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Q: My father was assigned a representative payee for his Social Security disability benefits—what does this mean?

With many disabilities, an individual remains fully capable of handling his or her own affairs despite being unable to work. In fact, a great majority of cases involve disabling conditions such as injuries, heart conditions, or other medical conditions that only affect a person’s physical ability to work. Other conditions, such as depression, may prevent a person from holding a steady job, but the person remains capable of handling his or her own care and finances.

In other cases, such as dementia, extreme psychological disorders, or head trauma, the SSDI recipient may be unable to properly manage his or her finances or personal care without help. In this case, the Social Security Administration will often assign what is known as a representative payee. This is an individual who is chosen to manage the benefits, making sure that the money is spent in the manner best for the recipient.

What Does a Representative Payee Do and How Are They Chosen?

A representative payee is entrusted with the recipient’s Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. Think of the payee as a money manager, of sorts, but with a very big list of responsibilities. It is his or her job to ensure that the recipient’s benefits are spent wisely and appropriately, including:

  • Securing basic necessities such as housing and food
  • Ensuring that the recipient’s bills are paid
  • Allotting funds for the recipient’s personal needs
  • Securing medical care
  • Saving funds that are not spent for future use
  • Compiling an annual report on how the recipient’s benefits were spent

As far as choosing the representative payee, the Social Security Administration knows that many important factors come into play. Someone who knows the recipient and his or her needs would be best suited, such as a spouse, live-in relative, parent, friend or other relative. In the absence of a close friend or family member, a lawyer or caregiver can serve in the position as well. Ultimately, the SSA will assign the representative payee, but the recipient will likely be consulted about who would be suited for the role.

If your father does not agree with the representative payee named by the Social Security Administration, he will be given 60 days (from the date he received the decision) to appeal. If at any point he would like to change his representative payee, his chosen replacement will need to apply for the position at a Social Security office.

Representative Payees Should Always Be for the Benefit of the SSD Recipient

A representative payee can be an incredible asset, as his or her sole purpose is to manage the recipient’s benefits in a manner that protects the recipient’s best interests. If your father is uncomfortable with who was chosen or does not feel as though he needs a payee, he can appeal the decision within the 60 day deadline, as well. Be careful, however—proving that you are not as disabled as the SSA assumes can be a risky venture, so it is wise to discuss the matter with an attorney first.

For more information about your situation, or a similar situation, contact our disability law firm today by phone, live chat, or by filling out the online contact form.

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