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Q&A The New Rules On Social Security Checks

Who is impacted by the new Treasury electronic payment rules, and what is the timing? For those already receiving a paper Social Security check on May 1, 2011, the deadline to switch to electronic payments is March 1, 2013.   These rules originally went into effect on May 1, 2011, for people who were new Social Security and other beneficiaries. 

  Why were these rules created?   The U.S. Treasury Department established these new rules in an effort to increase efficiency, reduce fraud and abuse, and save money.

  Does everyone have to sign up for electronic payments?  Are there any exceptions to this direct deposit rule? If you were born before May 1, 1921, you will continue to receive paper checks. If you have a mental impairment or live in a remote area, you may also apply for a waiver of the electronic payment requirement. Waiver applications can be requested by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795.

  I don’t qualify for any of those exceptions. How do I sign up for direct deposit with my bank account? If you already have a bank account, just contact your bank about setting it up. You could also visit your local federal benefit agency office or call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. If you have access to a computer, you can make the switch online any time, at www.GoDirect.org.

  March 1 has already passed, and I didn’t switch to electronic payment.  Will I still receive my Social Security check? According to congressional testimony provided by the U.S. Treasury Department, individuals who do not provide an electronic payment option by the March 1 deadline will continue to receive paper checks.

  I don’t have a bank and prefer not to have one.  Is there another way to get my Social Security benefits electronically? If you receive Social Security, SSI or other federal benefits, you may receive your payment electronically on privately-issued prepaid debit cards that meet certain requirements. The card account must be FDIC-insured, not offer account advance loans or lines of credit that are automatically repaid upon deposit of federal benefits, and offer additional specific consumer protections. If you already have a prepaid debit card or are thinking of getting one, check with the issuer of your card to ensure that it meets these requirements and is able to receive direct deposit of federal benefits.

With a prepaid debit card, you would receive your payment every month without having to worry about cashing your check, losing your check or having it stolen. You could use your card to get cash at ATM machines, and to make purchases at stores or online. Also, for those who have no bank account, using an approved debit card to receive benefits may be cheaper than cashing a check, given the exorbitant check-cashing fees that many places charge.

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