< Back to Search

Social Security Administration

Frequently Asked Questions about Income Withholding and the National Medical Support Notice (NMSN)

Published: March 1, 2012
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Employer Responsibilities, Bonus/Lump Sum Reporting, Income/Wage Withholding
FAQs, Guides/Publications/Reports
Social Security Benefits

How do I determine whether a non-custodial parent (NCP) is receiving Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits?

Information about an NCP's Social Security benefits may be obtained through the State Verification and Exchange System (SVES) or through an external locate request from the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)/State Systems Portal.

State Systems Portal (SSP)

Automatic matching occurs constantly within the FPLS between the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and the Federal Case Registry (FCR). However, even with automatic matching, child support workers may need locate information not available through the NDNH or FCR. Using the FPLS's external locate service/State Systems Portal (SSP), state child support enforcement agencies may request additional information to determine whether an NCP is receiving Social Security benefits.

Through an external locate request, SSA provides identification and verification of the Social Security number (SSN) and either the employer's name and address or, if SSA benefits are being mailed to the beneficiary, the employee's name and address.

State Verification and Exchange System (SVES)

The SVES data expand the locate function of SSA as an external locate source by providing access to Title II and Title XVI records, federal prisoner data, and annual wage reporting (W-2) information.

OCSE's daily interface with SVES provides information to states more quickly than the current SSA external locate interface.

  • Title II and Title XVI records contain address information necessary for locating non-custodial parents (NCPs). Title II responses contain information regarding disability income and SSA benefits, which may be used to initiate income withholding orders (IWOs). Although Title XVI responses include SSI benefits that may not be attached for child support purposes, they may be helpful in determining an order modification in the review and adjustment process.

Where do I send an IWO to attach benefits payments from SSA?

All IWOs should be sent to your local SSA office

The local SSA office will enter the case data into SSA's Court Order Garnishment System (COGS). The information will be updated overnight and may be tracked online by an SSA worker.

Receipt of the IWO by SSA

When SSA receives an income withholding order (IWO), local SSA office staff enter the information into COGS, recording the contact name, address, telephone and internet address for the child support enforcement (CSE) agency or other entity. SSA may also use the state child support agency contact information listed in the OCSE Website. The State Lump Sum Contacts and Program Information on the OCSE web site include information on whom to contact at the state CSE agency for questions about attaching retroactive SSA disability benefits and implementing income withholding orders.

What happens when the NCP's SSA claim is pending?

If the NCP's disability claim is pending and no current payments are being made, the IWO remains in COGS until resolution of the NCP's claim has been made. Once the claim has been approved, payments will begin. However, if SSA has held the IWO for more than a year, it will first verify that the IWO is still valid before remitting any payments.

Attachment of Lump Sum Payments

COGS has a tracking system that should prevent the erroneous release of lump sum payments when an IWO is in place. When an IWO is on file at SSA, SSA will hold any lump sum payment of more than $500 as described below:

When the IWO provides specific instructions for handling lump sum payments, SSA will follow those instructions and automatically withhold up to the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) (or state) limit and send the remainder to the beneficiary.

When the IWO does not provide instructions regarding the attachment of lump sum payments, an alert will be issued for SSA payment center staff to contact the state CSE agency for instructions to process the IWO from the NCP's account. COGS will also withhold up to the CCPA limit from the lump sum in this situation.

NOTE: When SSA is ready to release a retroactive benefit and the IWO does not provide instructions, SSA will hold the lump sum payment and suspend ongoing payments to the beneficiary until the CSE agency has been contacted. Therefore it is critical that SSA payment center staff be able to reach the CSE agency in a timely manner to receive a response regarding attaching the lump sum payment.

Where do I send the NMSN for an SSA beneficiary?

SSA does not provide medical insurance for beneficiaries. Do not send the NMSN to SSA.

Where do I send a termination of the IWO for SSA benefits?

Termination of the IWO should be sent to your local SSA office.