What is a representative payee program?

Social Security's Representative Payee Program helps individuals if they are unable to manage their Social Security or SSI payments by appointing someone (called a representative payee) to receive an individual's monthly benefit to pay expenses each month, including rent, utilities, telephone, food, clothing, transportation costs, medical copays, etc.

Why would Social Security require me to have a representative payee?

There are a variety of reasons why Social Security may decide you need a representative payee. Some of the most common reasons include mental illness (particularly a history of bipolar disorder), drug and alcohol issues (past or present), cognitive issues, etc.

Who can be my representative payee?

You have the right to request that a specific individual, whom you trust, be your representative payee. There are no specific qualifications that a representative payee must have; however, a representative payee cannot have a felony on his/her record. Social security prefers to appoint family members as representative payees; however a trusted friend or even a neighbor can serve. The payee should be someone who has contact with you (via phone, email, in-person) on a fairly regular basis and whom you can easily contact should you need something.

What if I don't have a family friend or friends to be my representative payee?

If family or friends are not able to serve as you representative payee, Social Security will usually try to appoint a qualified organization to serve.

Does the representative payee receive a fee for payee services and, if so, who pays?

Individual representative payees (friends or family members) do not receive a fee for being your payee. If an organization is your representative payee, however, trhey can receive a fee for the payee services.  The fee is determined and approved by the Social Security Administration and the fee is deducted monthly from your monthly SSA benefit.

What if I believe my representative payee is misusing my funds?

You should first speak with your representative payee. Your payee should show you how your money is being spent. If it does look like your payee is misusing your funds, you should contact the Social Security Administration immediately. Social Security will investigate the matter and determine whether your funds have been misused. If misuse if found, Social Security may appoint you a new representative or make payments directly to you. Social Security then takes steps to recover the funds.

Can I be my own payee?

Yes. To be your own payee, you need to show Social Security you are physically and mentally able to manage your money. Some ways of proving this to Social Security include:

  • A statement from your treating medical doctor or a psychologist stating that, in his/her opinion you are able to manage your own money.
  • If drugs and alcohol use are an issue, then proof that you have completed treatment is required. Ideally, you should also show you are currently involved in outpatient treatment, such as a support group or therapy.
  • If your rights were taken away due to incompetency, you must show your rights were returned to you by providing Social Security with a certified court order.
  • Other sources of proof that you can manage your own money may include letters from people who know you, such as relatives or close friends.

What if I do not want to be my own payee?

You will need to provide a doctor's statement or a letter from a relative or friend explaining that you are unable to manage your own money and why.

Where can I find more information?

For more information on Social Security's Representative Payee Program, please visit the local Social Security Administration's website at www.ssa.gov/payee/. Information available at this website includes the following:

  • Beneficiary Information
  • Guide for Individual Payees
  • Information for Organizational Payees
  • Payee Publications
  • Frequently Asked Questions for Representative Payees and for Beneficiaries who have a Payee