Helping People on Social Security Disability: the Role of the Representative Payee

April 21, 2016

Sometimes a person who is collecting Social Security Disability benefits in Philadelphia could have problems managing that money, and there is no close family member or person with power of attorney to help them. In these cases, the Social Security Administration will appoint a person, called a representative payee, to help the benefits recipient manage his or her money and take care of the beneficiary. The SSA might appoint a representative payee if the beneficiary:
  • Has severe mental health issues
  • Has been designated with a cognitive impairment
  • Has physical limitations which would prevent him or her from taking care of the funds
  • Has a history of alcohol or substance abuse

The payee will take control of the SSD beneficiary’s monthly payment and use it to pay bills, buy groceries, and perhaps purchase new clothing – in short, to take care of the things we all need in order to survive: food, clothing and shelter. The payee will also use the funds to pay for medical expenses (medications, doctors’ visits, therapies, etc.) and transportation expenses for things like visiting the doctor, visiting a Philadelphia Social Security Disability attorney, or traveling to see family. The payee must keep careful records of these expenses, and is required to save any unused benefits money on behalf of the recipient.

Who can be a representative payee?

The SSA will usually appoint a family member or friend that the beneficiary trusts in order to handle their finances. If the person collecting Social Security Disability benefits in Philadelphia does not trust anyone close to him or her – as often happens with beneficiaries who have a history of abuse in their family, or who suffer from certain severe mental health issues like paranoia – then the SSA may look for “qualified organizations” to fulfill that role.

Most representative payees do not collect a fee of any kind, but some of the organizations may be allowed to do so, according to their website, if the organization:

  • Is a” community based, nonprofit social service organization, bonded and licensed in the state in which it serves as payee, or
  • A state or local government agency responsible for income maintenance, social service, health care, or fiduciary duties, and
  • Regularly serves as a payee for at least five beneficiaries, and
  • Not be a creditor of the beneficiary (some exceptions apply), and
  • Submit an SSA-445 (Application to Collect a Fee) to us, and
  • Be authorized in writing by us to collect a fee.”

If you believe that your loved one collecting Social Security Disability benefits in Philadelphia may need the help of a representative payee, you should talk to a lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates. Please contact us to schedule an appointment at any of our office locations serving Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties to find out more.