Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Representative Payees
A representative payee is a person or an organization. We appoint a payee to receive the Social Security or SSI benefits for anyone who can’t manage or direct the management of his or her benefits. . A payee’s main duties are to use the benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the beneficiary, and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs. A payee must also keep records of expenses. When we request a report, a payee must provide an accounting to us of how he or she used or saved the benefits.
Being an authorized representative, having power of attorney, or a joint bank account with the beneficiary is not the same as being a payee. These arrangements do not give legal authority to negotiate and manage a beneficiary's Social Security and/or SSI benefits. In order to be a payee, you must apply for and be appointed by Social Security.
A beneficiary is a person who receives Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Social Security and SSI are two different programs. we administer both.
The law requires most minor children and all legally incompetent adults to have payees.
We presume an adult is capable to manage his or her own benefits. If it appears this may not be true, we gather evidence to decide if we need to appoint a representative payee.
Contact the Social Security office nearest you to apply to be a payee. You must complete form SSA-11 (Request to be selected as payee) and show us documents to prove your identity. You will need to provide your social security number, or if you represent an organization, the organization's employer identification number. Usually, you must complete the payee application with us face-to-face.
A representative payee (payee) manages benefit payments for our beneficiaries who are incapable of managing their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Social Security law and regulations require payees to use the payments they receive for the current needs of the beneficiary and in their best interests. While serving as a representative payee, we encourage you to go beyond just managing payments and be actively involved in the beneficiary’s life. The following lists the required duties of a payee.
- Determine the beneficiary’s needs and use his or her payments to meet those needs;
- Save any money left after meeting the beneficiary’s current needs in an interest bearing account or savings bonds for the beneficiary's future needs;
- Report any changes or events which could affect the beneficiary's eligibility for payments;
- Keep records of all payments received and how you spent and saved them;
- Provide all records of how payments are spent or saved to SSA upon request;
- Report to SSA any changes that would affect your performance or your continuing as payee;
- Complete reports accounting for your use of payments, as required;
- Return to SSA any payments to which the beneficiary is not entitled; and
- Return to SSA any payments saved when you are no longer the representative payee for the beneficiary.
Power of attorney is a legal process where one individual grants a third party the authority to transact certain business for that individual. It does not lessen the rights of the individual and does not usually grant the third party the right to manage the individual's assets. It typically makes no finding about the individual’s capability or competence. The Treasury Department does not recognize power of attorney for negotiating federal payments, including Social Security or SSI checks.
This means, if you have power of attorney for someone who is incapable of managing his or her own benefits, you must still apply to serve as his or her payee.
No, unless you are a qualified organizational payee approved in writing by Social Security to collect a fee.
We never approve an individual to charge a fee for payee services.
We can allow some organizations to collect a fee from a beneficiary’s monthly payment for providing payee services. An organization must apply and qualify under the law, for fee collection. Social Security must approve the fee collection in writing. To qualify as a “fee for service payee”, an organization must be:
- A community based, nonprofit social service organization, bonded and licensed in the state in which it serves as payee, or
- A state or local government agency responsible for income maintenance, social service, health care, or fiduciary duties, and
- Regularly serves as a payee for at least five beneficiaries, and
- Not be a creditor of the beneficiary (some exceptions apply), and
- Submit an SSA-445 (Application to Collect a Fee) to us, and
- Be authorized in writing by us to collect a fee.
You may reimburse yourself for reasonable, actual out-of-pocket expenses you pay on behalf of the beneficiary. For example, we consider the cost of transporting the beneficiary to a doctor’s appointment (such as cab fare, mileage and tolls), postage to pay the beneficiary’s bills, and fees for money orders as out-of-pocket expenses. The amount of reimbursement must equal the expense you incurred for the beneficiary. You must keep records of your out-of-pocket expenses. A representative payee should obtain SSA approval before they use benefits to pay for other out-of-pocket expenses incurred on behalf of a beneficiary for other than current or reasonably foreseeable needs.
Note: If you are a fee for service payee, the cost of postage is not reimbursable.
We do not permit payees to be reimbursed from the beneficiary’s funds for overhead expenses. For example, you cannot reimburse yourself from the beneficiary’s funds for the costs associated with your utilities, rent, office equipment and supplies.
A checking account is better in some ways, because you will have cancelled checks or statements that show how you spent the funds. If you decide to use a checking account, consider that some beneficiaries cannot keep balances high enough to avoid service charges. But if you must pay bills through the mail, a checking account might still be cost effective because cashier's checks and money orders have charges associated with them, as well. You should set up an account that minimizes fees and enables you to keep clear records. We encourage using interest-bearing accounts. You must title the bank account so it is clear the money in the account belongs to the beneficiary.
