WASHINGTON — Seniors who were threatened with the loss of their benefits if they did not trade in their paper checks for Social Security benefits paid through a debit card or electronic deposit may be getting a reprieve.
The Treasury Department has agreed to make it easier for them to request a waiver to the electronic requirement, after a hearing held by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging.
Millions of beneficiaries switched to an electronic payment with no trouble. But the Treasury Department was spending an inordinate amount of resources pressuring the remaining 3 percent, said Nelson and other members of the committee. About 2.5 million beneficiaries receive paper checks.
''This group contains some of the most vulnerable and least tech-savvy of our seniors, and this committee is going to stand up for them," Nelson said in June. "It's hard to understand the value of getting them to switch."
More than 1 million Floridians over 65 receive Social Security benefits. Roughly a third of those seniors rely on it as their sole source of income, according to AARP.
The Treasury Department had already said it would waive the electronic conversion for seniors who were 90 years old as of May 1, 2011. But in a letter to Nelson last week, the department said it will stop using threatening language in letters to beneficiaries who have not embraced electronic access.