What Is a Representative Payee and When Do You Need One?

Submitted by Kyle on Fri, 02/17/2012 - 10:30

When an individual qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits, that individual receives a set monthly payment to help them meet their basic living expenses. When an individual is incapable of managing their own finances, the Social Security Administration determines that a representative payee should be responsible for managing the disability payments that are provided to a disability recipient and manage the expenses of the recipient in question.

Usually the Social Security Administration will try to assign a representative payee who actually knows the disability recipient – such as a family member who understands your needs. If you are living with someone who takes care of you, that person will likely be selected to be your representative payee. If you prefer that a specific person act as your representative payee, you can make such a request of the Social Security Administration and the SSA will consider that request.

If you do not have any friends or family who are able to act as a representative payee, the Social Security Administration may have a social service agency, nursing home or other organization perform these services.

A representative payee has certain responsibilities. Each month, they will receive your Social Security Disability payments on your behalf. They cannot, however, do as they see fit with the money. It is the responsibility of the representative payee to use the money that is received to pay for your housing and utilities, food, medical and dental expenses, personal care items, clothing and rehabilitation expenses. Then, if there is any money left over, the payee is allowed to use that money to pay any past-due bills that you may owe or to provide funds for entertainment. The representative payee may also opt to save any leftover money, but that savings account belongs to you and not to the representative payee.

A representative payee has a very large responsibility and they are held accountable for what they do with the money they receive on your behalf. The payee is required to keep accurate records of every penny that is spent and they are required to report the information to the Social Security Administration each year.

It is important to remember that even if you are assigned a representative payee, the benefits that are paid to that payee each month still belong to you. They are not to be used for the representative payee’s personal expenses and the representative payee cannot collect a percentage of your benefits in exchange for performing these services. If you feel that your representative payee is not managing your Social Security Disability payments properly, it is important that you contact the Social Security Administration and notify them of this fact as soon as possible. If a representative payee does indeed misuse a recipient’s benefit payments, that representative payee may be responsible for paying back the benefits that were misused.