A supplemental security income representative payee is an individual (or an organization) that manages an individual’s social security benefits. They must be approved by the Social Security Administration, and they have a set of duties and responsibilities to uphold as they act in the best interest of the individual they are acting on behalf of.

A representative payee serves to manage the benefits of an individual who cannot do so themselves. This typically means that the individual in question is a minor child or a legally incompetent adult. The law assumes that adults can manage their own benefits, but things like dementia and other conditions can make this impossible for them, hence the need for a representative payee who can manage their benefits for them.

To learn more about SSI representative payees, we are going to look at who can qualify as a representative payee, what duties and responsibilities you have as a representative payee, and why you may want to consider being a representative payee to give back to your community.

Who Can Qualify As a Representative Payee?

A representative payee can be any number of different people. For some families, it makes the most sense to have a family member serve as a representative payee. Others will find that the role is better suited for a friend. Yet others still may decide to rely on an organization, either for-profit or nonprofit. For some people, those who don’t have many people left, it may be best for their mental health residence to serve as a representative payee.

All representative payees must first be approved by the Social Security Administration. This requires the potential representative payee to contact their closest Social Security office, fill out form SSA-11, and provide the appropriate documentation to prove their identity. This would be a social security number for individuals or an employer identification number for an organization. While things may be different due to COVID, this process typically requires a face-to-face meeting with somebody from the Social Security Administration.

It’s important to take a moment to point out that being a representative payee and having power of attorney for somebody are two different legal processes. Having power of attorney would allow you to make certain transactions on behalf of the individual in question, but this in no way reduces their rights. A representative payee acts in the best interest of somebody that is unable to do so themselves, therefore it means that the process does actually reduce the individual’s rights. This is why it is typically only granted for minor children or incompetent adults, as well as why you would still have to apply with the Social Security Administration to be a representative payee even if you have power of attorney.

What Are the Duties of a Representative Payee?

As a representative payee, your job is to manage the benefit payments from Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. Of course, if you had benefit payments of your own then you would also manage these but you would not be a representative payee. You are only a representative payee when you are representing somebody else.

Representative payees are required by law to use the funds from any payments received towards serving the needs of the beneficiary. The beneficiary is the individual who you are representing. For example, your mother might be dealing with dementia and so you step up as a representative payee for them. This would allow you to manage their benefits, but you still have to act in their best interest. The funds could be spent in a number of ways, so long as they were benefiting the beneficiary. The funds can’t be used to fund your new pool or anything else simply because you want it.

The duties required of a representative payee are as follows:

  • Determine the beneficiary’s needs and ensure that any funds from benefit payments are put towards those needs
  • Hold onto any money remaining after their needs are looked after; this can go towards other needs that pop up suddenly, otherwise it should stay in an interest bearing account or a savings bond
  • Make reports on any changes that could affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for benefits
  • Make and keep records of all payments received, as well as what they were used on and how much was put into savings
  • Provide said records whenever the Social Security Administration requests them
  • Report to the Social Security Administration any changes that affect your ability to serve as representative payee
  • Provide accounting reports
  • Return any payments that the beneficiary was not entitled to
  • Return any saved payments once you stop serving as a representative payee

Why Should I Consider Being a Representative Payee?

The first reason to consider being a representative payee is that it is a way to give back to your loved ones once they are older or suffering from something that leaves them incapable. Serving as a representative payee can be a way to look after those you care about.

But there is also a growing need for representative payees. If you want to help give back to the generations that came before you, then you may want to consider serving as a volunteer representative payee. There are many programs across the country that offer training and support to enable those who want to volunteer as representative payees.

But this type of work isn’t cut out for everybody. Some people simply don’t have the time or the necessary skills to be of much use as a representative payee. However, there are other options.

What Should I Do If a Loved One Needs a Representative Payee?

If you can serve as their representative payee, then you should. But if it is outside of your capabilities, then you could consider reaching out to an experienced attorney. They can help you to decide the best course of action, whether that’s working with a company that can serve as a representative payee in your stead, seeking more training, or even another option that we haven’t gotten into today.