SSA: The check is not in the mail

As of May 1, new retirees no longer have an option of receiving paper checks from the Social Security Administration. New applicants for benefits are now required to start either electronic payments to their bank accounts or to sign up for debit cards.

The Treasury Department is in the process of going all-electronic for delivering payments to beneficiaries from SSA, the Veterans Affairs Department, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies, the department announced.

April 30 was the final day for new applicants to request paper checks, if they preferred. Starting May 1, the only options are electronic.


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For people who already receive Social Security checks and other federal benefits paper checks in the mail, the deadline to convert to electronic payment is March 1, 2013.

The department claims the move to electronic payment will save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years. The Treasury’s current cost of issuing paper checks is about $120 million a year.

"More than 18 million baby boomers are expected to reach retirement age during the next five years, with 10,000 people a day becoming eligible for Social Security benefits," Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios said in news release. "It costs 92 cents more to issue a payment by paper check than by direct deposit. We are retiring the Social Security paper check option in favor of electronic payments because it is the right thing to do for benefit recipients and American taxpayers alike."

Department officials also claimed the electronic checks are safer because they avoid the risk of being lost or stolen. In 2010, there were 540,000 SSA paper checks reported lost or stolen.

Currently, about 80 percent of federal benefit recipients receive their benefits electronically. The number has been rising annually, which the Treasury and SSA have been promoting in their “Go Direct” publicity campaigns and on the GoDirect.org website.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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