The Disability Law Center

 

 

 

YOUR RIGHTS AS A PERSON WHO GETS SSI OR SSDI THROUGH A REPRESENTATIVE PAYEE

 WHAT IS A REPRESENTATIVE PAYEE?

 A representative payee, also referred to as a rep payee, is a person, agency, or organization appointed by Social Security to get your SSI and SSDI benefits for you and use those benefits to meet your needs. 

 WHO NEEDS A REPRESENTATIVE PAYEE?

 The Social Security Administration (SSA) assumes that ALL people who receive SSI or SSDI have the right to manage their own benefit payments.   There are only two groups of benefit recipients who must receive their SSI/SSDI through a rep payee:

        individuals found by a court to be legally incompetent (who have guardians), and

        individuals under the age of 18.

Social Security may decide that other people who receive SSI or SSDI are not able to manage their own benefits and need a rep payee.   BUT, a SSI/SSDI recipient who disagrees with this decision may fight it by filing an appeal.

WHAT RIGHTS DO I HAVE WHEN SSA DECIDES I NEED A PAYEE?

        SSA must give you a written notice stating that a representative payee (payee) will be appointed and stating who that payee will be.  That notice must include a    statement of   your appeal rights. 

        If you disagree with Social Security’s decision that you need a payee, or if                        want a different payee than the one Social Security appointed for you, you can        file an appeal.  This appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration and must be      filed within 60 days   of the date of the notice from SSA appointing the payee. If you appeal, SSA must review its decision and give you a notice with a new       decision.  If you disagree with the new decision, you have the right to appeal by         asking for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.

WHAT MUST MY PAYEE DO WITH MY BENEFITS?  WHAT MUST MY PAYEE NOT DO?

        Your representative payee must use your social security funds for your benefit.    This includes meeting your basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and utilities as   well as personal care, medical and dental care, education, and personal comfort                         items.   If you are in a hospital or institution that accepts Medicaid (Masshealth),           then Medicaid should pay for the hospital and your SSI/SSDI should be used to            meet your other needs.

        Your payee must save any funds remaining at the month’s end must be saved in an appropriate bank account.  If you receive SSI, your payee should be careful     not to let your assets go over the $2000 SSI asset limit ($3000 for couples).

        Your payee is not your guardian and does not have the right to make        decisions about anything other than your SSI and SSDI benefits.  Your payee cannot tell you where you must live or how you must live.   

        Your payee must keep your funds in a separate account and keep separate        records about the use of your funds.  Payees must make yearly written             reports to SSA about how the funds were used. 

        Your payee must make reports to SSA about changes in your situation that may             affect your monthly benefit.  These include things like change of address,         marriage, divorce, and return to work.  You are also responsible for making these      reports to SSA.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I THINK YOUR PAYEE IS NOT USING MY BENEFITS TO MEET MY NEEDS?

        SSA must monitor the actions of your payee in order to ensure that the payee is             using the benefits to meet your basic needs.  If you think your payee is not                    using your SSI/SSDI for to meet your needs, you can file a complaint about your      payee with your local SSA office.  SSA must investigate all complaints filed   about payees and must notify you of the results of its investigation and of your       right to appeal if you disagree.   A payee who spends your SSI/SSDI funds on           himself may be required to repay you. 

        You can get a different payee.

        You can try to become your own payee if you can show that you are able to           manage your own money and meet your basic needs.

HOW CAN I GET A DIFFERENT PAYEE APPOINTED?

        A SSI/SSDI recipient who becomes unhappy with their payee can request that     someone else be appointed to serve as payee.  It is always best to have a      replacement payee in mind.  SSA must help you find a payee if you are not able      to find one yourself.  Each SSA office must maintain a list of individuals and    agencies in their area that are willing to provide payee services. 

        Just because you live in an institution or are a client of a state agency (such as    the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Mental Retardation, or the            Department of Social Services) and are required to have a payee, Social   Security should not automatically appoint the institution or state agency to be        your payee.   A family member, friend or other person can be your payee if they       apply and SSA approves.

CAN I BECOME MY OWN PAYEE?

Maybe.  If you think that you no longer need the help of a payee to manage your funds, you can ask Social Security to pay you directly.  You need to give SSA evidence to support your request.  There are different types of evidence that may be helpful:

        Letters from your doctor or counselor stating that you are able to manage money             and provide for your own basic needs. 

        Letters from friends, family members, clergy, or other people who know you and your ability to manage your own money and meet your basic needs.

        Your own actions may also be part of the evidence showing that you can   manage your own money.  For example, it may help to let SSA know that you            have been maintaining your own checkbook or bank account, that you know   what your monthly income and basic expenses are, and that you are making       sure that your bills are being paid on time. 

If you apply to be your own payee and Social Security denies your application, you have the right to appeal that decision.  You have 60 days from the date of SSA’s decision to file the appeal.  That appeal is called a Request for Reconsideration. 

WHAT IF I NEED A PAYEE BUT HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND ONE?

        If SSA decides you need a payee but you have not been able to find a       suitable payee, in most cases, SSA must pay you directly until you find a payee.                   But, there are exceptions to this rule: SSA may suspend your benefits for a           maximum of 1 month if paying you directly would cause “substantial harm.”  If       you have a substance abuse condition, SSA may but is not required to suspend       your benefits for more than 1 month but SSA must use “extreme caution” to    ensure that you are not harmed by an extended period without payment of    benefits.  People who have been found legally incompetent or who are under 15         years old cannot be paid directly even if no payee has been found.

CAN A PAYEE CHARGE A FEE?   

        Organizations approved as payees may charge a fee for serving as payee.  That            fee is taken out of your SSI/SSDI.  For most people, the maximum fee is $33 per        month, but for people with substance abuse conditions, the fee may be up to $64    per month.  Individual payees may not charge a fee. 


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