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When a social security recipient is unable to manage their own account, they may have one representative payee step in to manage the account for them. This typically happens when the beneficiary is a child, a severely disabled person or a pensioner suffering from advanced dementia.
A representative payee may be a person or entity designated by the Social Security Administration. As of December 2020 – the latest available data – around 5 million social security beneficiaries had representative payees, AARP recently reported.
The payee is usually a relative or close friend of the payee, but Social Security may also name one, such as a nursing home or social agency. Anyone applying for or receiving benefits can designate a representative payee in advance.
The payee’s main duties are to use the benefits to pay for the recipient’s current and future needs and to properly store all benefits that are not necessary to meet current needs, according to SSA. Beneficiaries must also keep accounts of expenses. When SSA requests a report, payees must provide an account of how they used or stored the benefits.
To apply to become a payee, contact the nearest social security office and fill out the SSA-11 form. You must also provide proof of identity, including a CPR number for individuals or employer ID for organizations. You will usually need to meet with an SSA representative in person.
Here are the required duties for representative payees as described by SSA:
- Determine the needs of the recipient and use their payments to meet those needs.
- Save any money back after covering the recipient’s current needs on an interest-bearing account or savings bonds for the recipient’s future needs.
- Report any changes or events that may affect the recipient’s eligibility for payments.
- Keep track of all payments received and how you used and saved them.
- Provide all records of how payments are used or saved to SSA upon request.
- Report any changes that will affect your performance or your continuation as a payee.
- Fill in reports explaining your use of payments as needed.
- Return all payments to SSA to which the recipient is not entitled.
- Return all saved payments to SSA when you are no longer the representative payee of the recipient.
As a representative payee, you should keep the payee’s social security payments separate from your own money. The bank account used to deposit the benefits should be fully owned by the payee, with the payee listed as the financial agent.
A person may not charge fees to act as a representative payee. However, some organizations that serve in the role receive fees paid from the recipient’s social security or SSI payments.
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