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Social Security News

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

Jan. 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 populations.”

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.


Related Archived Stories


Time Running Out for Seniors to Meet March 1 Social Security Electronic Payment Deadline

Treasury Department urges remaining paper check recipients to make the switch now to direct deposit or a prepaid card - see video

Jan. 8, 2013

Read more Social Security News

also check Medicare and Senior Politics


"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 General’s Office.

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.”

To access the full statement, visit: Statement.pdf.

Consumers for Paper Options

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.

>> Report in Houston Chronicle.


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