Thursday, February 21, 2013

Federal benefit payments go electronic, deadline March 1, 2013

The U.S. Treasury will require that most recipients of Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and other federal payments receive their payments electronically instead of by paper check as of March 1, 2013. Recipients still receiving a paper check may receive their federal benefits via direct deposit to a bank account or through the U.S. Treasury-recommended Direct Express prepaid debit card. Prepaid cards offered on the private market can also be used for direct deposit, with some conditions.

Some limited waiver are available. Recipients who are receiving their benefits by paper checks on March 1, 2013 and are over 92 years old as of that date will be permitted to continue receiving their benefits by check if they request a wavier (see phone number below). Additionally, waivers will be permitted for mental impairment, or if the recipient lives in a remote geographic area which lacks the infrastructure to support the electronic financial transaction.

To request a waiver, recipients should call toll-free (800) 333-1795. However, persistence may be required. If needed, ask for a supervisor to assist you. If advocates experience significant problems, please contact National Consumer Law Center Attorney Margot Saunders for assistance via email at MSaunders@nclc.org.

The National Consumer Law Center has published an issue brief with additional information, including how electronic deposit of benefits can help protect bank accounts from debt collectors, available at: www.nclc.org/images/pdf/older_consumers/consumer_concerns/cc-electronic-payments-feb-2013.pdf.

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