Social Security Administration "Court Order Garnishment System"
DATE: March 23, 2006
TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS
SUBJECT: Social Security Administration (SSA) National Garnishment Database titled, "Court Order Garnishment System (COGS)"
BACKGROUND: Over the past several years, the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) has collaborated with the Social Security Administration (SSA) on a number of nationwide initiatives affecting the missions of both agencies and the people we serve.
Recently, SSA implemented a national garnishment system, titled “Court Order Garnishment System (COGS)” that will overhaul current business processes and improve SSA’s ability to respond to income withholding orders from child support agencies. As part of the new system, COGS will automatically identify individuals whose Title II Benefit claims are pending and flag any case for which an income withholding order has been received by SSA. OCSE appreciates the consideration SSA has given to the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program and looks forward to many years of continuing our productive partnership.
COGS – CSE Contact Information
COGS will rely heavily on up-to-date contact information from CSE agencies. When SSA receives an income withholding order (IWO), the local SSA office staff will immediately enter the IWO information and record the contact name, address, telephone, and internet address for the CSE agency. SSA may also use the contact information listed in the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) Contacts matrix.
The SDU Contacts matrix is being amended to include contact information for lump sums and certain income withholding orders. (OCSE will contact CSE agencies for this information in a separate communication.)
COGS – IWOs/Lump Sum Payments
SSA will review each IWO and if determined to be regular-on-its-face and benefits are currently being paid, SSA will immediately withhold and remit the child support payments. However, SSA may need to contact CSE agencies in the following situations:
- Income Withholding Orders and Pending claims. When an IWO is received, SSA will review the IWO, and if it determines that the noncustodial parent’s (NCP) disability claim is pending and no current payments are being made, local SSA staff will enter the IWO into COGS pending resolution of the NCP’s claim. Once the claim has been resolved, if it has been more than one year since the IWO was originally received by SSA, SSA will contact the agency issuing the IWO to make sure it is still valid before remitting any payments.
- Lump sum payments. SSA’s new system has a built-in tracking system that should prevent the erroneous release of lump sum payments when an IWO is in place. If an IWO is on file at SSA, SSA will hold all lump sum payments totaling more than $500.00 as described below.
- If there are specific instructions on the IWO 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.
- If there are no instructions on the IWO regarding the attachment of lump sum payments, an alert will be issued for the SSA payment center staff to contact the CSE agency to obtain current information on the amount to withhold from the beneficiary member’s account. COGS will also withhold the CCPA limit from the lump sum in this situation.
IMPORTANT NOTE: SSA will hold the lump sum payment and suspend all ongoing payments until contact has been made with the CSE agency to determine if there should be a withholding and, if so, what amount. It is critical for the SSA payment center staff to be able to reach the CSE agency in a timely manner and receive a verbal or written response with respect to the lump sum payment. Ongoing payments should resume once this communication has been made.
COGS – Income Withholding Information
Where to send IWOs
All income withholding orders should continue to be sent to any local SSA field office.
Sending IWO’s to a local SSA field office is a change for child support enforcement agencies in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas that had previously been notified in IM-05-11, dated November 18, 2005, to send IWOs to a centralized garnishment unit in Albuquerque. Albuquerque will no longer be accepting income withholding orders for these five states. All IWOs for these states should now be sent to any local SSA office.
The local SSA office will enter the case data into the electronic database. The information will be updated overnight and can be tracked online by the SSA worker.
OCSE will be in continual communication with SSA during the implementation of COGS. Conference calls with states will be scheduled as necessary to share information throughout the implementation.
Office of Child Support Enforcement
cc: Tribal IV-D Directors