Being A Representative Payee

Q: Last year I started receiving Social Security benefits for my adult disabled son and just received a form asking how his benefits were used during the year. What is this about?

A: A person receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on behalf of a child or adult is their representative payee. Representative payees do very important work.

Family members often serve as payee but there is no requirement that they do so. Organizations often serve as payee also.

If you think back to when you started getting benefits on behalf of your son, you should recall that you completed an application to be selected his representative payee.

You acknowledged and agreed to your responsibilities as payee on the application. These responsibilities included how funds are to be used, changes for you to report to Social Security, records to keep and an annual report explaining how you used his funds in his behalf.

This annual accounting form is probably what you received. Use it to document how funds for your son were used.

As representative payee, you take on an important responsibility that can make a positive difference for the beneficiary. As payee, you must know what the person’s needs are so that you can decide the best use of Social Security or SSI benefits for his or her care and well-being, starting with basic day-to-day needs for food and shelter.

A representative payee is appointed for beneficiaries of any age if unable to manage his or her own benefits. Payees are not appointed as a matter of convenience and being payee provides authority only for Social Security and SSI funds. For agency purposes, a power of attorney is not an acceptable way to manage a person’s monthly benefits.

A booklet about serving as representative payee is mailed automatically whenever someone is selected as payee. Read it at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10076.pdf. This booklet explains how Social Security or SSI funds are to be used and includes a sample of the annual accounting form.

Additional representative payee information is at  www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/.