Protecting Vulnerable Social Security Recipients
Author: Jean Fullerton
On April 13, the President signed the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018. The new law adds protections for any elderly, disabled, or minor Social Security recipient where their benefit is paid to someone else representing them - a “Representative Payee” - either an individual or organization. The Payee must use or save the money for the beneficiary.
New Law Provisions
- The states must conduct periodic onsite reviews of Payees
- A Payee must:
- grant permission for a background check
- not be a convicted felon
- not be a recipient themselves with a Representative Payee
- Social Security recipients who anticipate needing a Representative Payee may designate who they want, in advance.
- The requirement to provide an annual accounting of how the benefit was used has been eliminated for a Payee who is the spouse or parent of the beneficiary, living in the same home. This means that a husband caring for his wife with Alzheimer’s, or a widow with three young children, no longer has to report each year on how the money was spent.
What Payees Cannot Do
As an appointed Representative Payee it's important to be aware of what you can and cannot do. According to the Social Security Administration, Representatives Payees cannot do the following:1
- Sign legal documents, other than Social Security documents, for a beneficiary.
Have legal authority over earned income, pensions, or any income from sources other than Social Security or SSI.
- Use a beneficiary's money for the payee's personal expenses, or spend funds in a way that would leave the beneficiary without necessary items or services (housing, food, medical care).
Put a beneficiary's Social Security or SSI funds in the payee’s or another person's account.
- Use a child’s "dedicated account" funds for basic living expenses. (This only applies to disabled and blind SSI beneficiaries under age 18.)
- Keep conserved funds once you are no longer the payee.
- Charge the beneficiary for services unless authorized by SSA to do so.
- Unless a payee is also a guardian, he or she may not sign legal documents, other than Social Security documents, for a beneficiary. Payees have no legal authority over earned income, pensions, or any income from sources other than Social Security or SSI, unless the payee is also a legal guardian or has power-of-attorney.
Do I Need to File a Representative Payee Report?
Great question! As a Representative Payee you are required to file an annual Representative Payee Report. However, due to a recent change in law the Social Security Administration no longer requires the following people to file the annual Representative Payee Report:1
- Natural or adoptive parents of a minor child beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the child;
- Legal guardians of a minor child beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the child;
- Natural or adoptive parents of a disabled adult beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the beneficiary; and
- Spouse of a beneficiary.
For more information on Representative Payees check out the Social Security Administration's Guide for Representative Payees.