You should use benefits for current needs (such as food, clothing, shelter, utilities, dental and medical care, and personal comfort items), or for reasonably foreseeable needs. If not needed for these purposes, you must conserve or invest the benefits for the beneficiary. Where the beneficiary has unmet current maintenance needs, saving benefits does not serve a purpose and would not be in his or her best interests.
You must use benefits in the best interests of the beneficiary, according to your best judgment.
A payee cannot:
- Sign legal documents, other than Social Security documents, for a beneficiary.
- Have legal authority over earned income, pensions, or any income from sources other than Social Security or SSI.
- Use a beneficiary's money for the payee's personal expenses, or spend funds in a way that would leave the beneficiary without necessary items or services (housing, food, medical care).
- Put a beneficiary's Social Security or SSI funds in the payee’s or another person's account.
- Use a child’s "dedicated account" funds for basic living expenses. (This only applies to disabled and blind SSI beneficiaries under age 18.)
- Keep conserved funds once you are no longer the payee.
- Charge the beneficiary for services unless authorized by SSA to do so.
Your main duty is to make sure the current needs of the beneficiary are met. Once you have met these needs, he or she has a right to some discretionary spending money, even if you do not approve of all of his or her choices. With drug or alcohol abuse, you may want to give him or her only small amounts of spending money. Or you can buy food, rather than giving him or her cash for food. If you think he or she is spending money on illegal or dangerous items and activities, you should seek help from a social service agency. You can ask for guidance from your local Social Security office or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.
When someone lives in an institution, you should allot a reasonable share of benefits for the institution's usual charges. You need to consider the institution's usual charges and the beneficiary's other current need. You should not pay an amount for current maintenance over the legal maximum set up by the State.
If a beneficiary receives care in a State, Federal, or private institution that doesn’t receive Medicaid funds for him or her, you should give highest priority to his or her current maintenance. Current maintenance is not just the institution’s usual charges. Current maintenance includes costs for items that will aid in his or her recovery or release from the institution, or improve his or her condition while in the institution. You should conserve or invest any remaining benefits not needed for other proper uses. Other proper uses may include temporarily maintaining his or her home outside the institution, unless a doctor certifies he or she is unlikely to return home.
If an SSI beneficiary enters a facility report the admission to SSA. If he or she receives substantial Medicaid payments for the cost of care and the $30 personal needs allowance, you cannot use the benefit for current maintenance.
If current needs are met, and he or she has a dependent (spouse, child, or parent) living at home, you may be able to use part of the benefit to support the legal dependents. Contact your local Social Security office for guidance.
You should set aside a minimum of $30 each month. Use this $30 to pay for the beneficiary's personal needs or save it for him or her.
If Medicaid pays more than 50% of the cost of care in the institution, a beneficiary's Federal SSI benefit is $30. In these cases, the $30 must be used for his or her personal needs. Note: Some States supplement the $30 SSI benefit.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you must spend the money wisely and in the best interests of the beneficiary. Your priority is to make sure you meet the beneficiary's current needs (food, shelter, medical care and other comfort items). After you provide for those needs, you could spend the money on things that would improve his or her daily living conditions or provide better medical care. You may also use leftover money to satisfy his or her debts. However, if you are a creditor, we must approve your use of money to pay any debt that he or she owes to you. Save any remaining funds for him or her.
If the beneficiary receives SSI, he or she cannot have more than $2000 (or $3000 for a couple) in countable resources. You should spend the back payment within 9 months so that his or her total resources are below $2000 ($3000 for a couple). If you don't spend the money within 9 months after the month of receipt, an overpayment may occur and benefits may stop if countable resources exceed the $2000 ($3000) threshold.
We must deposit certain large past-due payments that cover more than six months of SSI benefits to blind or disabled children directly into a separate account in a financial institution. We call this separate account a "dedicated account." We do not count the money in this account and the interest that it earns as an SSI resource. You may use funds in this account only for certain expenses primarily related to the child's disability.
The law requires you to put large retroactive amounts received by a disabled child in a dedicated account. Congress passed this law to assure that funds would be available to pay for the disability-related expenses of the child.
When we approve a child for disability benefits, we will tell you about the child's monthly payments, and any past-due SSI payments that you must place in a dedicated account. Our letter will also tell you how to set up an account.
You must use money in the "dedicated account" for the following allowable expenses:
- Medical treatment and education or job skills training;
- If related to the child's disability, personal needs assistance; special equipment; housing modification; and therapy or rehabilitation; or
- Any other item or service related to the child's disability.
If you use "dedicated account" funds for anything other than the allowable "dedicated account" fund expenses, you must repay us, from your own funds, an amount equal to what you spent.
