Q: My son will be 18 in a few months. He is disabled since birth, lives in a group home, and currently receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI). I am the Representative Payee for his SSI benefits. Very recently, my wife and I were granted guardianship over him. For SSI, is there anything that I need to do prior to him becoming 18?
A: Even though administered by the Social Security Administration, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a very different program from Social Security. The SSI program pays benefits to disabled adults and disabled children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits also are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial limits. People who have worked long enough may also be able to receive Social Security disability or retirement benefits as well as SSI.
As a general reply, since your son is younger than age 18, the original medical decision used to establish his Supplemental Security Income eligibility was based on childhood criteria. Near age 18, expect another medical review to see if he meets adult disability requirements for benefits to continue.
A representative payee is the person appointed by Social Security to manage the Social Security and SSI payments of our beneficiaries who are incapable of managing their own funds. Very often, family, friends or qualified organizations serve as representative payees. SSA does not recognize power of attorney. Representative payees have specific responsibilities, outlined in the booklet A Guide for Representative Payees.
Since you are his representative payee, a local SSA representative will contact you for updated information before the review. You will be asked for medical sources but you will not need to obtain current medical information. SSA does that. You will also update non-medical information, including about his income, financial resources and living arrangements.
Remember to report to Social Security that you and your wife have been appointed your son’s legal guardians so that his record can be updated.
Something for the future: Since your son’s disability began prior to age 22, he might become eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement of you or your wife. More about Social Security child benefits is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/yourchildren.htm. See also http://www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dqualify10.htm.