Issue Spotting in Rep Payee Relationships

Posted on August 27, 2019

For those who may be unfamiliar, a representative payee, or “payee”, is an individual or an organization who manages the Social Security benefits of a person who SSA has determined unable to manage, or direct the management, of their own benefits[1].

You may be wondering how and when SSA decides to appoint a payee. It depends on the situation, but SSA policy presumes that adults are capable of managing their own benefits. However, if there is evidence that an individual may need assistance in managing their finances, SSA will make a “capability determination” to decide if that person needs a payee[2].

SSA may assign a payee for a variety of reasons, but some common examples include if the person receiving benefits has a state-appointed guardian or conservator, or if there is medical evidence that the person cannot manage their own finances[3]. The entity that SSA chooses to serve as an individual’s payee is determined by an order of “payee preference”, which you can find here. It’s also important to know, that a person can apply to become their own payee at any time.

As of 2017, there are 8.1 million people with payees and 5.8 million payees in America[4] - that’s a lot of payees for SSA to keep track of!

In August 2018, Disability Rights Maine started a contract to conduct reviews of payees on behalf of SSA full-time. You can learn more about our Rep Payee Review Program here. The reviews are intended to educate payees, increase oversight of payees, and collect beneficiary reports of payee performance, among other responsibilities.

Unfortunately, payee abuse and exploitation is not uncommon. Here are some questions that are helpful in identifying potential payee issues or misuse:

Remember, a payee is appointed to help an individual manage their money. The money does not belong to the payee. Thanks for your interest in learning more about payees!

*Please keep in mind that DRM will seek the permission of the individual who is served by the payee in order to report the issue to SSA.

[1] https://www.ssa.gov/payee/faqrep.htm

[2] https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200502001

[3] https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200502020

[4] https://drme.org/assets/uncategorized/RP-Program-Handout-01.17.19.pdf

Learn more about: