Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are incredibly important for many senior citizens and individuals with special needs. It can be devastating if there is a disruption in these benefits of any kind.
In order to avoid disruption or mitigate any issues regarding these federal payments, it is important to make sure that someone trustworthy is able to manage and negotiate the payments. If a Social Security or SSI recipient is a legally incompetent adult, the law requires that a Representative Payee be appointed. The Representative Payee’s duties are to manage the federal payments, use the benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the recipient, and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs.
Oftentimes, the unfortunate scenario occurs where an adult receives Social Security or SSI benefits and then suffers an ailment that causes them to become a legally incompetent adult. In this case, it is necessary for a Representative Payee to be appointed. The Social Security Administration presumes that an adult is capable of managing his or her own benefits, but if it appears that this may not be true, the administration gathers evidence to decide if there is a need to appoint a Representative Payee.
In some cases, the recipient will already have executed a Durable Power of Attorney with a trusted individual acting as his/her agent. However, the United States Treasury Department does not recognize a power of attorney for negotiating federal payments, including Social Security or SSI. This means, even if you are the agent under a Durable Power of Attorney for someone who is incapable of managing his or her own benefits, you must still apply to serve as his or her payee.
It is also important to note that being an authorized representative and/or having a joint bank account with the recipient is not the same as being a Representative Payee. These arrangements do not give legal authority to negotiate and manage a beneficiary’s Social Security and/or SSI benefits.
If your loved one needs Representative Payee to be appointed, then you should contact the Social Security office nearest to you for more information. You will likely need to complete form SSA-11 (Request to be selected as payee), provide the requisite documentation, and have a face-to-face meeting with a representative of the SSA.
Although the U.S. Treasury Department does not recognize a Durable Power of Attorney, it is still an incredibly important legal document that should be executed by all adults.