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Supreme Court hears dispute over delinquent student loan collection

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday heard oral arguments in Lockhart v. US [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], a case in which it will decide whether the US government can use part of a person's Social Security benefits to pay overdue student loans. Justices appeared unsympathetic to the claims of James Lockhart, who argued that he needed all of his monthly $847 Social Security payments for food and medical expenses. The case deals with legislation, the Debt Collection Act and the Higher Education Act, that appears to conflict on whether the government can use the Social Security payments to cover delinquent loans. Congress eliminated a 10-year limit on the government seeking debt repayments on student loans in the 1991 education bill, a point raised by Justices Stephen Breyer and David Souter [Oyez profiles] during oral arguments. Lockhart's attorney, Brian Wolfman, argued that the debt act had exempted Social Security payments from being used to pay off other debts. The US Department of Education [official website] has estimated $7 billion in student loans are overdue. AP has more.

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