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What is a Social Security representative payee?

  • By:The Law Center for Social Security Rights
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When one is granted disability under the Social Security disability program, they might be in such condition that they will not be deemed able to manage the benefits on their own. If that is determined to be the case, then an appointment of a representative payee will be made. Prior to a representative payee being appointed, the medical evidence and other factors will be assessed to decide the person’s ability to manage the disability benefits. Some examples of recipients who would need a representative payee are individuals with mental defects or dementia or whose physical condition may make them more vulnerable to unscrupulous persons. Basically, it is for anyone who the Social Security Administration decides is not capable of managing or directing the management of the benefits.

There are a wide variety of people and entities that can function as a representative payee. They include a person who is concerned about the recipient’s welfare such as a parent or other relative,  an institution like a nursing home, or a social service agency. Although a representative payee is entitled to be reimbursed for expenses incurred from caring for the disabled person other than overhead (rent, utilities, etc.), no individual who is acting as a representative payee is authorized to receive compensation for services. A qualified organization can apply to be compensated for services from the payee’s disability payments, but must be approved in writing by the SSA before taking any sort of payment.

A representative payee must always act in the best interests of the disability recipient when distributing funds to be spent on his or her care. The disability benefits must be used for the person’s basic needs including food, clothes, living space, medical treatment and more. If there is any money left after all of that has been paid for, it should go into the disabled person’s bank account. The representative payee must provide a report stating how the money was spent on an annual basis. If requests are made by SSA, the representative payee should respond to them. A representative payee is not allowed to sign legal documents (other than those from SSA) on behalf of the beneficiary, nor does the representative payee have any legal right to manage or distribute any resource other than Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

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