Number: 115-6
Date: February 5, 2018 

House of Representatives Passes H.R. 4547, the Strengthening Protections for
Social Security Beneficiaries Act

On February 5, 2018, the House passed H.R. 4547, “The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act.” This Bill was introduced on December 5, 2017 by Representatives Sam Johnson (R-TX) and John Larson (D-CT). The Bill passed the House under suspension of the rules, as amended, and agreed by a vote of 396-0. The Bill would amend Titles II, VIII, and XVI of the Social Security Act to improve and strengthen the representative payment program. On February 6, 2018, the Bill was sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Committee on Finance for consideration.

H.R. 4547, as passed, includes the following provisions of interest to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Strengthening Payee Monitoring

  • Would require the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) to make annual grants, in an amount no less than $25,000,000, directly to State Protection and Advocacy groups (P&As) by August 1, 2018, plus an additional 4 percent of that amount to a national organization to provide support to P&As beginning May 1, 2018.

  • Would provide no additional appropriation for these grants.

  • Would allow State P&As to:

    • conduct all periodic onsite reviews and additional discretionary reviews;
    • develop corrective action plans;
    • submit review reports to SSA; and,
    • conduct initial onsite assessments of fee-for-service organizations.

  • Would expand the required periodic onsite reviews to include individual (including family members) and organizational payees based on risk of potential misuse or unsuitability.

Reducing Family Burden

  • Would allow the Commissioner to exempt custodial parents of minor children and disabled individuals, as well as spouses, from annual payee accountings.  Would be effective upon enactment.1

Protecting Beneficiaries through Information Sharing

  • Would require SSA to:

    • Within one year of enactment, establish a monthly data exchange between SSA and State foster care agencies to identify beneficiaries with payees whose foster care arrangements have changed so SSA can redetermine the payee.
    • Conduct a study on improving data sharing with State adult protective services to determine the need for, and provide oversight of, payees.  SSA would be required to conclude the study and submit a report on the results to Congress no later than June 30, 2022.
    • Enter into an agreement with the Administrative Conference of the United States to conduct a study on opportunities for and barriers to information sharing with State courts.  SSA would be required to provide the results of the study to Congress by June 30, 2022. 

Clarifying State Overpayment Liability

  • Would clarify that State payees for minors in foster care are responsible for repaying overpayments incurred while the State acted as payee.  Would be effective for determinations made on or after enactment, and amounts unrecovered as of enactment.

Reports to Congress

  • Would require the Commissioner to report annually on January 31st beginning the first January after enactment:

    • on the number of beneficiaries with payees;
    • on the results of payee reviews, including a summary of problems identified and corrective actions taken; and,
    • on information pertaining to the number of, and dollar amounts related to, misuse cases.  

  • Would require the Commissioner to conduct a study on the elimination of annual payee accountings, and report on the results by January 1, 2021.

Advance Designation

  • Would allow beneficiaries to designate an individual(s) to serve as payee in advance of the Commissioner determining that a representative payee is necessary, and would require SSA to select the designated individual with certain exceptions.
  • Would require SSA to, within 18 months of enactment, publish regulations specifying the information beneficiaries must provide about the designated individual(s).
  • Would require SSA to notify beneficiaries with advance designations, annually with the name(s) of their advance designees.
  • Would require the Commissioner to study the effects of Advance Designation, and provide a report by January 1, 2025.

Criminal Bar

  • Would allow SSA to disqualify current or prospective payees who do not consent to background checks, effective January 1, 2019. 
  • Would codify current criminal bar policies and exemptions for certain payees, such as custodial parents and spouses, effective for new payees beginning January 1, 2019, and for existing payees by January 1, 2024.
  • Would require SSA to issue, no later than 1 year after the date of enactment, regulations to establish a process for reviewing all non-exempt payees at least once every 5 years, to determine if the payee has been convicted of a felony.

Prohibition on Individuals with Payees Serving as Payees

  • Would codify current policies that prohibit beneficiaries and recipients who have payees from serving as payees, effective January 1, 2019 for new payees, and January 1, 2024 for all current payees.

Reassessment of Order of Preference

  • Would require the Commissioner to study, and provide opportunity for public comment on:
    • the appropriateness of the order of preference for selecting payees;
    • the effectiveness of policy and operations for changing payees; and, report to Congress within 18 months of enactment.


1 In order to effectuate this exemption, SSA would also be required to seek relief from the 1984 Jordan court decision that required nearly all representative payees to provide an annual accounting.