Electronic payments will soon be only way to get benefits

Chances are, if you receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or any federal payment, you receive it electronically.  More than 90 percent of people getting monthly Social Security benefits already receive electronic payments. If you don’t yet, that’s about to change.

There is a U.S. Department of Treasury rule that does away with paper checks for most federal benefit and non-tax payments by March 1, 2013. With a few exceptions, this mandate includes Social Security, SSI, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management benefits, and other non-tax payments.

People required to switch have the option of direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or they can have their monthly payment directed into a Direct ExpressÒ debit card account (Treasury’s debit card program).  Please visit www.godirect.org to learn more.

So, why the push for electronic payments instead of paper checks received in the mail? There’s a list of reasons an electronic payment is better than an old-fashioned paper check.

  • It’s safer: no risk of checks being lost or stolen;
  • It’s easy and reliable: no need to wait for the mail or go to the bank to cash a check;
  • It saves taxpayers money: no cost for postage and paper and printing; Treasury estimates this will save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years; and
  • It’s good for the environment: it saves paper and eliminates the need for physical transportation.

If you still get your check in the mail, don’t wait for the new rule to go into effect next year— sign up for electronic payments now. Please visit www.godirect.org today and begin getting your Social Security and SSI payments the safe, easy, reliable way — electronically.

(Kirk Larson is a public affairs specialist in western Washington for the Social Security Administration)