FAQs for Beneficiaries Who Have a Representative Payee
We will investigate your ability to manage your money. We will continue paying you directly until we finish the investigation and make a decision.
Having power of attorney, being an authorized representative or having a joint bank account with the beneficiary is not the same thing as being a payee. These arrangements do not give legal authority to negotiate and manage a beneficiary's Social Security and/or SSI payments. In order to be a payee a person or organization must apply for and be appointed by SSA.
You have a payee because we have decided that you need help in managing your money. Usually your representative payee is someone who sees you often, knows you and your needs, and wants to help you.
Your payee receives your payments for you and must use the money to pay for your current needs. After your payee pays those expenses for you, your payee can use the rest of the money to pay any past-due bills you may have, provide entertainment for you, or save the money for your future use.
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 knows what you need. For that reason, if you live with someone who helps you, we usually select that person to be your payee. In most cases, someone who knows you asks us if he/she can be your payee. It may be a family member, a friend, a legal guardian or a lawyer. In some cases social service agencies, nursing homes or other organizations offer to serve as payees. If you know someone you would like to have as your payee, tell a Social Security representative and we will consider your wish.
Your representative payee must use your benefits to pay for your needs. These could include payment for food, shelter, clothes, medical care and personal comfort items. Also, your representative payee must tell SSA of events that could change the amount of, or affect your right to receive, benefits.
If SSA asks, your representative payee must also give us a written account of how your money was spent. A payee must also tell SSA if there are changes that might affect his/her ability to act as your representative payee.
You should talk with your payee about how he or she spends your money. Your payee should show you how much money you get from Social Security or SSI and how much he or she spends on your needs. Then you should talk with your payee about how you want to use any remaining money.
Tell SSA right away. We will investigate all allegations of misuse, gather facts and evidence, and make a decision on whether misuse has occurred. You will receive a letter from SSA telling you what we found out. If we find misuse SSA may find a new representative payee for you or pay you directly. We will then take action to recover the misused money.
You have the right to receive your own Social Security check unless SSA believes you are not capable of managing or directing the management of your money.
If you have a representative payee because of a physical or a mental disability, in order to become your own payee, you must show SSA that you are now mentally and physically able to handle your money yourself. You could provide:
- A doctor's statement that there has been a change in your condition and that the doctor believes you are able to care for yourself; or
- An official copy of a court order saying that the court believes that you can take care of yourself; or
- Other evidence that shows your ability to take care of yourself.
Note: If SSA believes your condition has improved to the point that you no longer need a payee, we may reevaluate your eligibility for disability payments.
You have the right to appeal either the decision that you need a representative payee, or the person or organization SSA has chosen as your representative payee. You have 60 days to appeal a decision by contacting SSA. Please contact your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213 for more information.