The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 17, 2013

Gov’t phasing out paper checks

JOHNSTOWN — Those collecting federal benefits by mail are being urged to switch to electronic deposit as the days of the paper check are numbered.

The Treasury Department is trying to increase awareness and disseminate all the information necessary for beneficiaries to avoid problems with their federal aid.

Beginning March 1, those who receive benefits by mail from the Social Security Administration (including Supplemental Security Income, or SSI), Veterans Affairs (VA), the Railroad Retirement Board, the Office of Personnel Management or the Department of Labor (Black Lung) will be required to set up an electronic method for receiving benefit checks.

Recipients are being directed to call 800-333-1795 (open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST), visit www.GoDirect.org or meet with their local paying agency office to sign up. The process is free.

“We have a team of friendly, helpful agents standing in at our call center,” David Lebryk, commissioner of the department’s Financial Management Service, said in a release. “Many financial institutions, caregivers, senior services providers and advocates for people who are homeless or have disabilities have the necessary information and resources to help federal benefit recipients make the switch.”

In Pennsylvania, nearly 181,000 Social Security and SSI checks are mailed each month, and 5 million are sent out nationwide. This only accounts for roughly 7 percent of all benefit payments, however. The rest are electronic.

It’s the end result of a 2010 decision by the department to gradually “phase out” paper checks benefit payments.

According to the department, all of those saved trees will figuratively become currency over the next 10 years – to the tune of $1 billion in saved tax dollars.

Since May 2011, all new federal aid applicants have been given two choices as to how their money will be electronically deposited. Although federal beneficiaries may have their own unique situation, there’s one thing all aid recipients have in common: They’re going to have to complete this process, if they haven’t already.

“Switching to electronic payment is not optional,” said Lebryk. “It’s the law.”

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