As many as seven million Social Security and Supplemental Social Security beneficiaries may need help managing their funds. The typical beneficiary in this position is usually either a minor child or a legally incompetent adult, for whom a representative payee will be assigned. The Boston Social Security lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates have over two decades of experience representing beneficiaries in Massachusetts, as well as in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. As dedicated Social Security advocates, we have developed the skills and expertise required to navigate complex cases and appeals. We can help you evaluate the status of your Social Security benefits and seek to maximize the amount of your compensation.How a Representative Payee Helps a Beneficiary
The Social Security Administration (SSA) selects representative payees to provide general financial management for beneficiaries who are incapable of handling their benefit payments and providing for their own needs. The SSA typically selects a family member, close friend, or caregiver to serve in this role. In certain circumstances, however, other individuals or organizations can be a representative payee. Common examples are attorneys and nursing homes.
It is important to note that representative payees do not earn fees, nor do they have authority over the beneficiary’s non-Social Security matters, such as medical care or finances. Those functions are performed by legal guardians or individuals with a power of attorney, both are which are distinct from the authority of a representative payee.
The SSA suggests that representative payees keep beneficiaries’ funds in separate checking or savings accounts. In any case, commingling of the beneficiaries’ funds with the payee’s funds is prohibited, and the representative payee must not have an ownership interest in the account that holds Social Security payments. The SSA directs representative payees to use Social Security payments to maintain the health and well-being of the beneficiary. Permissible uses of funds are listed in the following order of importance:
- Day-to-day shelter and food
- Medical and dental care costs not covered by health insurance
- Personal needs, such as clothing and recreation
It is also permissible for representative payees to use funds to make special, one-off purchases on behalf of beneficiaries. Sometimes they might put a down payment on a home or car.
Representative payees have reporting responsibilities regarding the beneficiaries whom they assist. First, they must file a yearly record-keeping report that details how benefits were spent. This report can be submitted via mail or online. Second, they are required to report certain actions or events regarding beneficiaries, most of which pertain to eligibility for benefits. For example, a payee must tell the SSA when:
- The medical condition of a disabled beneficiary improves;
- A beneficiary is institutionalized in a prison because he or she committed a crime or was adjudicated mentally incompetent; or
- The beneficiary’s employment situation changes.
The rights and responsibilities of beneficiaries and representative payees can raise some complex questions. Since the representative payee plays such a vital role in a beneficiary’s well-being, these questions are too important to go unanswered. Kantrovitz & Associates is a Massachusetts law firm comprised of experienced Social Security attorneys who are available to help beneficiaries in Essex, Plymouth, Norfolk, Middlesex, and Suffolk Counties, as well as the Merrimack River area. Contact us today by calling toll-free at 1-800-367-0871 or using the contact form.