The Growing Need for Representative Payees, and How You Can Help
Each year, millions of older adults become victims of financial exploitation. Protecting those who are most vulnerable—including those with cognitive impairments— is essential to ending the cycle of elder abuse.
Created in 1939 as an amendment to the Social Security Act, the Representative Payee Program is one tool that can help. Representative Payees assist individuals with physical and mental impairments, as well as minor children, who cannot manage or direct the management of their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
Who qualifies to be a Representative Payee?
A Representative Payee is an appointed individual or organization who is deemed appropriate by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage the Social Security or SSI benefits for a single beneficiary or multiple beneficiaries. Whereas a family member may be the Representative Payee for their loved one, an Organizational Representative Payee (some of which operate on a fee for service basis) will often manage benefits for large numbers of beneficiaries. Other examples of payees include friends, nonprofit organizations, mental health service residences/facilities, and social services agencies.
What are the responsibilities of a Representative Payee?
When a Representative Payee is appointed, that individual, group, or organization is responsible for using the benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the beneficiary, and saving any benefits not needed to meet current needs.
Representative Payees are required to provide Social Security with a short form (accounting), which shows expenditures for food and housing and separately, personal spending (recreational expenses, clothes, etc.). The payee must ensure that the beneficiary’s bills are paid and that the beneficiary does not have a high level of excess income, which could disqualify them from SSI benefits.
A growing need
According to the 2016 issue brief Representative Payees: A Call to Action, more than 8 million Americans have an appointed Representative Payee managing their Social Security or SSI benefits. SSA recognizes that there is a growing need for older adults to have a Representative Payee, as baby boomers are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Inevitably, there will be a growing segment of aging adults with both physical and cognitive disabilities in need of assistance with managing their SSA benefits.