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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!

Comments

If I know someone that has two child that gets disability and she basically uses the money to buy her New clothes and goes out to eat n take two vacations a month with their check after she buys them only one or two suits of clothes with them what should I do can't she get in trouble for that

Hi Chad,
Are you confident she isn't spending her child's SSI benefits on the child? My concern would be to risk the child losing his/her disability benefits due to a false accusation. If you're 100% sure that she is misusing the child's benefit, you could report this at 1-800-772-1213.

Can a parent spend back pay on her boyfriend rehab also spent ssi she recipes f

How can it be possible a mother can spend her daughter back ssi on her boy friend rehab? ???also pay boyfriend cell phone bill buy him shoes.And nothing on child ?

Hi Lujuana,
That sounds like it might be fraud! I would consider reporting that to the SSA.

My children recently received a check (2 months prev) for disability benefits they are entitled to due to their father recently being disabled (we are no longer married). Moving forward, their money will be deposited to a debit card for use on their expenses. For this particular first time check for them, can I deposit into my account and use for current expenses immediately or am I required to save this into a completely separate account as a "savings" since it is 2 months backpay. I read that 6 months or more should be a designated account but less than that can be deposited and used. My children have expenses for food, shelter, medical, clothing this month that this can be used for being that it's only 2 months worth (kids are not disabled - their dad is) but I was not sure if I needed to save this and wait until next month to be deposited into the debit card. Thanks for your help!

Hi Laurie,
You should definitely put this in a separate account. Because they're receiving auxiliary benefits the SSA will likely not be as strict with back pay, but because they're children, it's better to be safe than sorry.

if the mother is the payee and divorced from the father, can the father use some of the money each month. Since he has the child every other weekend and every Wednesday?

Hi Robyn,
Those funds are intended to be used for the child, so if the father would be using the money for approved purposes, the payee may be able to give him the money to do so.

Hi Robyn,
I'd be careful with that. Because the father has the child only every other weekend and Wednesdays, the benefit is probably used largely on his/her share of the rent/utilities/clothing, etc. How much does the father truly need those funds, especially if they are paying child support. Often when child support is ordered, that amount is taken into consideration in the amount they are receiving as well. It probably is truly not in the best interest of the primary household nor the child to pass funds to a parent that has such limited visitations and parenting time.

Hi Katie,
Thank you for sharing! It's true, if your child receives disability benefits or auxiliary benefits based off of either of their parent's SSDI benefits, it's a good idea to have a plan to use those benefits for the child.

I had used some of the back pay 2,000 on fixing my car is that ok or not? Either way already done. I spent 383$ new tires alignment and oilchange

Hi Kelly,
No, this is likely not an approved payment. Back pay can ONLY be spent on improving the child's live, such as on doctors' appointments. Your child could lose his or her benefits.

Hi Kelly,
I am not sure! If you are able to do that, I would say it's a wise idea.

Hi Kelly,
Bed is fine. Gas is ok so long as you can definitively prove that the gas was used to and from trips to her doctor or school.

Just because car maintenance is not specifically listed, does not mean it can't be approved. It's common sense. How else do you get the children to doctor appointments and everywhere else they need to be? Usually, for me as a mom, just about everyplace I go is either directly or indirectly related to caring for the children.

if the child recieve ssi then they also get medical insurance and that insurance will get that child to whatever medical appointments he would have all you have to do is call insurance and schedule a ride.

Hi Brandon,
That may be an option! Also, many cities and towns have transport options for those who are over 60 or disabled as well.

Exactly! There is quite a bit of erroneous information being listed in the comment section of this site. To tell someone that their child could lose their benefits BC they fixed their sole mode of transportation is unnecessary. Same with saying gas "may" be okay-- funds can be used for gas to transport that child. Funds can be used for nearly ANYTHING that improves a child's life.

Hi Renee,
The improvement, maintenance and upkeep of a child is the intended use of these benefits, however there may be restrictions, and it's best to consult with the SSA if you're unsure if the purchase would be allowed.

Of course its ok to make car repairs since the car does infact have to transport the child... that is a no brainer... not having a way to get around would further impact the disability

Hi K,
That's a great point! Regardless, it's always good to check in with your SSA representative before making purchases that aren't explicitly listed as allowed.

