Senior Citizens Depend on Paper Social Security Checks

Paperless Policy Penalizes Millions

The federal government is phasing out the issuance of paper federal benefits checks. New Social Security recipients are now either forced to use direct deposit or receive debit cards from which they can draw funds electronically.  This electronic debit option is known as Direct Express.

The U.S. Treasury attempted in 2013 to force all federal benefits recipients to switch to direct deposit or Direct Express debit cards, but had to abandon this effort after many seniors and other Americans refused, or were unable, to make the transition. Still, many made the switch under protest, and struggle with managing and accessing their benefits electronically. 

While some recipients will adapt, there are others who are frankly uncomfortable with financial institutions or the direct deposit process, have concerns about privacy and cyber security, or simply do not have a bank account.  If this policy stands, seniors who have long physically deposited their checks will evenutally be forced to switch to electronic banking. They face difficult - and potentially costly - choices.

Debit Card Not a Replacement for Paper Checks

The Social Security Administration's offer of a "Direct Express" debit card isn't much of a compromise to seniors who are already skeptical of electronic transactions or those who don't have a bank account.  In addition, debit cards carry ATM fees-levying a new tax on those who can least afford it.  The lives of many senior citizens, already struggling to adapt to the new digital world, are being further complicated.

Our seniors are not reassured by daily stories of data security breaches at major financial institutions, the ease with which thieves can steal both debit cards and pin numbers, or the potential complications and inconvenience of lost debit cards.

Not All Citizens Can Easily Adapt

While the government is under pressure to reduce costs, it cannot assume that all citizens are equally adept at utilizing electronic transactions and navigating ATM machines, PIN numbers or Internet security.  Providing a paper check option is important for seniors who are not adept at online transactions.

High Debit Card Fees Create Financial Hardship for Seniors

The Social Security Administration's paperless policy has direct financial costs for seniors.  Fees for ATM services, paper statements and funds transfers are all new charges that will accumulate for seniors who are least able to afford the extra costs.  Here is a quick review of the fees associated with the new Direct Express card:

Optional Services


ATM cash withdrawals after free transactions are used in U.S. including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. 
Surcharge by ATM owner may apply.

$0.90 each withdrawal (after free transactions are used)

Monthly paper statement mailed to you (if requested)

$0.75 each month

Funds transfer to a personal U.S. bank account

$1.50 each time

Card replacement after one free each year

$4.00 after one (1) free each year

Overnight delivery of replacement card (if requested)
*NOTE: Standard shipping is free

$13.50 each time

ATM cash withdrawal outside of U.S.
Surcharge by ATM owner may apply.

$3.00 plus 3% of amount withdrawn

Purchase at Merchant Locations outside of U.S.

3% of purchase amount

SSA Needs to Continue Offering Paper Social Security Checks

During the government's transition to Internet-only information and services, the Social Security Administration has developed an ill-conceived policy that poses real hardships for vulnerable Americans. Giving seniors the option to receive Social Security checks will make their lives easier and protect them from a variety of discriminatory fees.