According to the Social Security government website, a representative payee is a person or organization who helps a person receiving monthly Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income, or Social Security Disability to manage his or her financial affairs. The person or organization could be chosen by Social Security, or the person could have applied to SSA to be designated as representative payee.
The determination of a representative payee is made on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, a person who is approved for one of the above benefit programs may have a doctor from an independent consultative exam indicate that the person in question might need help managing his or her funds. The doctor who conducts an independent consultative exam is a government doctor, paid for by Social Security, to provide additional information on the client’s health.
If the SSA doctor indicates the person could benefit from assistance in managing his or her government benefits, then Social Security will appoint a person or entity to do so. A representative payee is not the same thing as a guardianship. While a guardian comprehensively manages the overall affairs of a person, the representative payee only manages these government benefits. Even if a person has been designated as power of attorney, he or she would still be required to apply to be a representative payee.
How Must a Representative Payee Use the Funds?
The representative payee receives benefits on behalf of an individual and must use that money to pay for current needs of the individual, including housing, utilities, food, medical and dental expenses, personal care items, clothing, and rehabilitation expenses if the person receiving the funds is disabled. If all current needs are fully taken care of, the representative payee is allowed to use any money left over to pay past due bills. If there is money left over at the end of each month, that money should be placed into a savings account for the receiving individual. Representative payees are required to maintain accurate records of each payment, as well as how it is spent, providing regular reports of this information to Social Security.
How is a Representative Payee Selected?
If the Social Security Administration chooses the representative payee, the agency will attempt to choose someone who knows the individual and truly wants to help. The SSA wants a person who can see the receiving individual on a regular basis, who knows what his or her needs are. If the receiving individual is living with another person—a spouse, child, or another relative—the SSA would likely choose that person to manage the funds. In other cases, a person (a family member, a friend, a legal guardian, an attorney, etc.) will ask the SSA to be a representative payee. Occasionally, a social service agency, nursing home, or another organization may offer to serve as a representative payee.
What if You Disagree with the Decision to Send Your Benefits to a Representative Payee?
If you are notified by the SSA that they have decided to pay your benefits to a payee, and you disagree with the decision—or want another payee—you have 60 days to appeal the decision via a letter to the SSA. You are also allowed to ask someone else to be your representative payee, however, you must tell the current payee that you are planning to ask another person to help you, and that new person must file an application with the SSA.
If you disagree with how your money is being spent, you should first discuss the matter with your representative payee. You are entitled to see how the money is being spent on your needs, and an accounting must be provided to you, as well as to the Social Security Administration.
Contact Our Virginia Social Security Disability Law Firm Today
If you have questions concerning your Social Security Disability eligibility, we can help. At Cervoni Disability Law PLLC, we work with our clients to help them obtain all of the benefits to which they are entitled. In fact, that is all that we do!
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