The Allen Law Firm Blog - Connect with Us

Social Security Benefits Are Not Projected Disposable Income in Chapter 13 Cases

For purposes of payments into a Chapter 13 Plan, Social Security benefits are not projected disposable income. The Bankruptcy Code defines ‘disposable income’ to mean current monthly income received by the debtor . . . less amounts reasonably necessary for certain enumerated expenses. 11 U.S.C. § 1325(b)(2) “Current monthly income,” is defined as the average of “all sources” of the debtor’s monthly income during the previous six-month period. 11 U.S.C. § 101(10A)(A). The statutory definition of “current monthly income” explicitly “excludes benefits received under the Social Security Act.” 11 U.S.C. § 101(10A)(B). In re Ragos, 466 B.R. 803 (5th Cir. 2011). See also Baud v. Carroll, 634 F.3d 327, 346 (6th Cir. 2011) and In re Cranmer, 697 F.3d 1314 (10th cir. 2012)

Moreover, the Social Security Act provides that “none of the moneys paid or payable or rights existing under this subchapter shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or to the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.” 42 U.S.C. § 407(a). And any law attempting to overcome Social Security income’s exemption must explicitly cite to § 407 which the Bankruptcy Code does not do. 42 U.S.C. 407(b); In re Ragos, 466 B.R. 803 (5th Cir.2011).

Lump sum Social Security payments, such as for back pay, are also not disposable income for bankruptcy purposes becasue “[Section] 407 does not contain any qualifying language. It explicitly demands that no past or future social security payments may be subject to the operation of any bankruptcy law.” In re Carpenter, 614 F.3d 930 (8th Cir. 2010).