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Hundreds of thousands of Social Security checks still go out by mail

August 18, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Claims that Americans rely on the United States Postal Service for Social Security benefits are invalid because the Social Security Administration stopped mailing paper checks in 2013.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The SSA encourages Americans to create digital accounts and receive their benefits electronically, but hundreds of thousands of users still count on the USPS to get their checks every month.

THE FACTS: As lawmakers in Washington fought with the president over USPS funding ahead of an election that will likely involve unprecedented levels of mail-in voting, several politicians pointed out that Americans rely on the mail for essential services such as Social Security.

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Democrats doubled down on that argument during the first night of the Democratic National Convention, with host Eva Longoria Bastón saying, “Social Security beneficiaries count on the post office to get their checks.”

Conservative websites and social media users quickly pushed back on those claims, pointing to a 2013 initiative by the U.S. Department of the Treasury that was meant to phase out paper checks and transition them to all-electronic delivery. 

“I wonder if CNN will fact check itself,” read one Instagram post with a video clip from the first night of the Democratic National Convention. “Social Security stopped sending paper checks in 2013…”

It’s true that there was a federal government initiative to move toward electronic payments in 2013, and the vast majority of Social Security recipients receive electronic payments. 

But the SSA confirmed to The Associated Press in an email that hundreds of thousands of Americans still rely on the post office to get their checks.

“Currently, the Social Security Administration pays approximately 71.6 million (98.8%) Social Security and SSI benefits electronically per month and mails nearly 850,000 (1.2%) per month,” wrote Mark Hinkle, acting press officer for the agency.

The SSA also mails paper statements to workers aged 60 and older who do not receive Social Security benefits and don’t have digital accounts.

“We normally mail around 15 million paper Statements per year,” Hinkle wrote.

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On Monday night, the conservative website The Daily Caller deleted a tweet shared thousands of times that spread the false claim.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536