Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have been assigned as my niece’s representative payee for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Can you tell me what my responsibilities will be and if there is anything I need to know about reporting or taxes? I don’t want to get into trouble because I did not manage the SSI funds properly.”
Supplemental Security Income and the SSI representative payee
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is awarded to the disabled, aged and blind who are unable to work for at least 12 continuous months.
Claimants who are not able to manage their own monthly SSI funds may have a SSI representative payee assigned to help them. The SSI representative payee not only has control of the SSI funds, but they also must understand the needs of the beneficiary and decide how to best use the funds to provide for the beneficiary’s emotional, physical, and financial needs.
First and foremost, all SSI funds must be used appropriately. If you, as the SSI representative payee, misuse the funds you will be responsible for repaying the fund. If the fraud and misuse is egregious and intentional, you could be imprisoned or fined.
How should SSI funds be used by the SSI representative payee?
Although you have sole control of the SSI monthly payments and how they should be used, as the representative payee, you are responsible for seeking medical treatment (for a child), taking care of the beneficiary’s day-to-day needs for food and shelter, buying clothing and other personal items, and paying for other health-related expenses such as reconstructive dental care or rehabilitation. All other monies should be invested in a secure, interest bearing account.
If you have any questions about your role and responsibilities, you should contact the SSA and discuss your case. Keep in mind, you generally are not allowed to receive payment for your services.
Keep records about how you spend the SSI funds
All SSI representative payees are responsible for reporting how they spend the SSI funds. Specifically, they must complete the Representative Payee Report (Form SSA-623, SSA-6230, or SSA-6233) each year and file it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee.
In some cases, you may also be responsible for paying federal income tax on certain disability benefits. To make this determination you will need to complete the Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099). This information can then be provided to your tax accountant who can calculate whether taxes are owed.
What other information must be reported to the SSA?
Finally, you must also report to the SSA any changes which could affect the SSI benefits given to the claimant. The SSA must be notified if any of the following occur:
- The beneficiary moves
- The beneficiary’s medical condition improves
- The beneficiary travels to another country outside of the US for more than 30 days
- The beneficiary is imprisoned for more than one month
- The beneficiary gets married
- The beneficiary no longer needs a payee
- The beneficiary starts receiving another government benefit
- The beneficiary is committed to an institution for a crime committed due to a mental impairment
If you are appointed the SSI representative payee for your niece this is a big commitment, and it’s important you understand your responsibilities.
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