The general rule is that social security benefits are exempt from garnishment. There are exceptions to most rules. One of my clients had retired from a government agency, and the government claimed the client owed the government money. The agency represents that they have the right to a lien on all government benefits, including social security payments. The agency did not cite a statute or contract right. However, the government’s position makes sense. If you owe money to the IRS you cannot receive a tax refund. Similarly, if you owe money to another government agency it seems reasonable that agency have a lien on government pensions and other benefits. As with tax debt, asset protection rules are often different when the creditor is the U.S. government.