By Craig Roberts

As of May 1, anyone applying for Social Security, VA or other federal benefits will have to choose an electronic payment method.

VA benefits checks will soon be a thing of the past. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced that as of May 1, anyone applying for Social Security, VA or other federal benefits will need to choose an electronic payment method because paper checks will no longer be an option. Additionally, people currently receiving federal benefits by check, including payments from the VA, must switch to direct deposit by March 1, 2013.

The switch to electronic federal benefit payments may sound revolutionary but, in fact, that is the way most beneficiaries receive their payments now. According to a Treasury Department press release, “Among federal benefit recipients, approximately eight in ten receive their Social Security or other federal benefit payment electronically.”

The Treasury Department published a final rule in December 2010 to gradually eliminate paper checks for federal benefit payments. The resultant savings to taxpayers in paper and postage, says the federal government, will be about $1 billion dollars in 10 years. “In addition to the taxpayer savings,” says a spokesperson for the Treasury Department, “electronic payments are safer and more convenient than paper checks.”

To service veterans without bank accounts, including those who are homeless, the Treasury Department is offering benefit payments via a debit card called the Direct Express Debit MasterCard. More importantly, to help veterans and others make the transition from paper to electronic payments, the Treasury Department has instituted a public education campaign called Go Direct®.

Information about the change in the delivery of benefit payments, as well as application procedures, are posted on the federal website at Assistance is also being offered by the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center for free at (800) 333-1795.