The government’s practice of mailing monthly benefit checks will end in March 2013. The checks will be received electronically through a direct bank deposit or a debit card for those people without a bank account. The change will affect millions of people and will mean another loss of business for the Postal Service.
The benefits include Social Security, veterans’ benefits, railroad pensions and federal disability payments. Tax refunds are exempt and for those people who want their refunds by check, they will get them by mail.
It will mean no change for millions of people. About 90 percent of the people who receive federal benefits already are getting them electronically. The Treasury Department says electronic payments are safer and more efficient than paper checks. It adds that in 2010, more than 540,000 federal benefit checks were lost or stolen. The department also said the Feds will save about $120 million a year. Social Security will save $1 billion over the next decade.
Not everybody’s happy with the change. Many older retirees don’t use electronic services. They have a routine for depositing their check and using it as a guide as to their daily living and spending habits. They may lose track of a payment and don’t understand that they have a card that came in the mail that’s the source of their payment. The debit card will be foreign to them, advocates for elderly people say.
The AARP wants thorough education on the change and an easy method to obtain a waiver. The AARP also is concerned about fees associated with debit cards.
Change can be difficult for older people. By disrupting their routines, it creates a hardship. It’s tougher for them to make adjustments.
One senior told us it’s another example of government interfering with their lives.