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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Please help me spread an important message to people who receive Social Security or other federal benefits each month via one of the estimated 5.4 million paper checks each month. Starting March 1, 2013, the Treasury Department is requiring all Social Security, VA, SSI and other federal beneficiaries receive their benefits by electronic payment. Senior citizens and other federal beneficiaries may choose either direct deposit or the Treasury-recommended Direct Express Debit MasterCard.

This new payment method is not optional. It is the law. Besides saving taxpayers money, switching to electronic payments provides a safer, more convenient and cost-effective way for people to get their federal benefits than paper checks.

Individuals who need assistance in switching to electronic payment can call the Treasury's secure Go Direct Call Center at 800-333-1795. Our agents are specially trained to answer questions and complete the switch-over process in less than 10 minutes.

We urge people not to wait until the last minute to make this important change. Thank you for your help, Abby. -- WALT HENDERSON, GO DIRECT CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR

DEAR MR. HENDERSON: You have come to the right place. Dear Abby readers are the most caring and generous people in the world, and I know they will be glad to help us spread the word.

Readers, if you or people you care about will be affected by this massive change in the way benefits are being distributed, please clip or copy this column and be sure those people are informed. And when you do, tell them that when they make the call, they must have either their most recent benefit check on hand, or know their 12-digit federal benefit check number. To arrange for direct deposit, they will also need to know their bank's or credit union's routing transit number and their account number.

Read more in: Money | Miscellaneous

Cropped Image Shocks New Widow

DEAR ABBY: My husband passed away a year ago. Four days after his funeral I received my copy of the church pictorial directory. My husband and I had posed together for our picture. Abby, they used the same photo with his image cropped out.

I don't have words to describe how shocked and hurt I felt when I saw it. While I am healing well, knowing that my husband is happy in heaven, that cropped photo still hurts. It is also being displayed on a bulletin board with members' pictures, along with two new widows' cropped photos.

Am I being overly sensitive? I'm certain nobody meant any harm. Still, I can't imagine anyone would have done this to a family photo if a child had died. Should I address the problem? I'd love to know what other widows and widowers think about this. -- SLASHED APART IN FLORIDA

DEAR SLASHED APART: Handle this by telling whoever is in charge of that pictorial directory, and the bulletin board, how you felt when you saw the photo. Then tell the person -- and if necessary the clergyman -- that you would like a replacement photograph taken and displayed. I am 100 percent sure the other widows will appreciate it because what happened was extremely insensitive.

Read more in: Death | Etiquette & Ethics

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