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Will the Fight Over the Postal Service Hurt Social Security Recipients?

By Christy Bieber – Sep 12, 2020 at 8:18AM

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You can overcome some of the problems it may create.

In case you haven't heard, the U.S. Postal Service is facing a funding crisis.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently convened in a rare weekend season to vote on a bill reversing new cost-cutting measures and providing a $25 billion cash infusion to the Postal Service. But the bill largely passed along party lines with mostly Democratic support and the White House is threatening to veto it.

The post office has become caught up in politics as lawmakers worry about its ability to handle an influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming November election. Concerns surroundings its operations have also come to the forefront in recent weeks as the postmaster general implemented changes designed to increase sustainability that have resulted in new limitations on service as well as slower mail delivery. 

But as critical as it is to maintain service levels to ensure all votes are counted, there are other reasons the post office is important as well. One of them is that many Social Security retirees depend on it. 

Broken white piggy bank with coins spilling out.

Image source: Getty Images.

The postal service is essential for Social Security's operations

Today, most people receive Social Security checks by direct deposit, but not all seniors do. In fact, an estimated 850,000 paper checks are mailed out on a monthly basis. Those who receive them could find their payments delayed as the Postal Service cuts back on services, especially if they live in more rural areas.

It's not just this minority of benefits recipients who could be hurt if the mail doesn't function as effectively going forward. Social Security also sends out notifications via mail as well as replacement cards and forms to enroll in Medicare. And with many Social Security offices still shut down due to COVID-19, more Administration business than ever is being done through the postal service, even as overall usage of the postal service has declined and exacerbated funding problems.

If retirees are slow to receive forms from the Social Security Administration or it takes a longer time to send documents to the SSA, this could have an adverse impact on those looking to sign up for services or make changes to their accounts. 

Retirees can minimize the impact of the Postal Service's problems on their own benefits by doing as much online as they can. Many aspects of your account can also be managed on the internet simply by signing up for a mySocialSecurity account if you haven't already. You will need a valid email address, your Social Security number, and your mailing address to sign up.

If you are still receiving your check by mail, you may also want to change that. While the federal government required most beneficiaries to receive direct deposits starting in 2013, around 1% of beneficiaries applied for a waiver to continue receiving traditional checks. If you're one of them, consider signing up for direct deposit as soon as possible. Or, if you don't have a bank account, you can opt to receive payments via Direct Express, which is a prepaid Mastercard debit card available from the U.S. Treasury Department. The card is largely free of fees, although you would have to pay to make more than one ATM withdrawal per month. 

It can be a hassle to switch the way you receive your benefit or to sign up for an online account -- especially if you aren't very familiar with technology or don't have an email address. But with the political fight over the Postal Service threatening the reliability of mail service, it may be worth the effort to make sure you don't see a delay in the delivery of your benefits or other important correspondence from the Social Security Administration. 

Christy Bieber has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Mastercard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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