Wouldn't having a running vehicle be an improvement in the child's life. I was told that with my son's 3 yrs ofor back pay we could possibly get a car to get him to his appointments and activities. A cheap used car not a brand new top of the lone of course.

Hi Kelly,
It may be a definite improvement, but if you're unsure, it's always good to contact your local SSA office and confirm with them.

I don't understand this , a car is a necessity for life in general especially for a disabled child for how else would they get to their doctor to maintain health or medication etc. If she has no way to doctor and has to suffer I would say that's a fair way to improve the child's life so they are not walking to and from everything.

Hi Marie,
Many states have subsidized transportation for people receiving Medicaid or Medicare, it may be a good idea to contact the office in your state that manages them for more details.

Hi Patricia,
That may be an acceptable use of benefits, but if you're in doubt, you may want to contact the SSA regarding any purchases you are unsure of.

My son's case manager gave me approval to use some of the back pay to fix my vehicle since we where not living on a bus line and it was my only way of getting him to and from school as well as all of his doctor appointments my back pay was also less than 6 months so that makes a difference as well . I hope that helps

Hi,
You can spend back pay on a car, but it must be owned by and used by the beneficiary.

Bryan, a child can't own a vehicle. If the vehicle is owned by the parent AND that vehicle is used to transport the child to school, doctors appointments AND for the parent to go places like the grocery store to buy food for the child. The expenses are allowed.

Hi Hope,
A child may be able to own a vehicle, however they may not be allowed to operate it. However, it's always best to consult your SSA caseworker if you're unsure about what you can use your child's money for.

Can i use the back pay for my sons glasses. He broke ome i bought and then his other ones. He cant get new ones from insurance until six more months? He want to ice skate and i cant afford the classes and to take a cab to get thier. There is no bus route. Can i use it for that. I have a list of things that i am going to call ssa to ask. But whats really holding me down from getting him more services available is transportation. He keep breaking his eye glasses.

My child gets ssi payments from her father, My case worker told me, i could buy a car, Cable and have a phone, paid with my child's check. Having a car helps your child get place to place. So no i don't think that would be a problem...

I have a question.
What if i never opened my daughter's bank account, I get her check sent to my account. I do however spend her money on her. My boyfriend supports me not my child. With my daughters check i buy clothing, diapers, transportation,food, entertainment, and i occasionally take her out to eat like a McDonald's. Is that wrong?

Hi Cole,
It may be better to have a separate account for your child's benefits as that might allow your to track the money more easily and account for purchases.

Yes, auto repairs ARE approved expenses as reliable transportation is necessary to get to medical appointments, therapy, work programs, etc. SSA will approve funds being spent on improving your vehicle, whether it's retro funds or monthly dispersement being used. Not sure why she said no but that's false.

Hi Renee,
Thanks for sharing! It may be a good idea to contact the SSA about any purchases you make regarding back pay, regardless.

Hi Kelly,
I was actually told, years ago, but a Social Security adjudicator that it was appropriate, since it made the vehicle that I transported my child in, a safe environment for him, and that it was used for transportation for education, food/clothing needs, and necessary appoints for medical, counseling, etc.

Hi Katie,
Thank you for sharing! It's always best to contact your local SSA office regarding purchases if you're unsure if they're allowed.

I have a friend who is so confused as to what shes allowed to purchase for her daughter who is on disability. Her caseworker told her she is not allowed to purchase glasses, medicine, clothes, etc for her daughter. So what is the purpose of her having an account for her if shes not allowed to spend the money on what she wants. Or even a computer to help her w her dyslexia. They told her she can buy her a bed and a dresser which she already has. Is there not a list she can look at online possibly??

Hi April,
The reason she can't spend it on what she wants is because all of the money needs to be spent on her daughter, not other items like car payments or credit card bills. She can likely get most purchases for her daughter approved, like a computer. She should just submit them ahead of time to make sure she does not face a penalty.

My 14 year old and my 12 year both get ss because thier father retired (and is fighting to stop child support because they get this benefit) How do you show money used for everyday things like groceries? Say I purchase a gallon of milk. I will probably drink some of that milk too. I dont have to shop seperatly for my daughter do I?

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