Representative Payees for Social Security Disability: Why Are They Needed and What Do They Do?

October 4, 2022

Sooner or later we all need a little help.

If you know someone who needs a little help managing their money, and they also are receiving a monthly check from Social Security for retirement, Social Security Disability (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the Social Security Administration (SSA) can recommend that a person or organization help manage that person’s benefits.

That person is called a “representative payee.”

A representative payee is tasked with very specific duties. They must use the individual’s Social Security benefits to pay for the needs of the beneficiary. These needs could include payment for food, shelter, clothes, medical care and personal comfort items.

If there is any remaining money after meeting the beneficiary’s needs, it must be deposited in an interest-bearing account for the beneficiary’s future needs.

The representative payee must give the Social Security Administration an annual written account of how the money was spent. They must complete a form and return it to Social Security by mail or, if they have a personal my Social Security account, they can file it online using the representative payee portal.

In addition, a representative payee must report to the SSA any events that could change the payment amount, or affect the eligibility of the beneficiary to receive benefits. If the beneficiary receives any payments they are not entitled to, the representative payee must return that money to the SSA.

Similarly, a payee must also inform the SSA if there are changes that might affect their ability to act as a representative payee.

To help you learn the responsibilities of a representative payee, the SSA has an online webinar, “Social Security Needs Your Help to Find Good Representative Payees,” to explain the basic duties expected of representative payees.

It is important to note that Social Security makes the decision on appointing a representative payee. Factors in the decision could include the nature of a beneficiary’s health problems, or other reasons.

Your disability attorney has no control over whether a representative payee is mandated or who will be appointed as the representative payee.

The Social Security Administration says on “Generally, we look for family or friends to serve as representative payees. When friends or family are not able to serve as payees, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be representative payees.”

In our experience at our disability law firm, we know that clients don’t always like the idea of another person or organization controlling their money, because the recipient has no access to it—only the payee has access.

There is a way to make this situation a little easier to bear. Social Security beneficiaries also have the option to identify, in advance, up to three individuals they trust to serve as a future representative payee, if the need arises. Social Security refers to this as “advance designation.” You can learn more about advance designation on this page from the SSA.

If you have a representative payee and an issue arises, such as a concern about your payee’s conduct, or if your payee passes away, you should contact the SSA immediately. In these situations, the SSA may temporarily stop your payments until a new payee is designated, or until the SSA decides that you no longer require a representative payee.

You can apply to be a representative payee by contacting your local Social Security field office and submitting an application with Form SSA-11. Usually, you must complete the payee application with a face-to-face meeting with an SSA staff member.

If you know someone who needs help managing their monthly benefits, we encourage you to consider becoming that person’s representative payee.

And if you are considering applying for Social Security Disability benefits or have applied and been turned down, get in touch with us, your local Chicagoland Social Security Disability lawyers at Nash Disability Law, for a free expert evaluation of your situation.

Click here for more “Frequently Asked Questions” for Representative Payees.