Electronic enrollment for government benefits deadline is March 1, 2013

An important deadline looms for all people who receive certain government benefit checks. The U.S. Treasury Department is pushing for a March 1 deadline to get millions of people to convert to an electronic deposit system. All those who still receive their government benefit payments by mail must enroll before the deadline.

The change specifically affects those who receive the following types of federal payments:

  • Social Security
  • Railroad Retirement Board benefits
  • Veterans Affairs benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Office of Personnel Management benefits
  • Other non-tax federal payments

The government will save millions of dollars each month once the check delivery system is completely electronic. It costs the government 92 cents less to electronically deposit each benefit check than it does to issue a paper check.

Although the government has been working to reduce the number of paper checks that are mailed each month, about five million paper checks are still mailed on a monthly basis in the U.S. Nearly 160,000 benefit recipients in North Carolina still receive their checks by mail.

Accustomed to the older paper check system, some recipients dread the idea of receiving electronic benefits. However, in just one year, 440,000 Social Security and Supplemental Security Income checks were reported missing or stolen and $70 million Treasury checks were fraudulently endorsed. The director of the Treasury's Go Direct campaign explains that you are actually 125 times more likely to have an issue with a paper check than an electronic payment.

It is easy to set up your electronic payments online at www.godirect.org. The program permits benefit recipients to receive payments via direct deposit, a bank credit union account or through a Direct Express MasterCard debit card. There are pros and cons to each type of deposit preference

Treasury Department reports that approximately 93 percent of benefit payments are currently distributed electronically, and an estimated 1.93 million people receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments in North Carolina no longer receive paper checks. If the remaining recipients convert to electronic payments, the Treasury Department says this will save the government a whopping $1 billion over the next decade.

The government will not immediately withhold benefits from those who cannot adjust to the system; however, if you do not meet the March 2013 transfer deadline, you should expect to be contacted. The Treasury Department will grant waivers from the electronic payments to some people, including those born on or before May 1, 1921. Furthermore, you may ask for a waiver if you live in a remote area that does not support electronic payments.

If you would like learn more about your benefit options or the receipt of your payments, contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.