I receive my Social Security, SSI or other benefit payments through checks: how will the 2013 policy changes affect me?

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If you, a friend, or family member is getting Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or any federal payment, it is likely that you get them electronically. However, many people still get benefits and other payments with a paper check.

Soon, people will not be able to get a paper check in the mail. By March 1, 2013, nearly all federal payments will be made electronically. This will include Social Security and SSI benefits.

People will be given two ways to receive their benefits. One choice will be direct deposit to the person’s bank or credit union account. The federal check then will go straight into the person’s account on payment day each month.

Another way to get a payment will be with a direct express debit card account. Money would be put on the card’s account on payment day each month. Payments will then be available for the person to make purchases and get cash back with purchases. To learn more about direct express go to www.GoDirect.org.

People who still get paper checks now need to change the way their payments come to them. The change can be made at the local federal benefit agency office, on line at www.GoDirect.org or by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at 800.333.1795. For direct deposit, people can also make the change at their bank or credit union.

People who are just applying for benefits will not be able to get paper checks. They will only be able to receive federal benefit payments electronically. Their choice will be to get their payments by direct deposit or on the direct express card. When they apply, they will have to choose one of these ways for payment. If they want to choose direct deposit, they will have to provide their bank or credit union account information.

The government said it made the change from paper checks because it is safer and easier. It also saves taxpayers money and is good for the environment.

This FAQ was written by Legal Aid attorney Karla Perry,    and appeared as a story in Volume 28, Issue 3 of “The Alert” – a newsletter for seniors published by Legal Aid. Click here to read the full issue.

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