Some people who receive Social Security or SSI benefits are unable to manage their personal business for themselves. This could be due to a disability or a medical condition. In these cases Social Security will designate another person or an organization to handle their benefits for them. This person is designated their representative payee. Some people think having “Power of Attorney” will entitle them to information, payment, and other dealings with Social Security. Social Security does not recognize “Power of Attorney.” This can be used as a basis for making someone the representative payee.
Representative payees are responsible for using the money from Social Security or SSI benefits for the needs of the individual. They are also responsible for saving any unused money and are required to account for how the money is being spent.
Children are required to have representative payees; this person is typically their parent or the guardian that has custody of the child. Whenever a child is approved for benefits from Social Security or SSI their parent or guardian is required to complete the representative payee application and present their identification in the Social Security office.
An adult that is determined to be incompetent will also be required to have a representative payee. The determination that an individual needs a payee can be made by the local Social Security office. A person’s family, social worker, or nursing home can also request that a payee be assigned to handle the benefits. If you need to apply to become a payee for a friend or relative, submit the application form SSA-11BK, along with your identification in your local Social Security office. Most payee applications require a face to face interview.
Representative payees are required to use the money from Social Security and SSI to meet the needs of the person receiving benefits. This includes seeing to the food, clothing, and shelter needs. Payees are required to save any unused money for future needs. Representative payees are also required to keep Social Security’s records current by reporting any changes of address, marital status, and employment status. They are responsible for seeing to the medical treatment of the individual and any Medicare claims that need to be filed. Payees are required to complete annual reporting of how the money is being used; they are responsible for any overpayments that may arise and ensuring this money is returned to Social Security.
Sometimes having a representative payee can cause a hardship for people receiving benefits from Social Security or SSI. Allegations of fraud and misuse of funds should immediately be reported to the local Social Security office. If you are payee for someone and no longer wish to continue in this role contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.
If you are receiving benefits from Social Security or SSI and have a representative payee but wish to manage your money for yourself, you will need to have your doctor write a letter stating you are able to do this for yourself. The doctor’s office will need to fax this letter to the local Social Security office. For more information on becoming your own payee contact Social Security at the 800 number given above.