Senior Citizens May Still Receive Social
Security Checks in Mail After March 1 Treasury Deadline
Group backed by Envelope
Manufacturers Association may have issue headed to a hearing in the
House of Representatives
21, 2013 – Senior citizens receiving their Social Security benefits by
paper check may continue to do so after the March 1 deadline for
converting to direct deposit or prepaid credit card, according to a
report in the Houston Chronicle and Print Week magazine. “It turns up
the checks still will be showing up in the mail after all,” writes
Chronicle reporter L.M. Sixel.
The Go Direct
website created by the Treasury still carries a Jan. 7, 2013 news
release saying that on March 1 the
“electronic payment law goes into effect,” that will be the end of
mailed paper checks to beneficiaries.
“The 5 million recipients who are still
receiving paper checks can continue to receive paper checks and
won't be forced to choose between direct deposit or a prepaid debit
card,” reports Sixel. “The department still plans to do what it can
to persuade holdouts to move to the electronic age. But until then,
the paper checks will keep coming.”
Sixel says Walt Henderson, director of
the Go Direct campaign for the Treasury, wrote in an email,
“We are going to work with noncompliant check recipients to
convert them to what electronic method works best for them.”
“I hope you appreciate that we have made the choice to not
automatically shift someone away from checks — especially
those who have unique circumstances or are in vulnerable
Print Week magazine says the whole issue is headed to a hearing
in the House of Representatives. Reporter David Ward says the credit
for halting the Treasury “no-paper-check-mandate” goes to
John Runyan, executive director of Consumers for
Paper Options, who says the matter could be introduced in the House
in a matter of weeks.
"Our first step will be a Sense
of the Congress resolution as opposed to a statutory change," he
explained. "It will ‘express the sense of the House of
Representatives that the federal government should take all
appropriate measures to ensure that citizens continue to be provided
with paper-based information products and services, while providing
the ability for all citizens to opt in for electronic delivery if
they so choose'," Runyan told Ward.
"Right now 30% of Americans
aren’t online at home," Runyan continued. "And 45% of senior
citizens don’t own a computer, so we clearly have a digital divide
and as a country are really not ready for the government to decide
that digital is the only form of communications for our citizens."
Ward writes that Consumers for
Paper Options is largely the brainchild of the Envelope
Manufacturers Association. Runyan told him the group works with many
other advocacy groups, including Consumer Action, the National
Consumers League, the National Association of Post Masters, Rural
Letter Carriers, the National Newspaper Association, the Taxpayers
Union, the Grey Panthers and the US Postal Service Inspector
Last September, CPO filed a statement with the
House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, which was
examining the issue. The CPO cited several issues with the Treasury
proposal, including the fact that millions of seniors are unbanked,
as well as the growing threat of identity theft and discriminatory
fees associated with the Direct Express debit card alternative. In
conclusion, Consumers for Paper Options encourages policymakers to
make paper checks the default while maintaining the option to
receive benefits electronically.
“In an apparent rush to digitize, the Social
Security Administration has developed an ill-conceived policy that
poses real hardships for vulnerable Americans,” Runyan, executive
director of Consumers for Paper Options, wrote in the statement.
“This mandate takes for granted that Americans
have bank accounts, while we know that across the U.S., 8.2 percent
– or one in 12 households – are completely unbanked, and that
percentage is even higher among elderly Americans. Meanwhile,
seniors who already have their benefits direct deposited have
experienced more than 19,000 instances of fraud in the last two
months alone. Beneficiaries are not ready for this mandate, and
neither is the Social Security Administration.”
Runyan continued, “The policy should be revised
to make paper checks the default, while giving all beneficiaries the
option to use direct deposit or Direct Express debit cards. Giving
beneficiaries the option to continue receiving paper Social Security
checks will make their lives easier and protect them from fraud and
identity theft as well as a variety of discriminatory fees.”
Consumers for Paper Options says it "is a new coalition
of individuals and organizations who believe paper-based
communications are critically important for millions of Americans,
especially seniors and the 30 percent of Americans without Internet
access. While regulated entities and governments at every level need
to streamline services, cut costs and improve efficiencies,
preserving paper-based options for information and essential
services for those who need or want them should remain a crucial
priority. The goal of Consumers for Paper Options is to preserve
access to information in a way that neither hinders the natural
evolution of technology nor discriminates against those who may not,
or cannot, use it." For more information, visit
Treasury News Release on Rule - (January 07, 2013) - The U.S.
Department of the Treasury today reported that 5.2 million checks
continue to be mailed to federal beneficiaries each month. With just
two months remaining until the March 1, 2013, electronic payment law
goes into effect, the Treasury Department is urging Social Security
and other federal benefit recipients to not delay and switch now to
either direct deposit or the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card.
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