James Lockhart was surviving on $874 a month in Social Security disability payments plus $10 in food stamps when his student loans from nearly 20 years earlier caught up with him.
He was told his Social Security checks would be cut by 15 percent, an offset to pay more than $80,000 in delinquent student loans. The next day, he started legal action that has led to a hearing Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case is compelling because many other people are potentially in the same position as Lockhart, at or near retirement age with 20-year-old student loans still unpaid, said Deepak Gupta, an attorney working on his appeal. The government brief on the case said there is nearly $7 billion in delinquent student loan debt, with about half of that amount over 10 years old.