Social Security benefits are benefits paid to retirees, spouses and children of those eligible for benefits and the disabled. These funds are intended to supplement regular income. Not everyone can manage their benefits well, however. The Social Security Administration estimates that roughly 7 million individuals need assistance with their benefits. Representative payees (RPs) are individuals who are authorized to provide this assistance. They have distinct rights recognized by the SSA.
Acceptance of Benefits
As a representative payee, you are authorized by the SSA to accept Social Security benefits on the behalf of the beneficiary. Once approved as an RP, you can ask SSA to direct the beneficiary's benefits to your address, and you can deposit them in an an account specifically for the benefits that lists you as the beneficiary's representative payee.
As a representative payee, one of your primary responsibilities is to keep accurate records of anything relating to Social Security payments. This includes bank statements showing benefits were deposited, receipts for goods or services purchased with the benefits, and other documents showing a change in the beneficiary's financial and Social Security eligibility status. If the SSA requests that you verify what has happened to funds, you must use your records to file SSA forms that account for the spending of the benefits. For this reason, you have a right to access the beneficiary's financial records, as well as to speak with the beneficiary's case representative for information.
Representative payees are entitled to spend a beneficiary's Social Security benefits for the beneficiary. Representatives usually spend Social Security benefits on basics like food, shelter and clothing, but you also can spend the beneficiary's funds to cover special expenses like educational courses the beneficiary wants to take or medical procedures not covered by insurance. You may not spend the benefits on yourself, as you have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiary to manage the funds in a way that is in his best interests.
Representative payees cannot charge fees for their services except under certain circumstances. However, you have a right to be reimbursed for expenses you incur. For instance, you can receive reimbursement for the gas and mileage for your car if you drive the beneficiary to the Social Security office to deal with benefits. You must keep accurate records in order to do this, just as if you were deducting items on your taxes.
being a representative payee is not the same as having Power of Attorney. Being a representative payee thus does not entitle you to handle any funds outside of Social Security benefits. Being a representative payee also is a voluntary activity. You have the right to withdraw from the position at any time but must contact SSA so that someone else can apply or be appointed.