Padgett and her case manager together will visit the Social Security office and they plan on contacting Congressman Jimmy Duncan's office to see if someone there can get some answers.

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