The Social Security Administration has announced or put in place several other cost-saving operational changes:
- Temporary service sites in such places as remote community centers and hotel conference rooms will no longer be offered.
- Paper benefit checks will no longer be issued as of March 1, 2013. After that, all benefits will go out electronically. Officials say the move will affect only about 14 percent of recipients because most already receive their payments that way. The switch is expected to save the federal government more than $300 million in mailing and paper costs in the first five years.
The change will cover retirees, disabled beneficiaries, veterans, and railroad and federal civil service retirees. People who began collecting Social Security or other benefits on March 1 of this year or after were all required to receive their money electronically.
- Annual mailed statements providing estimates of a worker's benefits were stopped in April. Social Security spokesperson Kia Green says the mailings will resume in early 2012 to people 60 and older who are not receiving benefits. Younger adults will have to use the online Social Security retirement estimator to learn about their future benefits.
- A new call center, the first in 10 years, is in limbo. The Jackson, Tenn., facility now sits half finished with no schedule to resume work.
- Eight new hearing offices, planned for sites across the country, have been shelved.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.