On Behalf Of Someone Else: Representative Payee

The previous post was about working with the Social Security Administration concerning the benefits of another person. It was assumed that the other person could contact Social Security on their own but wanted you to do so for them. Today we move along to what happens if the person cannot help themself. 

Recall that Social Security cannot recognize power of attorney. Power of attorney is a legal process where one individual grants a third party the authority to transact certain business for that individual. They can be for different purposes but overall are not recognized by the Treasury Department for purposes of negotiating federal payments, including Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks. Having power of attorney does not let you transact business with Social Security on behalf of someone else. 

Perhaps Mom, Dad, a sibling or other adult is no longer capable of taking care of their business and you now handle all their affairs. It is no longer that you are helping as a convenience. You are handling affairs because the person no longer can do so themselves.

If so, file application to be representative payee. A representative payee is an individual or organization appointed by the Social Security Administration to receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on behalf of a person who cannot manage or direct the use of his or her money. Acting on behalf of the person, a representative payee is responsible for everything related to Social Security or SSI benefits that a capable beneficiary would do for himself or herself. 

Appointment of a representative payee is not taken lightly. While minor children almost always require a representative payee, adult beneficiaries are presumed to be capable of managing their own benefits. Evidence must establish the need to appoint a payee for an adult.  

Being appointed means the representative payee agrees to follow Social Security Administration rules for handling of related funds, including reporting on how funds are used. Payees are appointed to manage Social Security and SSI funds only. A representative payee has no legal authority to manage non-Social Security related income or ­medical matters. As a representative payee, you must know what the beneficiary’s needs are so you can decide how benefits can best be used for his or her personal care and well-being. This is especially important if the person does not live with you. 

This helps protect beneficiaries. Even if you have power of attorney or are guardian for a parent or other adult, file a representative payee application if he or she is incapable of managing their own Social Security or SSI benefits. To learn more, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/payee  or read “A Guide For Representative Payees” at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10076.html or available from any SSA office.