Americans used to be able to get a college degree without going into debt. But politicians dismantled that debt-free college system, and the burden is now so heavy that student-loan debt follows people to their graves.
Today more than 700,000 people relying on Social Security are still paying their student loans. More than 160,000 Social Security beneficiaries have their monthly Social Security pension checks garnished to pay off federal student loans. The government also is taking money out of disability-benefit checks to pay off student loans of another 83,000 people between 50 and 65 who have college debt.
Social Security is meant to help seniors and the disabled cover their basic needs—food, housing, clothing. Until 1996 it was against the law to garnish Social Security benefits to pay debts. But that protection was stripped for debts owed to the federal government.
We can fix this. It doesn’t even require an act of Congress. The U.S. Department of Education can declare a moratorium on garnishing Social Security benefits for student debt. We can make this happen—and bring relief to the many Social Security recipients still struggling to repay their student loans.
It’s bad enough that systemic disinvestment in higher education is making a degree harder to attain and driving the student-debt crisis. But taking Social Security benefits from seniors and people with disabilities to pay student debt is just shameful. Americans earn that money over a lifetime of work, and the program is designed to help seniors and people with disabilities avoid poverty, not to pay off student debt.
Help us reclaim the promises of retirement with dignity and access to higher education by signing the petition an?d asking your friends and family to join you.
This petition effort is sponsored by a coalition of 21 labor and advocacy organizations. Prominent among those joining AFT in defense of retirees are the AFL-CIO, the Alliance for Retired Americans, Common Cause, and People for the American Way.