Electronic payments: The best and soon the only way to get benefitsMore than 90 percent of people getting monthly Social Security benefits already receive electronic payments. If you don't yet, that's about to change.
By: Sharon Rushford, Social Security Administration, Alexandria Echo Press
Chances are, if you receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or any federal payment, you receive it electronically.
More than 90 percent of people getting monthly Social Security benefits already receive electronic payments. If you don't yet, that's about to change.
There is a U.S. Department of Treasury rule that does away with paper checks for most federal benefit and non-tax payments by March 1, 2013.
With a few exceptions, this mandate includes Social Security, SSI, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management benefits, and other non-tax payments.
People required to switch have the option of direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or they can have their monthly payment directed into a Direct Express debit card account (Treasury's debit card program). Visit www.godirect.org to learn more.
So, why the push for electronic payments instead of paper checks received in the mail? There's a list of reasons an electronic payment is better than an old-fashioned paper check.
• It's safer: no risk of checks being lost or stolen;
• It's easy and reliable: no need to wait for the mail or go to the bank to cash a check;
• It saves taxpayers money: no cost for postage and paper and printing; Treasury estimates this will save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years; and
• It's good for the environment: it saves paper and eliminates the need for physical transportation.
If you still get your check in the mail, don't wait for the new rule to go into effect next year - sign up for electronic payments now at www.godirect.org.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Question: I'm doing more things online, including shopping and paying bills. What are some things I can do at www.socialsecurity.gov?
Answer: Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to take a look at your Social Security Statement, which allows you to check your earnings record and get an estimate of your future benefits. Revisit your Statement annually. If you're ready to apply for benefits, you can do that online as well. Applying for Social Security retirement benefits online can take as little as 15 minutes.
Also online, you can find more than 100 publications with information about Social Security and its programs. You also can estimate your future retirement benefit using our Retirement Estimator, which allows you to get personalized estimates based on different retirement ages and scenarios.
Question: I usually get my benefit payment on the third of the month. What if the third falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday? Will my payment be late?
Answer: Just the opposite. Your payment should arrive early. if you usually get your payment on the third of a month, but it falls on a Saturday, we will make payments on Friday. Find information about the 2012 payment schedule at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/calendar.htm.