What is an SSDI Representative Payee and what are his responsibilities?
In some instances, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will decide that the beneficiary is not capable of managing their benefits so they will appoint a representative payee.
The representative payee will receive benefits on the beneficiaries’ behalf and then use those funds to provide for the beneficiary.
Who Needs a Representative Payee?
By default, Social Security benefits (both Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income) go directly to the beneficiary. If the Social Security Administration is in the process of determining whether an applicant needs a representative payee, the benefits will continue to go to the beneficiary. Usually, however, this decision will be made by the claims examiner or judge when eligibility for benefits is determined.
Representative payees are chosen for many different reasons. In almost all instances, a representative payee will be appointed for a beneficiary under the age of 18. Individuals with severe mental disorders or addictions are also often required to have a representative payee.
Who Can Be a Representative Payee?
The applicant can make a suggestion to the Social Security Administration as to who they would like their representative payee to be. Generally, applicants required to have a representative payee will know who they want to choose- usually a parent, child, or close friend. In some cases, a nursing facility, social services agency, or even an attorney may act as a representative payee. While the applicant is given the opportunity to suggest a representative payee, the decision as to who it will be is ultimately up to the Social Security Administration. If the applicant doesn’t agree with who the SSA has chosen, they may request a change of payee.
What Does the Representative Payee Do?
Your representative payee is required to keep the money they receive on the beneficiary’s behalf separate from their own funds. They are also required to use all of the money in the best interest of the beneficiary. Benefits are intended to provide food and shelter first, then medical care. Any funds left over may be placed in a savings account or otherwise used for the benefit of the beneficiary. The payee is required to keep records of the benefits and how they are spent and will be asked to account for benefits annually. The payee is also required to report any major changes that may affect eligibility- if the applicant moves, finds employment, gets married, becomes incarcerated, etc…
What Can’t the Representative Payee Do?
The representative payee is not allowed to charge a fee for their services without express written approval from the Social Security Administration. Even with permission, the fee is limited to 10% of the monthly benefits or $41 per month- whichever is lower (As of 2016).
It is important to keep in mind that the representative payee relationship applies only to Social Security benefits. The representative payee does not acquire power of attorney over the applicant. The payee is not empowered to make medical decisions or enter into contracts on the beneficiary’s behalf simply because they are the payee.
What if The Representative Payee is Mismanaging Benefits?
Whether the payee is intentionally stealing benefits or simply not doing a good job of bookkeeping, it is a criminal offense to misuse Social Security benefits. The beneficiary should notify the Social Security Administration and attempt to find a new representative payee.
What if the Beneficiary No Longer Needs/Wants a Representative Payee?
Representative payees are assigned because the Social Security Administration believes the applicant is not capable of managing their finances on their own. If the applicant is able to prove otherwise, they can apply to receive their benefits directly. Doctor’s statements are the best evidence you can provide, but anything that demonstrates the beneficiary can manage their finances capably can be used as evidence. Keep in mind however, if the beneficiary’s condition improves significantly, it may be determined they are no longer eligible for benefits.
The team of disability lawyers at Bemis, Roach & Reed knows how crucial disability benefits can be for maintaining financial stability. Our attorneys are assisting clients with their disability cases in cities all across Texas, including Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Galveston, and Corpus Christi. If you are seeking disability benefits because of a sleep apnea diagnosis, contact our attorneys today at no cost to you. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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