You are here

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.

My daughter has adhd both types, odd, borderline intellectual functioning with underlining anxiety and depression. So far she has damaged two kitchen chairs (the legs are coming apart). The couch has suffered the most damage (the boards in back are sticking out). She climbs, leans, hanging off furniture. I was told that if your child has broken furniture due to her disability (adhd) you can use some of their back pay to replace these items. Is this true? Also if she doesn't have something to look forward to doing the anxiety starts to build. Her pyschologist said she needs to be constantly stimulated. I was wondering since the town we live in doesn't really have a park. The school has a decent playground but they lock it up after school hours due to vandals. So thats not a option. If her doctor wrote a note that states that outside toys would help with her adhd and anxiety an maybe save the rest of the furniture would they allow it or would I be wasting my time?

Hi there,

I think that replacing the furniture would be a fine use of her SSI payments, especially if she needs the furniture to live a normal life. I am not sure about buying her toys, but what you could do is create a separate bank account for her if you haven't already done so already. This will make it easier for you report your spending to the SSA.

Do you have to get approval from SSA to replace furniture? I have already set up a dedicated account again. The first one was set up as a Checking account but the caseworker wouldn't allow it cause she said "it had to be interest bearing account". The bank didn't want to do a Saving account cause your suppose to have a $100 to open all the penalties it has. They told me if no money is put in within 15days they will close it (its already been 9days) still nothing in it. If its below a $100 there will be a penalty. Your only allowed to use money out of the account 2 times a month or they will penalize you. My caseworker also told me in order to purchase anything I must have a letter from a doctor or a teacher stating how the item will help her. Then I must bring it to her an she may or may not approve it. That seems crazy to me. If a Doctor or Teacher says something can help her why would she deny it? I don't know how that will work out for replacing the furniture. No Doctor or teacher will give a note for that. Most of the post I have read say that they buy the stuff (furniture or pay for camps) then keep the receipts and their caseworker has no problem with it. As long as they can tie it to their child's disability. I don't want to get into trouble but to be fair I think she plays by the rules she wants to. She told me "only one parent has used the dedicated account right". I know she lied to me about the account. It says right on the Social Security website the "A dedicated account must be separate from the account used for the regular monthly benefit payment and can only be a *checking*, savings, or money market account". So it can be a Checking account. I had to fight the bank tooth a nail for that savings account. I don't trust my daughters anymore caseworker. I think shes going to make it extremely hard to use any money out of it. Its her fault I had to set up the dedicated account in the first place. She let it set 2 months on her desk and never sent it off to the DDS. And then another month after DDS found her disabled. I once again had to call them to get the ball rolling. I'm beyond frustrated with my caseworker.

Hi Jennifer, yes, your caseworker has definitely mislead you. I am sorry you've had so many difficulties. You are definitely allowed to put your child's SSI payments into a checking account. It is preferable to do a savings account if you have a large sum of SSI back pay, but it isn't necessary. You also do not need a letter from your doctor for every single thing you purchase for your child. If you have any leftover funds from SSI payments, you are allowed to spend them on recreational items such as tickets to see a movie or an educational game. It is ridiculous to expect a doctor to "prescribe" that your child go to a movie. I would consider going to the SSA's office in person and describing what's been happening to you. Good luck.

I went to sign my child up for ssi on July 14th. They gave a appointment date of July 31st which was a month and a half away! I filled the application out on the 31st and turned in medical papers then too. The caseworker told me I should hear something in 2mths. After 2mths. came and I heard nothing I called only to find out the application was never sent off. After a week calling and going up to ssa they sent it off. On Dec. 16 the DDS determined her to be disabled. I waited a mth an called the ssa a few times with no returned call so I went up there. I filled out all last of the paperwork and did the last interview. Then the caseworker told me since the back pay was over $5,000 to be exact $5,056 she would need a dedicated account. They added the month and a half waiting period before even I even got to fill out the application. The caseworker said that date was protected. Do they have to go by that date or is the case worker trying to add all the time she can to make me have to set up a dedicated account. One ssa told me that the backpay should be from Sept. cause the application wasn't filed til Aug. Is there some way to waive the so called protected date and go by the application date?

