Check’s (not) in the mail

Deadline nears for end to federal paper checks, so be ready for it
Jan. 09, 2013 @ 11:23 PM

Amid all the talk in Washington about saving Social Security, raising the retirement age and dealing with so-called entitlements, one important change takes place this year that should not go unnoticed. Starting on March 1, all Social Security checks will be paid electronically. That means actual checks won’t be mailed out any more.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury says 5 million checks continue to be mailed to people each month. Treasury is urging Social Security and other federal benefit recipients to switch now — either to direct deposit or the Direct Express Debit MasterCard card.

“Choosing direct deposit or the Direct Express card makes it easier, safer and more convenient for beneficiaries to receive their payments. Switching to an electronic payment is not optional – it’s the law,” said David Lebryk, commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service. “If you or a loved one still receive paper checks for your benefit payments, now is the time to switch.”

The government has made it easy and free to change the way you get your federal money. Just call 1-800-333-1795 or visit

Currently, approximately 93 percent of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are being made electronically. That’s a remarkable evolution in the payment system. But it means 7 percent still receive paper checks. Unless they want to see their money cut off, they’ll have to make the change come March.

Why the switch? To save money — a common cry from millions of Americans aimed at the spend-happy federal government. Electronic payments will save taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years, officials say.

Since May 1, 2011, all people newly applying for federal benefits have had to choose direct deposit or the Direct Express card at the time they sign up for their benefits. March 1, 2013, is the final deadline by which all remaining federal benefit check recipients must receive their money electronically.

If you know anyone receiving federal money who hasn’t changed, encourage them to do so. Better yet, assist them in the switch. Millions of people are at risk of not getting their critically needed federal money. It’s time to make a final push to see that all are protected.