NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Millions of Americans are having difficulty paying off their student loans, and some senior citizens are finding out what happens if they default on those loans.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, the government is using funds from their Social Security checks to get the money back.

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When it comes to paying off student loans, most college students hope for the best-case scenario. But Eileen Joyce might be dealing with the worst.

Joyce, who is a senior citizen, took out a federal student loan to attend graduate school. But because of a disability, she could not pay it back.

“I had no money – just even for survival,” Joyce said.

But the federal government recently started taking it back – deducting $100 per month from her Social Security check.

“I thought I had a protected source of income,” Joyce said.

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But unlike other forms of debt, federal student loans aren’t forgiven, even after bankruptcy. Legal expert Mari Castaldi said it is a scenario that more and more seniors are now facing.

“The debt can be collected on forever,” Castaldi said.

In the past year, more than 140,000 delinquent student loan borrowers have had their Social Security garnished – triple the number a decade ago.

“The government doesn’t have to sue you to come after your assets,” Castaldi explained. “They can just swoop in and kind of start garnishing wages or Social Security benefits.”

The federal government is required to send at least three delinquency notices before garnishing Social Security, and Eileen was eventually able to get her federal loan discharged due to a disability.

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