Social Security: How To Appoint a Representative Payee & What Duties They Are Allowed To Provide

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When a Social Security beneficiary is unable to manage their own account, they can have a representative payee step in to manage the account for them. This typically happens when the beneficiary is a child, a severely disabled person or a retiree suffering from advanced dementia.

See: Social Security — How To Provide and Update Your Advance Designation of a Representative Payee
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A representative payee can be a person or an entity appointed by the Social Security Administration. As of Dec. 2020 — the most recent data available — about 5 million Social Security recipients had representative payees, the AARP recently reported.

The payee is usually a relative or close friend of the beneficiary, but Social Security can also name one, such as a nursing home or social services agency. Anyone who applies for or receives benefits can designate a representative payee in advance.

The payee’s main duties are to use the benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the beneficiary, and to properly save any benefits not required to meet current needs, according to the SSA. Payees must also keep records of expenses. When the SSA requests a report, payees must provide an accounting of how they used or saved the benefits.

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To apply to be a payee, you’ll need to contact the Social Security office nearest you and complete form SSA-11. You must also provide proof of identity, including a Social Security numbers for individuals or employer identification number for organizations. You’ll usually need to meet with an SSA representative in person.

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Here are required duties of representative payees as outlined by the SSA:

  • Determine the beneficiary’s needs and use their payments to meet those needs.
  • Save any money left after meeting the beneficiary’s current needs in an interest-bearing account or savings bonds for the beneficiary’s future needs.
  • Report any changes or events that could affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for payments.
  • Keep records of all payments received and how you spent and saved them.
  • Provide all records of how payments are spent or saved to the SSA upon request.
  • Report any changes that would affect your performance or your continuing as payee.
  • Complete reports accounting for your use of payments, as required.
  • Return any payments to the SSA which the beneficiary is not entitled to.
  • Return any saved payments to the SSA when you are no longer the representative payee for the beneficiary.

As a representative payee, you must keep the beneficiary’s Social Security payments separate from your own money. The bank account used to deposit the benefits should be fully owned by the beneficiary, with the payee listed as financial agent.

An individual can’t collect fees for serving as a representative payee. However, some organizations that serve in the role do receive fees paid out of the beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI payments.

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If you believe someone you know might need a representative payee, call Social Security’s national customer service line at 800-772-1213 or contact your local office and make an appointment.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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