If you're reading this, you probably are one of several million people who receive monthly Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments and need help in managing your personal money affairs. In that case, Social Security has carefully selected a person, or an organization, to help you by being your "Representative Payee".
The information you read here should help you better understand why you have a payee and how the payee helps you. We have included some frequently asked questions and answers. If, after looking at this site, you still have questions, be sure to contact us.
There can be many reasons why Social Security decides someone needs a payee. However, it's usually because we have information that indicated you need help in managing your money and meeting your current needs.
Your payee receives your payments on your behalf and must use the money to pay for your current needs, which include:
- housing and utilities;
- medical and dental expenses;
- personal care items;
- clothing; and
- rehabilitation expenses (if you're disabled).
After those expenses are paid, your payee can use the rest of the money to pay any past-due bills you may have, support your dependents or provide entertainment for you. If there is money left over, your payee should save it for you.
The payee must keep accurate records of your payments and how they are spent and regularly report that information to Social Security. Your payee also should share that information with you.
If you live in an institution, such as a nursing home or a hospital, the payee should pay the cost of your care and provide money for your personal needs.
Be sure to tell your payee if you:
- get a job or stop working;
- get married;
- get money from another source;
- take a trip outside the United States;
- go to jail or prison;
- are admitted to a hospital;
- save any money;
- apply for help from a welfare department or other government agency; and
- are no longer disabled, if your benefits are based on a disability.
If you or your payee fail to report any of the above actions to us, you may be paid more money than you are due. You may have to pay back any money you were not due, and your payments may stop.
We try to select someone who knows you and wants to help you. Our main concern is that your payee is someone who can see you often and who knows what your needs are. For that reason, if you're living with someone who helps you, we usually select that person to be your payee.
In most cases, someone who knows the beneficiary asks us if he or she can be the beneficiary's payee. It may be a family member, a friend, a legal guardian or a lawyer.
Sometimes, however, social service agencies, nursing homes or other organizations offer to serve as payees. If there's someone you would like to have as your payee, you can tell a Social Security representative and we will consider your request.
We will send you a letter telling you that we have decided to pay your benefits to a payee. If you don't agree that you need a payee, or if you want a different payee, you have 60 days to appeal that decision by sending us a letter.
If you're already receiving Social Security benefits and have a payee, you can ask someone else to be your payee. You should tell your present payee that you plan to ask someone else to help you. The person you want to become your new payee must file an application at a Social Security office.
You and your payee should talk about how your money is being spent. Your payee should show you how much money you get from Social Security and how much he or she spends on your needs. Then you should talk with your payee about how you want to use your money.
Sometimes Social Security benefits take a while to be approved. When this happens, your back benefits may be paid all at once in a large payment. If that happens, your payee must spend the money on your current needs such as rent and a security deposit, food or furnishing. The rest of the money can be used to pay for medical services, your education, improvements to your home or your debts. If your back payment is for more than one year of benefits, your benefits will be sent to you in several small payments.
If you receive SSI, you cannot have more than $2,000 in cash and property (other than your home and car). You must spend your back payment within six months so that your total resources are below $2,000. If you don't you may receive more than you are supposed to and your SSI payments may stop.
Call Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days or call your local Social Security office between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on business days. You also can visit us on the Internet at www.socialsecurity.gov.