Deadline Approaches for Social Security’s “Paperless” System

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The March 1 deadline is approaching for anyone who receives Social Security, SSI payments or veterans’ benefits by mail.

To save money, the federal government wants to make all of its payments electronically. That means a direct deposit into a bank account, or onto a debit card.

If there are seniors in your life, it’s a good time to ask them if they’ve let Social Security know how they want to receive their benefits – or help them with the transition.

Cristina Martin Firvida, director of financial security for AARP’s Government Affairs Division, says it’s important to get it done, but don’t worry too much about the deadline.

“If they have not made the switch by March first, they should not worry,” she says. “They will continue to receive their benefit. This is so important to reassure everyone – their benefit will still come in the mail after March first.”

Martin Firvida says a bank or credit union can help arrange for direct deposits or a debit card. It can be done online, at godirect.org, or by calling the Treasury Department at 800-333-1795.

With a debit card, Martin Firvida says there are a few important questions to ask. Find out about the fees for using the card – whether there’s a good network of ATM machines so you can get cash when you need it – and whether a debit card is practical for paying bills.

All banks and credit unions offer debit cards – and now, she says the U.S. Treasury has a card, too, just for this purpose.

“You will get one debit card, and it will be reloaded each month,” she says. “If you go with the Treasury debit card, they have set up a call center so that you have a way of calling and checking on the balance of your card, so that recipients can have that assurance that the deposit has been made to the card before they go out and use it.”

About 25 percent of West Virginians receive Social Security, more than almost any other state. And AARP is warning people that with any change, there are always scams that crop up. Martin Firvida says if you are called or emailed with reminders about the deadline or asked for personal information to help make the switch, hang up or press “delete.”

“Don’t give that out,” she says. “No one from SSA is going to ask you for that kind of information by phone or by email. You should never respond to those kinds of inquiries.”

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