FMS Partners with VA to Broaden EFT Outreach

By Adam Martin, EFT Strategy Division

In December 2010, the Financial Management Service (FMS) issued its final rule, 31 CFR Part 208 (208), requiring electronic funds transfer (EFT) for all new beneficiaries applying for federal benefits beginning on May 1, 2011. The final rule also requires existing federal benefit check recipients to convert to EFT by March 1, 2013. Central to FMS's ability to inform the public of this new regulation and to provide EFT options to all federal benefit recipients are the Go Direct campaign and the Direct Express Debit MasterCard card program. With this solid foundation, FMS has been able to accomplish some amazing milestones over the past year, including:

  • The 6 millionth Go Direct enrollment and the 2 millionth Direct Express enrollment,

  • A 7 state Direct Express, direct mail initiative targeted at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) check recipients which yielded positive results on the use of a prepaid debit card for Veterans Compensation and Pension payments, and

  • The implementation of a single toll-free phone number solution at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center (TEPSC), which accommodates enrollments to both traditional direct deposit and to the Direct Express card.

Issuing 208 made it easier for Treasury to move forward with its efforts to convert check payments to direct deposit, and to increase the number of new federal payments made electronically. VA has supported these efforts since 2008, when their Compensation and Pension paper check file was 700,000 per month. Amazing progress with the VA is evidenced by the most recent FMS Payments report (July 2011), where the VA Compensation and Pension file reflects 106,000 less checks with an approximately 594,000 check file.

VA broadened outreach plans in December 2008 with the printing of Go Direct messages on the back of Compensation and Pension check envelopes. Throughout 2009, check inserts were also included in VA Compensation and Pension check envelopes. In addition, the VA Regional Offices received tool kits with more information and educational materials. The VA offices were encouraged to use these materials to make their staffs aware of the Go Direct campaign and to spread the word to their local Veterans Service Organizations (VSO). VA was also encouraged to:

  • Discuss the Go Direct campaign in staff meetings and with local VSOs or county veterans' service offices, encouraging them to promote direct deposit

  • Distribute Go Direct materials to VA Compensation and Pension benefit check recipients

  • Include Go Direct articles in internal and external newsletters or online

  • Include information about the campaign in workshops, trainings, and other public speaking engagements

  • Display Go Direct materials such as posters and fliers in VA facilities, and make them available at veterans' events

VA continues to work with FMS to identify new opportunities to increase the use of EFT by veterans receiving federal benefit payments. Delving further into its goal of increasing VA direct deposit payments, FMS strives to replace cash and check payments for medical travel reimbursements at hospital and community locations. There have also been discussions with the Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Memphis, TN, hospital and community-based clinic locations about doing an instant issue debit card pilot for veterans who travel to VHA hospitals and are eligible for a gas/travel reimbursement payment. Currently, late summer/early fall 2011 is being targeted for a pilot start date. For more information on the Go Direct Campaign, visit www.GoDirect.orgExit FMS Web site.

   Last Updated:  August 24, 2011