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Wednesday, Jul 30th

Last updateWed, 30 Jul 2014 8am

You are here: Home Opinion Paula I. Bryant Going paperless

Going paperless

Effective Friday, anyone who receives Social Security payments or veterans’ benefits by mail will have to make arrangements to have their payments made by direct deposit into a bank account or onto a debit card.

That’s because in their effort to save money, the federal government is shifting to making all its payments electronically.

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

Cristina Martin Firvida, director of financial security, AARP Government Affairs Division, said while it’s important to get it done, people should not fret about meeting the deadline.

“If they have not made the switch by March 1,” she said, “they should not worry. They will continue to receive their benefit. This is so important to reassure everyone — their benefit will still come in the mail after March 1.”

A bank or credit union can help arrange for direct deposits or a debit card. It can be done online, at www.godirect.org or by calling the Treasury Department at 800-333-1795. AARP also has information on its website about making this transition, at www.aarp.org.

All banks and credit unions offer debit cards - and now, the U.S. Treasury offers a debit card, too, just for this purpose.

When considering a debit card, people should ask a few important questions: 

Find out about the fees for using the card;

 Check to see if there is a good network of ATM machines nearby so they can get cash when they need it;

 Check whether a debit card is practical for paying bills. 

If a person decides to go the debit card route, they will get one debit card, and it will be reloaded each month. If they go with the Treasury debit card, they have set up a call center so they have a way of calling and checking on their card’s balance.

But beware.

As with any change, scams will crop up. Authorities are urging people to hang up or press “delete” if they get a phone call or email with reminders about the deadline or requests for personal information to help make the switch. 

No one from Social Security is going to ask for that kind of information by phone or by email.