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A representative payee is a person who has been chosen by the Social Security Administration to receive a Social Security or Supplemental Security Income check on behalf of another person.
When will a representative payee be appointed?
- If the recipient (actual person receiving SSA benefits) has a drug addition or alcoholic condition.
- If the recipient is under age 18. There is an exception if the person receiving the funds is capable of handling their own benefits.
- The SSA’s decision is based on medical evidence (usually doctor’s statement) or may follow a court order. Statements of relatives, friends, etc. may also be used.
What are the obligations of a representative payee?
- A representative payee has a legal obligation to use the benefits to pay for:
- the cost of present needs first, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and personal comfort items, and then
- pay debts, help dependents, etc.
- A representative payee must keep records on the beneficiary’s behalf.
- If the funds are kept in a bank account, it must be a separate account.
- A representative payee must submit periodic written reports to the SSA.
I am the recipient of the checks and want to change my representative payee.
- The SSA appoints representative payees based on
- the amount of interest the person may have in the beneficiary,
- the legal authority the person may have to act on behalf of the beneficiary, and
- the ability of a potential representative payee to identify and look after the recipient’s needs.
- The SSA may change a representative payee if the present payee:
- has not used the benefit payments on the beneficiary’s behalf, or
- has not carried out the responsibilities set forth by SSA regulations, or
- dies, or
- no longer wants to be the payee, or
- is unable to manage the benefit payments, or
- fails to provide evidence, accounting information, or other information sought by the SSA.
I want to handle my own checks.
- The beneficiary has the right to appeal the SSA determination that a representative payee is needed and is entitled to notification before a representative payee is paid.
- A beneficiary may seek to have direct payments restored by showing mental and physical ability to manage or direct management of the payments.
- A beneficiary seeking to restore direct payments should obtain:
- a physician’s or medical officer’s statement showing the beneficiary’s ability, or
- a certified copy of a court order restoring the beneficiary’s rights if the beneficiary had previously been deemed legally incompetent, or
- any other evidence that can establish the beneficiary’s ability.
What are the Social Security Administration's (SSA’s) responsibilities regarding representative payees?
- The SSA must keep a list of representative payees terminated after January 1, 1991.
- The SSA is liable for misused benefits if it fails to investigate a representative payee and is negligent for doing so.
Is this legal advice?
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney. The Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site. In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – www.peoples-law.org. © Maryland State Law Library, 2013.”