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Senior Citizen Alerts

Treasury Retiring Paper Check for Social Security, Other Benefits; Saves $1 Billion

Seniors, others currently receiving federal benefits by paper check must switch to direct deposit by March 1, 2013.

U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios holds $1 billion check as symbol of savings from going to electronic pay methods

April 27, 2011 – Starting on May 1, the U.S. Treasury will switch to an electronic payment method for Baby Boomers and others signing on for Social Security, veterans’ affairs payments or other benefits. Senior citizens and others currently receiving their federal benefits by paper check must switch to direct deposit by March 1, 2013. The move is projected to save taxpayers $1 billion over ten years.

Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios yesterday highlighted the savings to taxpayers by ceremonially writing a check to American taxpayers in the amount of $1 billion.

“More than 18 million baby boomers are expected to reach retirement age during the next five years, with 10,000 people a day becoming eligible for Social Security benefits,” said Treasurer Rios.


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Sept. 4, 2008 - The check is in the mail – your Social Security check, that is. But for nearly two million recipients in a dozen Western states it may be about their last to be delivered by the postal service. Since June, the U.S. Treasury has been rolling out the Direct Express Debit MasterCard card as a new way for senior citizens  and other recipients to receive their benefits. Read more...

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Jan. 7, 2008

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“It costs 92 cents more to issue a payment by paper check than by direct deposit. We are retiring the Social Security paper check option in favor of electronic payments because it is the right thing to do for benefit recipients and American taxpayers alike.”

The Treasury Department published a final rule in December 2010, to gradually eliminate paper checks for federal benefit payments. In addition to the taxpayer savings, electronic payments are safer and more convenient than paper checks. Last year alone, more than 540,000 Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) paper checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be replaced.

People newly applying for federal benefits on or after May 1, 2011, must choose an electronic payment option at the time they sign up for their benefits.

Direct deposit option

If they wish to direct their money into a bank or credit union account, they will want to have the following information on hand at the time they apply for their benefits:

  ● Financial institution’s routing transit number (often found on a personal check)

  ● Account type – checking or saving

  ● Account number (often found on a personal check)

Prepaid debit card option

People who prefer receiving their payments on a prepaid debit card or who do not have an account at a financial institution can receive a Direct Express Debit MasterCard card.

For more information, visit

Over 18% of Personal Income from Fed - Aging Population

Here's an indication of how widespread the support for federal spending is, especially for the sort that winds up providing income support or health-care for Americans.

USA Today reports that 18.3 percent of the nation's total 2010 personal income was from the federal government in the form of Social Security, Medicare or other social safety net programs. For years until 2000, the story says, the percentage bumped along at about 12.5 percent.

Partly due to job losses caused by the Great Recession, wages made up the lowest share of income since the government started keeping records in 1929, according to USA Today.

The aging of the U.S. population was among several factors driving up the percentage of Americans who depend completely or in part on federal help.


Historic move away from checks

On January 31, 1940, Ida Mae Fuller received the first monthly Social Security benefit check and, to date, about 165 million people have received Social Security benefits.

The movement toward electronic payments has been steadily increasing. According to the 2010 Federal Reserve Payments Study, electronic payments now make up over three-quarters of all noncash payments nationwide.

There were 5.7 billion fewer checks written in 2009 than in 2006, a decline of 6.1 percent per year – while electronic payments grew 9.3 percent during that same period. Among federal benefit recipients, approximately eight in 10 receive their Social Security or other federal benefit payment electronically.

Go Direct public education campaign

The Treasury Department’s Go Direct® public education campaign provides information to Americans about the change to how federal benefit payments are being delivered and makes it easy for current check recipients to switch online at or by calling a toll-free helpline.

Making the switch from paper checks

Current check recipients must switch to electronic payments before March 1, 2013. Switching from checks to direct deposit is fast, easy and free at, by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-333-1795, or by speaking with a bank or credit union representative.

If you do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, or at the time you apply for federal benefits, you will receive your payments via the Direct Express® card so you will not experience any interruption in payment.

Anyone already receiving federal benefit payments electronically will continue to receive their money as usual on their payment day. No action is required.

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