The responsibilities of a Social Security payee have come up a lot in the comments recently:
I don’t live with my parents for 3 years but they get my disability check. They don’t give me any or pay any to the place I live.
What if parent is receiving benefits for a child not living with her and keeping the money for herself.
Social Security has good information about payee responsibilities, written in nice clear language. Concerning how a parent can use a child’s Social Security (survivor’s or disability) benefits:
First, you must make sure the beneficiary’s day-to-day needs for food and shelter are met. Then, the money can be used for any of the beneficiary’s medical and dental care that is not covered by health insurance, and for personal needs, such as clothing and recreation. If there is money left after you pay for the beneficiary’s needs, it must be saved, preferably in an interest-bearing account or U.S. Savings Bonds.
A payee has to annually complete a worksheet describing how the benefits were used:
Each year, Social Security will ask you to complete a form to account for the benefits you have received. … Remember, the law requires representative payees to use the benefits properly. If a payee misuses benefits, he or she must repay the misused funds. A payee who is convicted of misusing funds may be fined and imprisoned.
For large payments, such as payments of past benefits, Social Security provides the following recommendations:
After you have provided for the beneficiary’s basic needs, you may spend the money to improve the beneficiary’s daily living conditions or for better medical care. You may decide to use the beneficiary’s funds for major health-related expenses, if they are not covered by the beneficiary’s health insurance. Examples of these expenses are reconstructive dental care, a motorized wheelchair, rehabilitation expenses or insurance premiums.
You could use the money to arrange for the beneficiary to go to school or get special training.
You also could spend some of the money on the beneficiary’s recreational activities, such as movies, concerts or magazine subscriptions.
You may want to make some of the following special purchases for the beneficiary.
- A home—You can use funds as a down payment, and you can use some of the money to make payments on a house owned by the beneficiary.
- Home improvements—You can pay for renovations that make the beneficiary’s home safer and more accessible; for example, installing a wheelchair ramp or widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair.
- Furniture—You can buy furniture for the beneficiary’s personal use, as well as items that may be shared with other members of the household, such as a television.
- A car—You can use funds as a down payment, and you can use some of the money to make monthly car payments as long as the car is used for and owned by the beneficiary.
If you are not sure whether it is okay to use the money for a specific item, (for example, paying a bill the beneficiary owed before you became payee), contact your local Social Security office before you spend the money.
To continue receiving SSI, a beneficiary must not have resources worth more than $2,000 ($3,000 for couples). Although not all resources are counted, some of the items you may buy with the money could be worth so much that the beneficiary would be ineligible for SSI benefits. Any money you do not spend could also count as a resource. You should check with your local Social Security office before making a major purchase for an SSI beneficiary.
The payee also has reporting responsibilities including if you (the beneficiary) moves or if the payee (your mom, your dad, or someone else) is no longer responsible for you:
You need to tell Social Security about any changes that may affect benefit payments. As payee, you are responsible for repaying money you received on behalf of the beneficiary if any of the events listed below occur and you do not report them. For example, tell us if:
- The beneficiary moves;
- The beneficiary starts or stops working, no matter how little the amount of earnings;,
- A disabled beneficiary’s medical condition improves;
- The beneficiary starts receiving another government benefit or the amount of the benefit changes;
- The beneficiary will be outside the United States for 30 days or more;
- The beneficiary is imprisoned for a crime that carries a sentence of more than one month;
- The beneficiary is committed to an institution by court order for a crime committed because of a mental impairment;
- Custody of a child beneficiary changes or a child is adopted;
- The beneficiary is a stepchild, and the parents divorce;
- The beneficiary gets married;
- The beneficiary no longer needs a payee; or
- The beneficiary dies.
You also must tell us if:
- You are no longer responsible for the beneficiary;
- You move;
- You no longer wish to be payee;
- You are convicted of a felony; or
- You are violating a condition of your probation or parole imposed under federal or state law.
If you believe benefits are being misused, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office.
Image provided by Ryan McGuire.