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The role of a representative payee

Earlier this month, we discussed a new rule that the Social Security Administration plans to enforce. The rule addresses in greater detail who is and is not eligible to be a representative payee. Under the SSA's new rule, individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes will not be allowed to collect benefits on behalf of a Social Security disability recipient. This new rule is an effort to protect the most vulnerable SSD recipients from being taken advantage of.

The reasons behind this change are clear and honorable, and today we would like to discuss what exactly a representative payee does. Who needs one, who gets to be one, and what are their responsibilities?

According to the SSA, representative payees are most often assigned to individuals who are unable to handle their finances alone. We already know that the SSA now refuses to accept people with certain criminal backgrounds as payees. Its goal is to find someone who will help a person manage his or her benefits honestly. Often it is a lawyer, a friend or a family member.

Once a payee is approved, he or she is responsible for helping a beneficiary pay for everything from medical expenses, to groceries, to rent and other bills. Any leftover money from a benefit check should either be saved for the recipient or put toward debts.

Representative payees are not only responsible for helping a beneficiary handle his or her finances, but they are also responsible for being transparent throughout the process. A payee should always share important financial information with the person who is receiving disability benefits.

The representative payee program is in place to ensure that all SSD recipients are able to mange their benefits in a way that ensures their specific needs are met. However, as we discussed a few weeks ago, there are situations in which representative payees are not honest with the beneficiaries they work with. In those cases, it is important to contact the SSA and an attorney to ensure that you are not taken advantage of.

Source: Social Security Administration, "When a Payee Manages Your Money," March 24, 2014

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