Legal Services Protects Elderly Widow’s Social Security Benefits


Juana Schaffer is a widow in her 60s whose Social Security benefits are her primary source of retirement income. Juana came to Legal Services for help after the U.S. Department of the Treasury began garnishing 15% of her Social Security benefits to pay for a debt of nearly $4,000.00, including interest, she allegedly owed to Medicare. Treasury also intercepted Juana’s entire 2020 federal income refund for the purported debt. Juana’s Social Security benefits and SNAP benefits are barely enough to live on in Miami; therefore, the garnishment created an immediate financial hardship.


Legal Services Attorney Matthew Bayard represented Juana and filed a dispute of the debt on her behalf. Bayard successfully showed the debt was based on an erroneously dated closing statement for a settlement of an auto accident lawsuit that Juana had been involved in years before. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreed with the dispute and cancelled the debt. As such, Treasury stopped garnishing Juana’s Social Security benefits and refunded her the amount of $1,940.66.

Today, Juana remains financially vulnerable, but she is able to survive with the support of her Social Security benefits and food stamps. And, she no longer has to live afraid of income garnishment. According to Juana, “This situation had a huge impact on me – I became depressed! But, I was fortunate to have been recommended to Legal Services. Matt Bayard, the attorney who represented me, was extremely professional - I placed my trust in him and everything turned out perfectly.


If you or someone you know needs assistance with wage or bank garnishment, please visit https://www.legalservicesmiami.org/self-help or call 305-576-0080 to apply for services.

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