The Treasury Department is advising Social Security check recipients who live in hurricane- and other disaster-prone areas to switch to direct deposit as hurricane season gets underway along the Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard states and severe weather continues to impact other regions of the country.

The recommendation is aimed at ensuring that senior citizens, people with disabilities and others can continue to receive their Social Security payments even if they are evacuated or lose mail service.

According to a new Treasury-sponsored survey, eight in 10 Americans say direct deposit is the most reliable way to receive a payment in the event of a natural disaster, while two-thirds claim they are prepared should disaster strike. Despite these findings, about 10.5 million Americans still receive their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments by paper check each month — including nearly 2.8 million paper checks to senior citizens, people with disabilities and others living in hurricane-prone states.

“Paper checks can be delayed or even destroyed in natural disasters, causing additional and unnecessary hardship for seniors, people with disabilities and others who receive federal benefits,” said David A. Lebryk, acting commissioner of Treasury’s Financial Management Service, in a statement. “Whether people experience a temporary disruption in mail service or an evacuation, the last thing they should have to worry about is how they’ll get their Social Security money.”

In the weeks following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Treasury pointed out, tens of thousands of emergency payments had to be issued. By contrast, Social Security and SSI recipients already using direct deposit were able to access their funds immediately through automated teller machines, debit cards and financial institution networks around the country.

Last year alone, severe weather events forced alternative delivery arrangements for millions of Social Security and SSI paper checks.

To make the free switch to direct deposit, call Treasury's Go Direct campaign helpline at (800) 333-1795, visit www.GoDirect.org, or talk to a local bank or credit union. Social Security and SSI benefit recipients without a bank account can choose to sign up for the Treasury-recommended Direct Express Debit MasterCard by calling (877) 212-9991, visiting www.USDirectExpress.com or talking to their local Social Security office.

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