What Is a Representative Payee?

Woman Using a Social Security TouchscreenIt is not unusual for a Social Security disability beneficiary to be unable to manage his or her own care and finances. When this happens, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will appoint a representative to receive the funds and pay for the beneficiary’s needs. This role carries a great deal of responsibility and should only be undertaken by a competent individual.

What a Representative Payee Must Do

Only the person appointed by the SSA has the legal authority to negotiate and manage a beneficiary’s disability benefits. The duties of a representative payee include the following:

  • Assessing the current and future needs of the beneficiary and paying for them with the benefits he receives
  • Using disability benefits for the exclusive benefit of the disabled person
  • Keeping a record of expenses and providing the SSA with a report accounting for the benefits
  • Saving any unused benefits in an interest-bearing account for the beneficiary’s future use
  • Helping the disabled person get medical treatment
  • Reporting any changes in the disabled person’s situation that would affect his or her eligibility for Social Security disability benefits,
  • Returning any benefits to which the disabled person is not entitled

Having a power of attorney or a joint bank account with the disabled person does not give a person access to a beneficiary’s disability benefits. In order to be a representative payee, you must apply to the SSA and be approved.

Limits on a Representative Payee’s Role

The role of the representative payee is limited to dealing with disability benefits, so he or she is not able to:

  • Sign legal documents, other than Social Security documents, for a beneficiary.
  • Access the beneficiary’s other earned income, pensions, or any income from sources other than Social Security
  • Use a beneficiary’s money for their own personal expenses
  • Spend funds in a way that would leave the beneficiary without housing, food, or medical care
  • Put a beneficiary’s Social Security funds in their own or another person’s account
  • Charge the beneficiary for services unless authorized by SSA to do so

How Keller & Keller Can Help

If you have been appointed as the representative payee for a disability recipient, you may need help fulfilling some of your responsibilities. Our Social Security disability attorney team is happy to provide legal counsel. Contact us to learn how we can help you manage a disabled person’s benefits.


James R. Keller
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