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Sending Income-Withholding Orders to the Social Security Administration (SSA)

IM-02-11

Published: December 13, 2002
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Employer Responsibilities, Income/Wage Withholding
Types:
Policy, Information Memorandums (IM)
Tags:
Social Security Benefits

INFORMATION MEMORANDUM

IM-02-11

DATE: December 13, 2002

TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS

SUBJECT: SENDING INCOME-WITHHOLDING ORDERS TO THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (SSA)

BACKGROUND: The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) has been working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve its procedures regarding how it receives, processes, and implements income-withholding orders. We are sending you this information at the request of SSA in order to clarify where to send an income-withholding order for a noncustodial parent receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

ISSUES:Child Support Enforcement (CSE) agencies have been sending hundreds of income-withholding orders directly to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Program Service Centers (PSCs) (including the central Office of Disability Operations (ODO), rather than to local SSA field offices. An income-withholding order for a benefit payment from SSA must be sent to a local SSA field office. Income-withholding orders may be sent to the nearest SSA office, regardless of the zip code or address of the custodial family or noncustodial parent. Processing begins in the local offices since they must determine which regional PSC has jurisdiction. Income-withholding cannot begin at a regional Program Service Center or the SSA Central Office of Disability Operations in Baltimore per law (42 U.S.C. 659), mandating service at local field offices only. SSA cannot process orders sent directly to a PSC or to ODO by CSE agencies.

SSA’s New Procedure

Once the SSA local field office accepts service of an income-withholding order, a worker checks the SSA Master Beneficiary Record to determine if the noncustodial parent/garnishee is in benefit status. If the person is in benefit status, the local office promptly faxes the order to the appropriate SSA Program Service Center to implement the income-withholding order. A preliminary notice is sent to the beneficiary that payments will be attached, and a copy of the court order is enclosed with the notice. If the SSA field office determines that the noncustodial parent is not receiving payments and if there is no claim pending, a notice is sent to the CSE agency or court informing it of this determiniation.

When a field office faxes an income-withholding order to a PSC, the order is placed in SSA’s new, paperless electronic system. The new system retains an electronic image of the garnishment order and any follow-up orders. This image becomes the "claims folder." Once the withholding has been initiated, the PSC sends a notice to the beneficiary and the court or county that initiated the order.

If the local office determines that there is a claim pending, the office notifies the potential beneficiary and faxes the notice to the appropriate PSC. The PSC scans the notice into a tickler file. If the claim is approved, the income-withholding order will be on file for processing before any payments are released.

Conclusion

Please note that the procedure described above is SSA’s current process. SSA is concerned that improperly served income-withholding orders may delay payments to the custodial families. Therefore, when sending an income-withholding order to the SSA, it is essential that you follow these current procedures.

A list of field offices is enclosed for your convenience.

We recognize that there may be certain operational difficulties with these procedures, and we are working with SSA on options that may serve the CSE agencies more efficiently. Please inform your state or county child support offices of SSA's current requirement that all income-withholding orders be sent to a local SSA field office.

Thank you for your cooperation.

______________________________
Sherri Z. Heller, Ed.D.
Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement

Enclosure Social Security Administration (SSA) Field Office Addresses

cc: Regional Program Managers
ACF Regional Administrators
Regional Training Liaisons
State Training Liaisons
Federal Case Registry Contacts
National CSE Training Work Group

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