Misuse of Benefits by a Representative Payee

Sometimes, people who receive Social Security Benefits are not able to handle their own financial affairs. In those cases, and after a careful investigation, SSA appoints a relative, friend, or another individual or organization to handle their Social Security matters.

When reporting allegations of Representative Payee misuse, there are several things that must be considered before reporting this information.

Responsibilities of a Representative Payee

Some of the duties of a Representative Payee include:

  • Determining the beneficiary’s total needs and using the benefits received in the best interests of the beneficiary
  • Maintaining a continuing awareness of the beneficiary’s needs and condition, if the beneficiary does not live with the Representative Payee, by contact such as visiting the beneficiary and consultations with custodians
  • Applying the benefit payments only for the beneficiary’s use and benefit
  • Notifying SSA of any change in his or her circumstances that would affect performance of the payee's responsibilities
  • Reporting to SSA any event that will affect the amount of benefits the beneficiary receives and to give SSA written reports accounting for the use of the benefits

Essential Needs

A Representative Payee must apply the payments for the use and benefit of the entitled individual. The funds should be spent on the beneficiary’s current and reasonably foreseeable needs. The needs should be immediate and essential.

Examples of properly disbursed benefits are:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Utilities
  • Medical care and insurance
  • Dental care
  • Personal hygiene
  • Education
  • Rehabilitation expenses

If there are funds left over once the beneficiary’s current needs are met, the representative payee must save and/or invest the remaining funds in trust for the beneficiary.

What Representative Payees Should NOT Do

Representative Payees cannot:

  • Use a beneficiary’s funds for their own personal expenses, or spend funds in a way that would leave the beneficiary without necessary items or services (housing, food and medical care)
  • Put a beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI funds in the Representative Payee’s or another person's account
  • Keep conserved funds once they are no longer a Representative Payee for the beneficiary
  • Charge the beneficiary for services unless authorized by the Social Security Administration to do so

Reporting Potential Violations

If you feel the Representative Payee has in some fashion misused the benefits being issued for the beneficiary, contact the OIG Fraud Hotline.

You should provide as much identifying information as possible regarding the suspect. Such information should include:

  • Name of the Representative Payee and the beneficiary
  • Social Security Number of the Representative Payee and the beneficiary
  • Date of birth of the Representative Payee and the beneficiary
  • Details regarding the allegation, such as when it happened, how the abuse was committed, and where the abuse took place