Some people who get SSI are not able to manage their money by themselves.
They may need some, or much, support in paying bills, writing checks, filing taxes, making major purchases, and so on.
In these cases, a representative payee (or 'rep payee') can be set up to receive the SSI payments on their behalf. A rep payee is often a parent or other responsible family member.
A rep payee:
Receives the beneficiary's SSI check (usually via direct deposit into a new, separate bank account),
Manages the funds for him or her each month, and
Is responsible for using the funds to take care of his or her needs.
Becoming your family member's rep payee:
Helps you make sure that SSI checks are accounted for and not lost, stolen, or mismanaged, and
Allows you to communicate directly with Social Security about your family member's benefits (for example, to report changes or respond to SSI letters).
Click on the boxes below to learn more:
If a court has already named you as your family member's legal guardian, Social Security will automatically make you the representative payee.
Here's what you can do:
Speak with your family member's doctor, and ask them to fill out this form.
Tell the doctor if you've applied to become your family member's rep payee, and explain why it's best that you should be in charge of the SSI money.
In most cases if the doctor agrees that you should be in charge of the SSI money, then Social Security will appoint you.If you are not the legal guardian, Social Security will need proof that your family member needs help managing their money. They'll send a survey to your family member's doctor. Click here to see a blank copy of that form (it's the same form as in step 1 above).
Rep payees can help your family member by paying bills and buying the things they need (like personal care items, and also medical and dental care).
As rep payee, you must use the SSI money for your family member’s needs. You can't spend it on yourself or other family members.
Under SSI rules, the rep payee has to open a special bank account for SSI checks. Joint accounts are not allowed. While both names must be on the account, only the rep payee can take money out or write checks. Your bank will help you 'title' the account.
As rep payee, you must also do the accounting and reporting to Social Security. Keep track of how much SSI money you get, spend, and save. Your records should include bank statements, cancelled checks, and receipts for everything you buy with this money.
It’s important to keep good records because every year you’ll have to complete a Representative Payee Report. In it, you must verify the amount of SSI funds you got in the past year and how you spent or saved them. Click here for a sample Representative Payee Report.
Watch out if SSI overpays (pays more than they should). This may happen if your family member starts to earn more money and you don’t report the change. That would reduce the amount of the benefit, but if SSI didn’t know, they would have been paying too much. If this happens, your family member would have to pay back the difference.
Social Security sometimes asks the rep payee to bring the recipient's bank statements, tax returns, and other records to the office. In that case, they will send you a written note with the date, time and office where you need to go.
To see the full Social Security Guide for Representative Payees, click here (opens in a new tab).
Sources: Social Security, Jackins (2010).