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Lawmakers seek to protect seniors from Social Security cuts due to student loan debt

A significant number of older Americans are seeing their Social Security benefits reduced because of defaulted student loan payments, a practice that Democratic lawmakers, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren, are seeking to end. In a letter to federal agencies, they highlighted the financial strain this places on seniors, who often depend solely on Social Security for income. This issue has gained attention as the population of seniors with outstanding student loan debt grows rapidly, with many facing the threat of poverty due to these benefit reductions.

The practice of garnishing Social Security benefits for student loan repayment, established in the mid-1990s, has been criticized for disproportionately impacting older borrowers. With over 3.5 million Americans aged 60 and older holding student debt, the financial burden has escalated, prompting calls for a reevaluation of policies that permit up to 15% of Social Security benefits to be withheld.

The lawmakers’ letter, endorsed by a broad coalition of senators and representatives, argues that garnishing Social Security undermines the program’s foundational goal of ensuring economic security for vulnerable Americans. They propose exempting Social Security benefits from student loan-related offsets, emphasizing the need for policies that support rather than penalize seniors. The push for change comes alongside broader efforts to provide relief to those burdened by student loans, including initiatives by President Joe Biden to forgive debt for disabled borrowers.

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