Hi there,
Even if you could waive the protected date (which I think is unlikely), you will need to create a dedicated account for your daughter's SSI payments anyway. Every year you'll need to prove that you're only using the payments for her wellbeing, which is much easier if you have a dedicated account for her payments and bank transactions showing what you purchased with the money.

Hi Pete, When your son turns 18, there will be a large re-evaluation preformed by the SSA to determine whether or not he is still disabled as an adult. If he is found to be disabled, he will have control of his own funds (assuming he is capable of handling the money), and I believe he can spend the money as he pleases.

i own a car that is paid off worth $4000 We're about to pay off my husbands car worth $6300 how will this affect my sone suplimental social security?

Hi there,

You'll need to call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to find out more about this. As far as I'm aware, you can have a care value up to $4,500, so your car would be fine. But your husband's car would count towards your total asset value, which would exceed $3000. I'd check with the SSA to make sure that having both cars doesn't disqualify you.

My son is over 18 now and I am his representative payee. His father passed away when he was young. He has been disabled since birth and will receive his Survivor Benefit for life. I have answered the accounting questioner every year but this year I have been sent a second questioner because there was 500 saved. I put it in the right type of account but my concern is I haven't been keeping track of expenses. He has everything he needs or wants and has a beautiful home and is well taken care of. I'm going to set up his check to go into this account from now on and I'll keep records of Everything! But I'm concerned getting a second request and not having actual receipts to show if they ask. Am I in big trouble???

Hi Ashlee, you may be in a spot of trouble if you haven't kept track of where the money was spent. The SSA usually expects receipts as proof that you only spent your SSI payments on your son. I doubt that they will revoke his SSI payments entirely, but it is possible that they will hold a re-evaluation or possibly reduce your benefits because you had $500 left over.

My son (with lower functioning autism) is turning 18 at the end of May 2015. We have been getting conflicting information on when we should apply for SSI? Some say 3-6 months before his birthday. Others say right after his birthday. Is there a long wait for appointments? When is the right time to call for an appointment? Thank you for your help.

Hi David, you should call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to find out a little more about this. If you apply immediately and he is approved, he'll have to go through a redetermination process when he turns 18. Then again, it may take months for them to even look at his case. I really don't have a great answer for you, but I'm sure the SSA will! Good luck.

I have a friend that has been receiving ssi checks for having a learning disability since she was 5. She is currently 21 and still lives at home with her mom and step dad. Her mom will pay for the bills to the house and end up spending the rest of the money on herself. She took the check and put it under her name so that my friend had no access to it . My friend never gets a dollar out of her ssi check. Is what her mother is doing considered fraudulent or illegal??

Hi there,
This is absolutely illegal. SSI benefits for children are pretty strict. They should only be used for the child, and paying for rent or food is only allowed under dire circumstances, when the child is at the risk of becoming homeless or starving to death. I would recommend that you report this to the SSA here:

My son Receives SSI and through one of his Episode he has ODD and ADHD has broke our coach, so there is nothing to sit on in the living room- is that something that can be purchased with his back pay? Also we don't have a home telephone in the home, only my work cell but nothing when I leave for work- is a Phone for communication,and for safety be purchased with his back pay ? I've left message for the Local office and never get a response on this and its very frustrating that takes for ever to get approval or okay Dont want to do anything wrong. I fax in the approval but never get a call back

Hi Shonna,
This is a tricky question because the SSA is pretty strict on how you can spend your son's benefits. I do not think that a new couch would be approved, but it's possible that you could use a portion of the couch to pay for a new one. If you bought a stronger couch that would be able to hold up to his episodes, this would have a higher chance of getting approved. As for the phone, again it is very unclear because it would not be only for his safety, although I'm sure a large percentage of its use would be for that. I suppose your best bet would be to try calling them again! I can imagine that this is so frustrating for you and I am very sorry that I cannot be more help.

All three of my children recieve auxilliary benefits as I recieve SSDI for myself. Since all of our family live out of state, can any of their amounts be used toward an airline ticket, as a means of listing it as for their familial well being?

