How Does a Representative Payee Help a Social Security Beneficiary?

SS card and calculatorPeople who collect Social Security (SS) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are sometimes not capable of managing their own healthcare and finances. In these cases, close friends or family members can be officially appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage the funds on behalf of the beneficiary.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Representative Payee

The Social Security Representative Payment Program allows trusted relatives or friends to handle the financial aspects of SS and SSI payments. Serving as a representative payee isn't an easy job, and carries a number of responsibilities, including:

  • Meet basic needs. The representative payee’s primary duty is to ensure the health and quality of life of the beneficiary. This includes providing adequate food, clothing, and shelter, and that all physical, emotional, and personal needs are met.
  • Manage medical care. Payees are responsible for helping a beneficiary get necessary medical treatment. SS funds should be used for medical, dental, or rehabilitation services not covered by insurance. Payees should also provide benefit information to hospitals and medical facilities that treat the individual, and communicate with social service agencies that can aid the beneficiary.
  • Keep accurate records. The payee needs to keep detailed records of all financial transactions made on behalf of the beneficiary. Payees should open a bank account solely for the use of SS funds. The SSA requires an expense report from payees every year, including how much money was received and which expenses were paid.
  • Manage lump sum payments. If the beneficiary receives a lump sum of benefits, the payee is limited to using the funds for expenses that can directly improve the beneficiary’s life. For example, benefits can be used to pay off the beneficiary’s mortgage; purchase assistive medical devices not covered by insurance; or purchase educational and recreational activities for the beneficiary, such as social events, training courses, or trips.
  • Report any changes. If there are any life events that can affect an individual's eligibility for benefits, or conflicts of interest that affect your ability to serve as payee, you must report these to the SSA as soon as possible.

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