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How Should a Representative Payee Spend a Child's SSI Benefits?

Today we will be addressing a question that came to us through our interactive disability forum. If you have a question regarding any part of the Social Security Disability application process, leave it in the comment section below so that we can answer it in a future blog post. Today’s question is:

How should a representative payee spend a child's SSI benefits?

As the representative payee for your child’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, you are responsible for using the funds appropriately and for keeping accurate records of how the payments are spent.

Standard monthly benefit payments can be managed and used in certain ways, while significant back payments of retroactive benefits must be handled differently.

Dedicated Accounts for SSI Back Payments

If your child has recently been approved for SSI and is due a large back payment of benefits, then you will be required to open a dedicated bank account for the funds and the use of those funds will be subject to very specific restrictions.

  • The dedicated account must be a separate checking, savings, or money market account from the one that is used for standard monthly SSI benefits.
  • The funds in the account must be maintained separately from all other funds, including monthly benefit deposits from SSI.
  • The back payment funds cannot be used to purchase stocks, bonds, CDs, or any other form of secured or unsecured investment.
  • The account must be registered showing your child as the owner of the funds and any and all interest that may be accrued on the account.

Funds from your child’s dedicated account can be spent only on the following:

  • medical treatment and related expenses
  • educational expenses, including job and skills training costs
  • special equipment, skilled nursing assistance, home modification costs, and rehab or therapy expenses

Legal fees due to the attorney that assisted in your child’s SSI claim can also be paid from this account.

Regular Monthly Benefit Payments

Your child’s regular monthly SSI payments can be deposited into your standard savings, checking, or money market account, but you will still need to accurately track the manner in which those funds are spent and report that information to the SSA as required.

Monthly benefit payments can be spent on everyday living expenses and daily support needs. These can include any and all of the items listed under the authorized Dedicated Account spending, as well as the following:

  • food
  • clothing
  • shelter
  • insurance costs
  • medical care
  • child care expenses
  • furnishing
  • personal comfort items

Keep in mind that the above listed items can only be used for the child earning the benefits.

Any monthly benefits that are not needed to pay for your child’s current-month expenses must be saved for future use. Many people find the easiest method for keeping track of their child’s benefit balance and spending details is to have a separate checking and/or savings account specifically for monthly SSI payments.

Periodic Spending Checks

The SSA conducts periodic checks on the spending practices of representative payees. Typically these reviews happen once a year. However, the SSA may require reporting as often as every three months for the duration of your child’s SSI eligibility.

If you aren’t sure if you are spending your child’s benefit payments correctly, you should contact the SSA representative who handles his or her claim. If a child’s payments are spent incorrectly, the representative payee may be required to reimburse any funds that were misused.

Please leave any Social Security Disability questions in the comment section below so that we can answer them in a future blog post!


Hi Joe. Children can receive SSDI auxiliary benefits under the record of an eligible parent or they can receive SSI benefits if their family meets the household income limits.

I heard the first payment given is retroactive from time of application, can we as the parents (and account rep) get reimbursed for the childs needs that was purchased above ( ie medical, food, etc) listed above from that time?

My son just received his back pay. Our heater went out and we can not afford another one. Can I use that money to ensure that the house in which the disabled children live have heat for the winter?

my sister-in-law asked me to see if I could out why her children never got to draw a check off of her disability when she got it. She had three that were still under age where they should have got to draw off of her. She says she got a letter that said congratulations that her kids could draw but unfortunately there were no funds available then. She got her disability between 2000 and 2004. I have her social number. she gave me it so I could try to get some information for her. She has no computer. Please try to find out why her kids didn't get draw a check off of her. by the way her name is Sandra Kay Holloway. Thank You

Hello, your son's SSI payments are intended for him and if you receive any benefits that are not needed to pay for your son's current-month expenses, they need to be saved for his future use. The money used can be comfort items and shelter for his use. If you are concerned, I would suggest contacting the SSA and double checking. You can reach them at 1-800-772-1213.

My son is high function level 1 autism. His comfort items are electronics ie: computer, tv, and tablet. Are they ok to purchase? These of course will be purchased after food and shelter are payed for. As for money set back and saved. He recieved back pay for three months does it have to be in a dedicated account? If so can i use theback pay to purchase bed clothes and such items listed above?

If he received three months of back payment and it isn't a large amount, it doesn't have to be put into a separate account. However, you will need to accurately track and maintain the back pay received. If his comfort items include what you listed and are intended for him, then it should be fine. Remember, the SSI back payments and monthly payments have to be used only for your son, his needs and for his benefit.

Absolutely not. The back pay for children with disabilities should only be used for assisting the child with his/her disabilities. You may hire someone to assist taking care of him, get therapy for your child, medication, and education or job skills training. It is disability benefit fraud if you are found using your child's disability benefits for clothes, food, rent, or car payments.

Informative post. I was reading constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely useful information specially the last part :) I care for such information a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

Can my child's disability be used to pay for rent and utilities for the family instead of using my husband's paycheck for that? Or does his paycheck income have be used to cover those bills? How about repairs on the car so I can get her to doctor appointments? Cell phone bill so I can communicate with her doctors?

Hi there, The child's monthly paycheck can be used for costs that will help the child's life, such as paying for rent or buying food. Cell phone bills and car repair may be different matters. You may not spend back pay on these, but I'd contact your local SSA representative to find out if you can use your child's monthly payments on that.

It is actually a cool and interesting piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing. best wishes

I have a son with very severe autism and non verbal. He tends to wonder and has lots of sinus issues due to dust. We have shag carpet and want to change it out to floors that don't hold dust and put up fence around house as a safety from his tendancy to wonder. Is that OK to use ssi to pay for that, of course after his basics of food shelter comforts.

Hi Colleen,

It is absolutely OK for you to use your son's SSI payments to put up a fence to keep him safe. If the carpet is bothering him and you want to make sure he stays healthy, it is also fine to replace it.