Skip to Content




SSA Beneficiaries with Criminal/Traffic Debt Get Relief

Many Virginians – including people who receive benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) – have criminal or traffic court debt in Virginia state courts.  Court debt can include fines, fees, restitution, interest, or other charges.  Courts typically expect Virginians with court debt to make payments, but low-income SSA beneficiaries may be struggling with this debt, while keeping up with basic living expenses.  

Both federal law and now (beginning July 1, 2024) state law say that Virginia courts cannot require payments or send your debt to collections if the only money you receive is from the SSA (such as SSI, SSDI, or retirement benefits).  This is called SSA anti-alienation. 

It’s important that your only source of money is from the SSA.  If you have current income from a job or other sources, beyond from the SSA, these other sources of income are not protected – and the courts may expect payments or send your debt to collections. 

The Law

Virginia Code Section 19.2-354.1(J) states that:  
“In any case in which a defendant owes fines and costs and where such defendant’s sole financial resource is a Social Security benefit or Supplemental Security Income, then such defendant shall be exempt from making payments at least until such time that such defendant has a resource other than a Social Security benefit or Supplemental Security Income. If such defendant informs the court that his sole financial resource is a Social Security benefit or Supplemental Security Income, the case shall not be referred to collections… 

No Social Security benefit or Supplemental Security Income shall be considered an available resource in determining the length of time to pay under a deferred, modified deferred, or installment payment agreement and the amount of payments, if any…”

What SSA Beneficiaries with Court Debt Can Do

Affected Virginians, and their advocates, should inform the courts where they owe court debt that their only income is from the SSA.  Doing so should freeze payment expectations (or referral to collections) on a debt causing financial stress, and it will acquaint the courts with the SSA anti-alienation requirement. 

If your court debt has already been sent to collections, notify both the collections agency and the court that your sole income is from the SSA. 


The court and/or collection agency may require proof of income.  

Have Questions?  

If your sole source of income is from the SSA, and you feel you are being required improperly to make payments, please reach out to the Legal Aid Justice Center. 

Call 804-643-1086, email, or fill out our webform below.   
LAJC attorneys may be able to provide legal advice or assistance, in some cases.  Also, hearing from affected Virginians will help us in our work to ensure that Virginia is implementing SSA anti-alienation.

Back to top