Do you receive monthly Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits?  Do you need help in managing your monthly benefits?  If so, you are not alone. While nearly 68 million Americans receive some type of monthly benefit, almost 9 million need help in managing their personal money affairs. For those who need help, Social Security works with you to choose a person or an organization who knows you and wants to help you. This person or organization is called a “Representative Payee”.  SSA’s preference is still a family member or a close friend. When family and friends are unable to help you manage your money, SSA looks to qualified organizations to fill the void.

What does a ‘representative payee’ do for you?  Your payee receives your monthly benefits and must spend the money to see that your basic needs are met. This includes : housing and utilities; food; medical and dental care; personal care items; clothing; and, rehabilitation expenses (if you are disabled). If you live in a setting such as a group home or nursing home, your payee uses your funds to pay for your cost of care and provide money for your personal needs.  After paying for your basic needs, your payee can use the rest of the money to do things like pay any past-due bills you may have or give you spending money. If there is money left over, a payee should save it for you.

Your payee must keep track of the money they receive and spend on your behalf and report this information to SSA annually.

You and your representative payee should work together to make decisions on how your money is spent. If you can’t agree on how to spend your money, or if you believe your payee is misusing or stealing your money, contact Social Security.  If you think you don’t need a representative payee, contact Social Security.

There are several ways to contact Social Security, including online, by phone, and in person.

Online: www.socialsecurity.gov

Phone: 1-800-772-1213 (toll free, 24/7 access)

Phone (TTY): 1-800-325-0778 (toll free, 24/7 access)

Jackie Gorton is an advocate at Disability Rights Arkansas. Email her at jgorton@disabilityrightsar.org.