You must report the following events as soon as possible. Call us at 1-800-772-1213, or contact your local Social Security office. Note: there are additional changes and events for SSI beneficiaries at the end of the list.
- The beneficiary dies;
- The beneficiary moves;
- The beneficiary marries;
- The beneficiary starts or stops working, even if the earnings are small;
- A disabled beneficiary's condition improves;
- The beneficiary starts receiving another government benefit, or the benefit amount changes;
- The beneficiary plans to leave the U.S. for 30 days or more;
- The beneficiary is imprisoned for a crime that carries a sentence of over one month;
- The beneficiary is committed to an institution by court order for a crime committed because of mental impairment;
- Custody of a child beneficiary changes or a child is adopted;
- The beneficiary is a child (including a stepchild), and the parents divorce;
- You can no longer be payee; or
- The beneficiary no longer needs a payee.
Additional events that you must report for SSI beneficiaries:
- The beneficiary moves to or from a hospital, nursing home, or other institution;
- A married beneficiary separates from his or her spouse, or they begin living together after a separation;
- Somebody moves into or out of the beneficiary's household;
- The beneficiary has any change in income or resources (i.e., a child's SSI payment may change if there are any changes in the family income or resources); or
- Countable resources exceed $2000 ($3000 for a couple).
If you are a payee for a child receiving SSI payments, you must seek treatment for the child’s medical condition when it is necessary and available.
We mail an annual Representative Payee Report to the payees who are required to complete the report. If you receive the report, fill it out promptly and mail it back, or follow the directions that you receive with the report and submit the report online. Whether you choose to complete the paper report or the online version, the report is simple to complete if you keep clear records of how you spent or saved the money throughout the year.
We may also select you for a representative payee review. This type of oversight provides a more in-depth review. An SSA approved partner organization may conduct a review to determine if you have performed the following duties:
- Managed payments so the beneficiary(ies) have no unmet current needs
- Accounted for all payments received and spent
- Conserved any unspent payments in an appropriate manner
- Complied with representative payee accounting and reporting responsibilities.
Due to a recent change in law, we no longer require the following representative payees to complete an annual Representative Payee Report:
- Natural or adoptive parents of a minor child beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the child;
- Legal guardians of a minor child beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the child;
- Natural or adoptive parents of a disabled adult beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the beneficiary; and
- Spouse of a beneficiary.
State mental institutions that participate in our onsite review program also do not have to file an annual Representative Payee Report.
Yes, you are still required to keep records of how you spent or saved the payments, and make all records available for review if requested by SSA.
Some individuals are entitled to Social Security benefits on two different Social Security numbers (SSN). In this case, you will receive two different Representative Payee Report forms during the same year. Each report form will show a different SSN and will ask you about the amount of benefits that were paid on that SSN. It is important that you read each report carefully and respond to each report form. Explain how you used the funds that each report asks about.
The Department of Health and Human Services released a letter to the States to introduce and summarize Section 104 of the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018. Please refer to that letter for details of the overpayments for which States are liable. If you need another copy of that letter, please contact the Social Security Administration, Office of Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As stated in that letter, States may not use the minor’s benefits or any conserved funds to repay these overpayments. If you are a State agency representative payee and you need additional clarification of how the new law affects you, please contact your agency’s legal counsel.
All payees may call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on business days, or contact your local SSA office to obtain another report.
You may call us at 1-800-772-1213 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on business days, or contact your local Social Security office between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on business days. People who are deaf or hearing impaired may call our toll-free "TTY" number, 1-800-325-0778, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on business days. You can find answers to many questions by visiting our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee
Effective April 13, 2018, States are liable to repay minor beneficiaries’ Title II and Title XVI overpayments if the overpayments were:
- Established on or after April 13, 2018; and
- Incurred while the State acted as representative payee and the minor beneficiaries were in foster care under the responsibility of the State.
States may not use the minor’s benefits or any conserved funds to repay these overpayments.
States are also liable to repay minor beneficiaries’ outstanding Title II overpayments if the overpayments were:
- Not fully recovered as of April 13, 2018; and
- Incurred while the State acted as the minor’s representative payee and the minor was in foster care under the responsibility of the State.
States may not use the minor’s benefits or any conserved funds to repay these overpayments. Plea The Department of Health and Human Services released a letter to the States to introduce and summarize section 104 of the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries (SPSSB) Act of 2018. Please refer to that letter for details of the overpayments for which States are liable.
States may not use the minor’s benefits or any conserved funds to repay these overpayments.
SSA is currently developing processes for the recovery of overpayments from States responsible for foster children receiving benefits.