By Brian Hewitt
If a loved one, friend or neighbor receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits but is no longer physically or mentally able to take care of his or her financial affairs, you may want to consider becoming a representative payee. Then, you’ll be able to help them with managing their money.
Keep in mind that being a representative payee is not the same as having power of attorney. Even if you do have power of attorney, you will need to apply to be a representative payee in order to have the benefit payments made to you on the beneficiary’s behalf.
When we learn that a person is no longer able to handle his or her own Social Security or SSI benefits, we conduct a careful investigation and appoint a relative, friend or other interested party to serve as the representative payee. This means that if you agree to be a representative payee and we appoint you, we pay you the person’s benefits to use on his or her behalf.
As a representative payee, you would be responsible for using the benefit payments to help meet the basic needs of the beneficiary. Primarily, the funds should be used to provide food, clothing, shelter, utilities and other essential needs for the person eligible for benefits. As a representative payee, you need to be aware of the beneficiary’s needs so you can decide how benefits can best be used for his or her personal care and well-being.
Each year, Social Security will mail you a form to account for the benefits you have received. The quickest and easiest way to complete the form is online, at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee. You can also complete the paper form and return it to Social Security.
As a representative payee, you will also need to tell Social Security about changes that may affect the beneficiary’s eligibility. This includes things like changes in living arrangements, other income, and resources.
If you decide you want to help someone by becoming their representative payee, you’re in good company. More than 7 million people who get monthly Social Security or SSI payments each month have a representative payee because they need help managing their money.
By agreeing to serve as a representative payee, you have taken on an important responsibility — one that can make a positive difference in both the beneficiary’s life and your own.
Learn more by reading an online booklet, A Guide For Representative Payees, available at www.socialsecurity.