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Social Security Representative Payee

Social Security representative payee

Being a Social Security Representative Payee for Friend or Family

 

These days, personal finances can be complicated for anyone. That’s especially so when one has vision, hearing or cognition disabilities, mobility challenges, and lives on a limited income.

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to money scams. They can become confused, and then be persuaded to make financial commitments that they can’t possibly afford.  Due to aging and health problems, they may be unable to conduct their banking, purchasing, and bill-paying as competently as they have done in the past.

You may be able to help.

If you are a family caregiver, a family member, or a personal friend of a person who receives Social Security and who needs help managing their money, you may be eligible to be appointed by the Social Security Administration to help them manage their income as a Social Security Representative Payee.   You must know the person well, so you can help them make money decisions. You will not be paid for this service.

 

The Social Security Administration can appoint a “representative payee” for a beneficiary. To become a “representative payee” you must apply and provide information about yourself.  To get an application form and discuss your eligibility, call your local Social Security office.

 

If you are appointed a person’s “representative payee”, Social Security will pay the benefits to you so you can use the money on the person’s behalf. With just a few exceptions, representative payees are not allowed to charge fees for their services.

 

The Social Security Administration has thorough rules for handling a person’s Social Security income.  For example, the checking account or savings account must be titled in a certain way.  The Social Security income funds must not be mixed with other funds. You must be able to assure the Social Security Administration that the person has appropriate food and shelter.  Any money left over after taking care of personal needs must be saved in a savings account or with a U.S. savings bond.

 

Being a Social Security representative payee requires that detailed and complete financial records must be kept for all money received and spent.  Annually, you would have to report this information to Social Security office.  You must also report any changes in your situation or the person’s situation, such as moves, admission to a nursing home, changes in health, marriage, divorce, incarceration, etc. If the beneficiary dies, the money in the account belongs to the person’s estate, not the representative payee. Misuse of Social Security funds and failure to provide required information can result in criminal penalties.   Being a representative payee is a serious and demanding responsibility.

 

Legally, a payee is not authorized to manage income that does not come from Social Security.  Family members often use a Power of Attorney to handle funds that are not from Social Security.  Though the POA is useful for handling other finances, a power of attorney is not an approved way to handle Social Security monthly payments.  The Social Security Administration only recognizes the use of a Social Security Representative Payee in managing a beneficiary’s funds.

 

For more information, contact the Social Security Administration.  Get the publication from Social Security titled “A Guide for Representative Payee.” Call toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or at their TTY number, 1-800-325-0778 if you’re deaf or hard of hearing.

 

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