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Lifestyles

November 26, 2011

Social Security: Did you know Social Security changes helped create the Grinch?

Is it just me, or are we celebrating the holidays earlier and earlier every year? I know it doesn't help that we had snow in October, but I'm pretty sure I saw some Christmas advertising before Halloween.

Since everyone seems to be getting "in the spirit" already, I thought it would be a good time to share a column Kermit Weaver, a former district manager of the Oneonta Social Security office, that was originally printed in The Daily Star in 2002. With mandatory electronic payments by March 2013 looming on the horizon, it seems to be an appropriate tale to tell.

You have all no doubt heard the story of the Grinch. His tale was chronicled by the famous historian Dr. Seuss, and reappears every year during the holiday season. But did you know that the Social Security Administration played a very important role in making the Grinch the famous celebrity that he is today?

Gregory Grinch (that was his full name before he became famous) was not always one of the most despicable villains ever. In fact, he was just a two-bit hood operating right here in the Oneonta area. He did a little burglary and an occasional mugging but his main activity was the most heinous crime of all. That's right, he stole Social Security checks.

Two or three times a year on the third of the month Gregory would pick a rural delivery truck and follow it on its appointed rounds. And as fast as the mailman put the checks into the mailbox, Gregory would take them out. It was a very profitable business.

But after years of living the high life, two things changed that brought Gregory down. The first was payment cycling. Instead of sending all checks on the third of the month, the Social Security Administration implemented a policy, which mandated that all new beneficiaries receive their payments on the second, third, or fourth Wednesdays of the month. Slowly, the number of checks being delivered on the third of the month decreased, and Gregory, who was unaware of the change, saw a considerable decrease in his ill-gotten gain.

But as bad a hit as Gregory received from the change to payment cycling it was nothing compared to what happened next. In an effort to make Social Security payments safer and more convenient, the Oneonta Social Security office started a campaign to get all Social Security beneficiaries to sign up for direct deposit. And this campaign proved to be so successful that within a short period of time, nearly all of the beneficiaries in the area were receiving their payments by electronic transfer.

Gregory Grinch was out of business.

As the story goes, Gregory was often seen outside the Social Security office waving his fist and screaming: "That's OK; if I can't steal their Social Security, I'll steal their Christmas."

And of course, the rest is history.

So get ready, because in just over a year, everyone will be receiving his or her Social Security payments electronically. You can find more information at www.socialsecurity.gov/deposit or www.godirect.org. You can also contact our office at (877) 628-6581 with your checking or savings account number along with the bank routing number and we will get you signed up. It is as simple as that. Once you've gotten that done, there's only one thing left to do: Have a very safe and happy holiday season.

tracey L. weaver is district manager of the Oneonta office of the Social Security Administration. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.

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