By Bill Rodenspiel, Abuse Specialist
Sometimes when people who receive Social Security benefits are not able to handle their own financial affairs, they can have Social Security appoint a relative, friend, or another party to handle their social security matters, who is called a Representative Payee. Having power of attorney over someone does not automatically enable that person to be a Rep Payee. A Rep Payee is sometimes an organization such a nursing home, or a social services agency (common for a person deemed to be a Dependent Adult.)
Rep Payees are responsible to properly handle the client’s benefits and those funds should be first used to meet the client’s day to day needs for food, shelter, clothing etc.
Some of the duties of a Rep Payee are as follows:
- Determine client’s total needs and use them towards the best interest of the beneficiary.
- Maintain awareness of client’s needs and condition.
- Apply the benefit payments only for the client’s use.
- Notify Social Security of any change that might affect the Rep Payee’s ability to meet these responsibilities.
Representative Payees cannot use a client’s funds for the personal use expenses of the Rep Payee, spend funds in a way that would leave the client without those necessary items or services (food, housing, or medical care) or put a client’s SSI funds in the Rep Payee’s or another person’s account. The Rep Payee cannot keep the client’s funds once the Rep Payee is no longer a Rep Payee for that client. Rep Payee’s are not allowed to charge the client for services unless authorized by the Social Security Administration to do so.
Reporting Potential Violations:
Based on the above information, misuse of Rep Payee’s responsibilities can be reported to the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General Fraud Hotline. List as much identifying information as needed such as:
- Name of Rep Payee and beneficiary
- Social Security Number of Rep Payee and client, if known.
- Dates of birth of both Rep Payee and beneficiary, if known.
- Specific details regarding the allegation, such as when it happened, how it occurred, where the abuse took place and any supporting documents relating to the complaint.
Complaints of this nature as well as complaints of Elder Financial Abuse are frequently reported to Ombudsman Services.