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Unclaimed Assets: Money the Govt. Owes You
 

Anxiously, you open the mailbox every day, but that government check is still not there. For most of us, an overdue check is an annoyance, but for persons on fixed incomes, it can be a critical, even life-threatening problem.

While people who have received Social Security, VA benefit or other government checks for many years know from experience what to do when one ends up late or missing, the first time can be disconcerting, to say the least. So, here is a brief summary of what to do and who to call when the check's NOT in the mail.

Overdue, Missing, Damaged or Incorrect Checks: All non-military payments from the federal government to citizens are processed by the Financial Management Service (FMS), a division of the Treasury Department. In the case of overdue, missing, damaged or incorrect checks, FMS recommends you first contact the agency involved directly to make or check on the status of a claim.

Toll-free numbers for federal benefit agencies:

Social Security Administration
1-800-772-1213
Department of Veterans Affairs
1-800-827-1000
Office of Personnel Management
1-888-767-6738 or 202-606-0500
Internal Revenue Service
1-800-829-1040
Railroad Retirement Board (Automated System)
1-800-808-0772

General questions about check claims to any agency can also be made directly to the Federal Management Service at:

Call Toll Free 1-800-826-9434 
In the Washington, DC area 202-874-8400 
E-mail inquiries to check.claims@fms.treas.gov

Change of Address: FMS also recommends contacting the agencies at the above numbers IMMEDIATELY when you change your address or any other information that could affect the delivery and amount of your check.

How Long are Government Checks Good? Federal law requires you to cash or deposit Treasury checks within one (1) year from the date of issuance. If you have a check over a year old, you should contact the agency that issued it at one of the toll-free number above. They will research the check and send you a new check if they can verify that your claim is valid. But... shortly after publishing this article, Mark Tofal, the author of the book Unclaimed Assets: Money The Government Owes You! sent the following valuable additional information on uncashed government checks:

"In perhaps the ultimate manifestation of "creative accounting," Congress voted into law in 1987 the Competitive Equality Banking Act (CEBA). Before CEBA, U.S. Treasury checks were "negotiable in perpetuity - they never expired and could be cashed at any time. Now uncashed checks are void one year after issue, or immediately upon return by the post office, if undeliverable.

Shortly after passage, the U.S. Treasury "mass cancelled" at least 10 million outstanding checks accumulated over several decades, the net result being an erasure of debt equivalent to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, without the accompanying social stigma and derogatory credit report!

But Federal agencies will reissue voided checks if lost or uncashed more than one year, right? Not necessarily!

On the books long before CEBA, a fairly obscure federal statute known as the "Barring Act" {31 U.S.C. 3702(b)} imposed a six-year statute of limitations on most claims against the Federal government It had little practical effect, however, since Treasury checks never technically expired and were, therefore, reissuable on request.

According to a Comptroller General's decision after passage of CEBA, however, "... an individual who holds a Treasury check beyond the 1-year period must submit a claim within six years of the accrual of the claim on the underlying obligation or the claim is barred." {© Unclaimed Assets: Money The Government Owes You!}

Mark Tofal; author Unclaimed Assets: Money The Government Owes You! 
www.unclaimedassets.com

Department of Defense Checks: For assistance with checks issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), you should contact DoD directly at 216-522-5630.

Use Direct Deposit: If receiving your government checks at the same time each month is critical to you, FMS suggests using its direct deposit -- Electronic Funds Transfer -- system. For complete information on direct deposit and instructions on signing up, see: Electronic Funds Transfer

 

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