Social Security’s Representative Payee Program helps you if you are not able to manage your monthly Social Security or SSI payments by appointing someone (called a representative payee) to receive your monthly disability benefit. The representative payee is required to use your monthly benefit to pay your expenses each month, including rent, utilities, telephone, food, clothing, transportation costs, medical co-pays, etc.
Some of the most frequently asked questions about Social Security Representative Payee Program are:
Why would Social Security require me to have a representative payee?
There are a variety of reasons why Social Security may decide you need a representative payee. Some of the most common reasons include mental illness (particularly a history of bipolar disorder), drug and alcohol issues (past or present) or cognitive issues.
Who can be my representative payee?
You have the right to request that a specific individual you trust be your representative payee. There are no specific qualifications that a representative payee must have; however, a representative payee cannot have a felony on his or her record. Social Security prefers to appoint family members as representative payees. However, a trustworthy friend or even a neighbor can serve as a representative payee. The payee should be someone who sees you on a fairly regular basis and whom you can easily contact should you need something.
What if I don’t have family or friends to be my representative payee?
If family or friends are not able to serve as your representative payee, Social Security will usually try to appoint a qualified organization. For example, if you are treated at a mental health clinic such as Weber Human Services or Davis Behavioral Health, the clinic may serve as your representative payee.
Does the representative payee receive a fee for being my payee and, if so, who pays it?
Individual representative payees (friends or family members) do not receive a fee for being your payee. If an organization is your representative payee, however, it is permitted to be paid a fee, the amount of which must be approved by Social Security. The fee is deducted from your monthly disability benefit.
What if I believe my representative payee is misusing my funds?
You should first speak with your representative payee. Your payee should show you how your money is being spent. If it looks like your payee is misusing your funds, you should contact the Social Security Administration immediately. Social Security will investigate the matter and determine whether your funds have been misused. If misuse is found, Social Security may appoint you a new representative or make payments directly to you. Social Security will then take steps to recover the misused funds.
Can I be my own payee?
Yes. To be your own payee, you need to show Social Security that you are physically and mentally able to manage your money. Some ways of proving this to Social Security include:
- A statement from your treating medical doctor or a psychologist stating that, in his or her opinion, you are able to manage your own money.
- If drugs and alcohol are an issue, then proof that you have completed treatment is required. Ideally, you should also show that you are currently involved in outpatient treatment, such as a support group or therapy.
- If your rights were taken away due to incompetency, you must show that your rights were returned to you by court order. You will need a certified copy of the order.
- Other sources of proof that you can manage your own money may include letters from people who know you, such as relatives or close friends.
What if I don’t want to be my own payee?
You will need to provide a doctor’s statement or a letter from a relative or friend explaining that you are unable to manage your own money and why.
Where can I find more information?
For more information on Social Security’s Representative Payee Program, please visit your local Social Security office or the Social Security Administration’s website at. Information available at this website includes the following:
- Beneficiary Information
- Guide for Individual Payees
- Information for Organizational Payees
- Payee Publications
- Frequently Asked Questions for Representative Payees and for Beneficiaries who have a Payee
If you have difficulty obtaining or understanding the information, please feel free to contact Utah Legal Services (328-8891 in the Salt Lake area, or toll-free 800-662-4245) for assistance.
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