A representative payee is a person chosen by the Social Security Administration to receive, and manage the use of, your Social Security Disability benefits.
When Does Social Security Require a Representative Payee
There are two situations in which Social Security regulations require that disability benefits to be paid to a representative payee. First, representative payees are appointed to receive and manage benefits that are payable to a minor. Second, if you are an adult or an emancipated minor, a representative payee will be appointed to manage your benefits if, due to your physical health, you are unable to direct the use of your funds or if, due to your illness, your judgment is impaired, so that there is a reasonable possibility that you will not have the capacity to make sound financial decisions to take care of yourself. If at some point your health improves and you are still disabled and eligible for benefits, then your benefits may be paid directly to you at that time.
Representative Payee Responsibilities
Your representative payee is directed to use your disability benefits to first pay for your current shelter, food, clothing, personal care items, medical and dental care, and rehabilitation services, if applicable. If there is money left over, your payee can use your benefits to pay your past-due bills, to support your dependents, or for your entertainment or to improve your living environment. Any excess must be saved in an account held in your name, but controlled by your payee.
Your payee should show you how much money you get from Social Security and how much he or she spends on your needs. It is also appropriate for you to voice your opinion on how you would like the money spent, although the payee makes the final decision. Representative payees must keep records of how they spend your benefits and report on the management of your money to the Social Security Administration annually.
For more information about Social Security Disability representative payees, please see our articles “Do I Have to Have a Representative Payee for My Social Security Disability Payments?” and “How Does Social Security Select the Representative Payee for My Social Security Disability Benefit?”