Social Security And Representative Payees

What is a representative payee?
A representative payee (rep payee) is a person appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage your benefit payments if you are unable to do so yourself or if SSA believes you are unable to do so yourself. The rep payee should be someone who cares about what is best for you.

Under what situations will Social Security appoint a rep payee?
SSA will probably appoint a rep payee if: they make a determination that you are unable to handle your funds because of a physical or mental disability, if you are eligible for benefits solely on the basis of disability and you have been medically determined to be an alcoholic or substance abuser or if you are under the age of 18. If your benefits are paid to you directly, but SSA is not sure whether you can handle your money, the benefits should be paid to you directly until SSA makes a decision.

If SSA determines that you are unable to manage your benefits, you may be asked to choose a rep payee. The rep payee should be a person who has your best interests at heart.

Who will be my Rep Payee?
Initially, that decision will be up to you. Generally, you are free to choose whom you wish. But your rep payee cannot be a person who furnishes you a service for payment, like a landlord.

What will my rep payee have to do?
Your rep payee will have to submit proof of identity and show his/her social security card. Your rep payee must be a person who has never been shown to have misused anyone’s Social Security benefits and must have never been found guilty of a crime committed against SSA. If possible, your rep payee should attend an interview with you at SSA.

What if I cannot find a rep payee?
If you need more time to find a rep payee, SSA can hold your benefits for one month. After that, SSA will try to find you a rep payee. You should receive your checks while SSA looks for a rep payee unless you have been declared incompetent or are on SSI and have a drug or alcohol problem.

What if I wish to change my rep payee?
To change your rep payee, you must fill out an application at your local SSA office. The person you select must submit a letter saying s/he is willing to serve as your rep payee.

What if I believe I no longer need a rep payee?
You have the right to receive your own Social Security check unless SSA has reason to believe you may spend your money in a way that might hurt you.

In order to become your own payee, certain conditions must be met:

  1. If you have a rep payee because of a physical or a mental disability, you must show SSA that you are now mentally and physically able to handle your money yourself. You could provide:
  • A doctor’s statement that there has been a change in your condition and that the doctor believes you are able to care for yourself, or
  • An official copy of a court order saying that the court believes that you can take care of yourself, or
  • Other evidence that shows your ability to take care of yourself.
  1. If you are under 18 and want to be your own payee, you must show:
  • That you are an emancipated minor and are responsible for daily decisions about your life, or
  • You are a minor-parent with a child, or
  • You are within 7 months of becoming 18 and this is your first application for Social Security benefits.

What are the rights and responsibilities of my rep payee?
Your rep payee must use your benefits to pay for your needs only. These could include payment for food, shelter, clothes, medical care and personal comfort items. Also, your rep payee must inform SSA of events that could change the amount of your benefits or your right to receive benefits.

If SSA asks, your rep payee must also give a written account of how your money was spent. They must also tell SSA if there are changes that might affect their ability to act as a rep payee.

What happens if my rep payee misuses my benefits?
Request a new rep payee immediately.

Also, SSA may have to repay you the misused benefits. If you can show that SSA failed to adequately investigate your rep payee before appointing him/her or that SSA failed to monitor how your benefits were being spent, apply for the back benefits.

How long will it take to change my rep payee?
If you want to change your rep payee, tell SSA right away so that it can process the paperwork. The change should be made before the next check is issued or the next month at the latest, after you have submitted the necessary forms.

Both you and your rep payee should receive a written notice before any benefits are paid to the new rep payee.

What if I disagree with SSA’s decisions?

You have the right to appeal either the decision that you need a rep payee or the specific person SSA has chosen. Contact our office for more information.

√   If SSA feels you are unable to handle your funds they may appoint a rep payee.

√   The rep payee must use your funds to meet your needs only.

√   You may challenge the decision to have a rep payee appointed to you or you may ask for a change of rep payee.