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SSA Sets Start Date for Mandatory Electronic Checks

In an effort to increase the security of government benefit payments and to make the process easier for recipients, officials from the United States Department of the Treasury recently announced that the payments of certain government benefits will be processed electronically in the very near future. This means that recipients of benefits such as Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will no longer receive paper checks on either May 1 of this year or in 2013, depending on their current benefit status.

According to Treasury officials, Americans who apply for benefits this year will begin receiving their benefit checks electronically starting May 1, 2011. Those who already receive Social Security and other benefits such as Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board benefits must make the switch to electronic payment by March 1, 2013.

The change will mean little to the vast majority of SSD/SSI benefit recipients who currently receive electronic payment. According to Treasury Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard L. Gregg, approximately 80 percent of benefit recipients already use direct deposit. The Treasury plans to launch an education campaign to help the remaining 20 percent make the switch.

According to Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue, electronic payment makes the program much simpler and safer for recipients. "Switching now eliminates the risks of lost and stolen checks," he said, "and provides immediate access to your money on payment day."

From a fiscal standpoint, Gregg says, going paperless is a no-brainer. "This important change will provide significant savings to American taxpayers who will no longer incur the annual $120 million price tag associated with paper checks," he said, estimating that electronic payment will save approximately $1 billion over 10 years.

Source: CNN, "Government checks to go paperless", 21 December 2010

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