What options are there for helping people manage SSI benefits?

People who collect Supplemental Security Income benefits are typically in a situation where they are severely disabled or too young to manage their own finances. This can present a number of challenges: people can misuse funds, lose their money or become vulnerable to financial abuse by others.

In order to counteract these and other potential issues, the Social Security Administration makes it possible for SSI beneficiaries to have a representative assigned to them to help them manage their benefits. If you or someone you know collects SSI and have questions about managing the payments, you should understand what a representative payee is and what he or she is expected to do.

A representative payee is someone who is officially assigned to manage an SSI recipient’s payments. In many cases, this will be a trusted family member or friend who is appointed by the SSA. In other cases, including situations where there is no suitable or available family member or friend, the payee assigned can be an organization.

Designated payees will receive SSI checks and then use them to cover the expenses of the beneficiary. This could include paying for rent, utilities, groceries, recreational activities and improvements for a beneficiary’s living condition. The payee is then required to account for the spending by keeping accurate records and submitting a form each year to the SSA to account for how the benefits were used.

This is a very important role that comes with a great deal of responsibility, so it is crucial that any party serving as a representative payee understands the expectations of this role.

If you are considering becoming a payee, have questions about having a payee assigned to someone receiving SSI or are worried about how a current payee is handling benefits, you can discuss your concerns with an attorney familiar with SSI procedures and rules. 

Source: Social Security Administration, “A Guide For Representative Payees,” accessed on Sept. 3, 2015