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After Complaints, Treasury Declares Exceptions to Electronic Checks

Earlier this week, we wrote about the United States Department of the Treasury's ongoing efforts to go paperless in regards to Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, and similar government benefit payments. Treasury officials previously emphasized the fact that there would be no exceptions to the new electronic payments, and that everyone who received a government benefit check would have to do so electronically. However, after numerous complaints, the Treasury made the decision to relax the requirements for a select group of recipients.

In its most recent announcement on the issue, the Treasury stated that every American who currently receives government benefits such as SSI, SSD, and Veterans Affairs would have to make the switch to electronic payment by March 1, 2013. Officials have justified the switch by emphasizing that electronic payment is easier and safer than paper checks, and that it allows recipients to get their money more quickly. In addition, the change will cut costs dramatically, and is expected to save the government approximately $1 billion over 10 years.

In response to the date announcement, benefit recipients and consumer advocates expressed reservations about the change, stating that many older or mentally disabled SSD/SSI recipients may lack technology skills, and will therefore have trouble adapting to the change. In response, the Treasury created three exceptions to the paperless requirement, which will allow recipients over the age of 90, or who are mentally impaired, or who live in very remote areas, to keep receiving paper checks.

According to Jean Ann Fox of the Consumer Federation of America, the exceptions will protect those recipients who may only be able to deal with paper checks. "It's good news that Treasury has recognized that for some consumers, electronic delivery of their federal benefits is just not feasible," she said.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Paper checks will still be available to some Social Security recipients come 2013", Christine Dugas, 25 December 2010

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