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Do you have a friend or loved one who receives Social Security and is unable to manage her payments? If so, you can request that the Social Security Administration (SSA), the government agency that disburses Social Security, name you as the representative payee for that person.
Being a representative payee gives you the power and the responsibility to manage that money for your friend or loved one. (The Office of Personnel Management and the Railroad Retirement Agency also appoint representative payees, and the responsibilities are basically the same.)
As a representative payee, you only have the power to handle the Social Security benefit for your friend or loved one (the beneficiary) and not any other money or property for that person unless some other document or government agency appoints you to do so.
It is important to remember that the check from the SSA is not yours; it belongs to the beneficiary. The beneficiary is supposed to get the benefit of the money. Your role includes performing four very important duties:
Remember, there may be other people appointed to help the same beneficiary with other things. They have the same general four duties as you, and all of you must work together if that is in the beneficiary's best interest.
If you are not a family member and the beneficiary has family, you must keep family members informed about what you are doing for the beneficiary. This will reduce the chance that they will have problems with your actions. In the end, however, the decisions about the Social Security check are yours to make because you are responsible. You are the one who will get in trouble if something goes wrong. For example, if someone thinks you violated one of your four important duties, they can report you to the SSA. The SSA will investigate, and if it decides that you misused the beneficiary's money, it will make you replace what was lost out of your own pocket.
The SSA has created a Representative Payee Portal as a central gateway for individual representative payees with a my Social Security account to conduct their own business or manage direct deposit, wage reporting, and annual reporting for their beneficiaries.
If you have more questions about what it means to be a representative payee, check out www.ssa.gov/payee.
For more information, visit the SSA’s online guide for representative payees. Learn more about Social Security on the ElderLawAnswers website.