Hi Eric,

SSDI auxiliary benefits are not monitored as strictly as SSI benefits for children. You will want to check with your local SSA office to be sure, but I believe this would be fine. Again, double-check first to make sure this isn't an abuse of your benefits.

As a representative payee, I need to spend (by June) a large lump sum payment that my son received at the start of his SSI disability payment. He enjoys exercising, and so I'm considering purchasing an exercise bike for our basement that only he will use. The bike is costly, but I must spend the money. All of his basic needs are being cared for. Would this seem OK? I have been keeping receipts for everything.

Hi Tim,
You should contact the SSA to learn more about this, and always contact them if you are unsure about any purchases on behalf of your son. If the bike is for his own benefits then it could potentially qualify, but again, I am not positive as to whether or not this will be an approved purchase.

My sister has a representative payee checking account. She is 65 and attends Exceed, an association for the mentally disabled, daily. She earns money and gets a little paycheck bi-weekly which she is very proud of. Two days ago, a Chase bank teller told me, I cannot deposit these checks in her checking account because it was for ssi payments only. I was surprised because this has been done for years...when she attended DesertARC before we moved, they even direct deposited her checks into that account. Exceed doesn't do that. She receives paper checks from them. So Chase tells me that I have to travel 10 miles to cash them at the bank they are drawn on, with my sister and her ID. That seems so inconvenient. Is this true? It's her money. It's for her. She earned it. I cannot make other types of deposits to her account if it's for her? Why is this happening now after its been done this way for years?

Hi Terry,
I am really sorry to hear about this frustrating situation! From what I understand, SSI accounts must be completely separate from everything else when someone has a representative payee. This is so the SSA can closely monitor how the funds are being spent. But needing to travel an additional journey with your sister seems very unnecessary. I cannot tell you why this suddenly happened now! Your best bet would be to either make an appointment with your local SSA office or to call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. I hope they can help you get to the bottom of the matter!

Hi my son is recieving ssi and has a large back payment due to almost 2yrs of fighting,i have a few questions about using the funds. If martial arts is a recommended therapy for gim can i pay for that out of the back payme.t? Also since he has some learning disabilities would a learning tablet(like a nabi or leapfrog) be something covered,and my biggest question he had medical testing done relating to his disability that i had to pay out of pocket for ,it was around $850 the first time and$600 for the follow up a year later (after his determined eligibility date) i had a relative wgo paid for them with the agreement that i would pay them back when he recieved his back payment (at this time i was unaware of the dedicated account ) i do have the reciepts and can get a statement from that person am i able to use his back payment to repay them?

Hi Elisca,
Unfortunately, you will need to run all of these questions by the SSA. I can try to help, but I cannot give you any solid answers.
1. I know martial arts is not a recommended physical therapy. To get this approved, you will definitely need to contact the SSA. You'll have a better chance of getting it approved if you have a doctor recommending that he partakes in martial arts or some other physical activity.
2. A learning tablet is definitely a potential purchase. Again, it is always safer to run it by the SSA first.
3. I believe that back pay is only to be used on current or outstanding medical bills. I doubt that you will be able to pay for this old bill with your back pay, even if you get your friend to say that she loaned you the money. Again, I don't know for sure and this may in fact be possible, but I would ask the SSA first.

Hi, I wanted to know if with my sons back pay if I could pay off a credit card bill?? For a washer I put on one of my credit card bills that's the only thing I have on that credit card from sears. Please let me know thank you

Hi there,
If your son is receiving auxiliary benefits from your own disability account, then yes. If your son is disabled and it is his SSI payment, then definitely not. SSA back pay must go into a dedicated account and can only be used for the well-being of the child.

Thank u for your help,my case manager got back to me,because i do have the receipts and a statement from the family member i can reimburse them,the leapfrog was approved as was the martial arts or dance which ever he chooses because it was recommended by a pshycologist ,he can also join one other activity (cub scouts or a sport )that will be allowed as well. I appreciate your time.

I can't work because my children are disabled. Can I pay electric, water, cellphone and some credit cards I used for food clothes on children? I waited 5 months for the money from social security add used my credit cards to survive. I don't own a house phone. Thank you