Feb 8, 2017

Benefits Card Problems

     From KING-TV:
Washingtonians who are among the roughly 5 million Americans relying on a special debit card offered by the federal government for Social Security recently had trouble accessing their cash.
Direct Express promises safety and convenience. However, multiple users complained they couldn't find an ATM in Western Washington that would accept the card without a $3 penalty.
"To direct deposit, you need to have a bank account for the money to come into the bank, which I didn't have. So, it really was my only choice," said Larry Woods, a recipient of Social Security, explaining why he chose Direct Express.
The trouble started when Woods visited his nearest ATM and was blocked from obtaining cash without paying a surcharge.
Woods lives on just over $800 a month. So for him, $3 makes a big difference. As he put it, "It's lunch." ...
Technically, Woods shouldn't have to pay. On the website, Direct Express claims to have an extended network of surcharge-free ATMs.
However, when KING 5 accessed the website,  most of the links weren't working or identified zero participating ATMs west of the Rockies.
While Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Fiscal Service regulates the program, it's facilitated through a contract with Comerica. A Comerica spokesperson said the Direct Express website was experiencing temporary technical issues. ...
After roughly two weeks, the website ATM search tool was functioning again.
Direct Express Card Holders can visit BECU branch ATM's without a penalty, according to other area banks. ...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an excellent grounds for a civil class action lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

A law suit because a hyperlink on a website wasn't working? Anyone can use google or siri, or the three other URLs by typing them directly into their browser, or asking Alexa, or asking your google based phone, or by downloading the direct express app. Their are literally 9 other ways of finding surcharge fee ATMs in that region.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone can use google or siri,..." - Not everyone has a cell phone, especially in this group.

Anonymous said...

Most collectors of SSI or below average SSD benefit amounts can have an Obamaphone. That's knowledge that swiftly moves through poor/subsidized areas.

Anonymous said...

It is the rarest of SSI recipients, including many children, who do not have a smart phone--we see them in the office each and every day. And not generic style phones but the best and newest models. "grounds for a civil class action" indeed. One of the main reasons we are so backed up is because attorneys have taken over the initial claim process as well as appeals...

Anonymous said...

Also, people can take money off their direct express card, use it to open a bank account, and then start getting direct deposit. Most people who have direct express would be better off only using it for a couple months until they can open a bank account and get direct deposit set up. Yes, it's annoying to deal with that but ultimately a bank or credit union account is better than direct express. The BECU mentioned in the article has free checking with no minimum balance.

Most people who can't figure out how to do this probably would benefit from having a payee, since if you can't navigate opening a bank account, telling SSA you want direct deposit, and avoiding overdraft fees, you probably aren't going to manage money well or be able to handle SSA's reporting requirements.

Anonymous said...

I think some of the commenters who don't think its important forgot we are talking about people with disabilities here. Many people using the cards have mental disabilities. If you make it confusing or difficult for them many will have problems, even if you would not. If the government is paying some company to administer this program for what they know is a vulnerable population like that and they screw it up, then yes there should be reimbursement and/or a penalty.

Anonymous said...

We're not allowed in the FO to recommend one course of action over another. We universally ignore that, and I recommend to everyone to open a bank account at a bank with a local branch. Direct Express' numerous customer service issues are just to big to ignore.

The card is only meant for the under-banked (those unable to access traditional banking services). But it's marketed as a convenience. SSA does a disservice to its stakeholders by pushing it as anything more than a last resort.

Anonymous said...

Banks over draft fees will eat your check up quick and they won't work with you on getting any fees taken off help u get evened bk out. It ll leave umeans u homeless and hungry for the next few month. Its all a money maker the banks always end up w the most of your check by the end of it u owe so much good luck ever having a savings or buying a home and car