What Bills Can Social Security Disability Benefits Cover?

Submitted by Shane on Mon, 12/20/2010 - 10:15

Individuals who suffer from severe disabilities often face serious financial hardship. While going through the Social Security Disability application process, the bills can begin to pile up, and once the approval of benefits is in hand, these individuals finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. At that point, the question that most Social Security Disability beneficiaries find themselves asking is exactly what bills they can pay with their benefits and how they are allowed to spend their money. If you have been approved for Social Security Disability benefits and you are wondering what you can use your benefit payments for, the following information can help you understand how your Social Security Disability benefits should be spent.

The Thrill of a Social Security Disability Back Payment

Many of the individuals who are approved for Social Security Disability benefits are entitled to back payments. These Social Security back payments are paid in a lump sum and can sometimes amount to $20,000 or more. It is important to remember that a back payment is not a license to go on an extravagant shopping spree. You should be frugal with this payment and spend it wisely.

When you receive your Social Security Disability back payment, focus on paying off bills that were incurred during the Social Security Disability application process. If there is money left over after outstanding debts have been paid, put some money in an interest-bearing savings account to provide for future unexpected expenses.

Spending Your Social Security Disability Benefits

Once your monthly Social Security Disability payments begin, you will be in charge of handling your own Social Security Disability benefits if you do not have a Social Security Representative Payee. Technically, there are no restrictions as to what you can do with your Social Security Disability payments. It is, however, your responsibility to make sure that your living expenses are paid for before you spend any of your Social Security Disability benefits on entertainment or luxury purchases.

If your Social Security Disability payments are the only household income you have to live on, the bulk of your payments should be put towards your housing, utilities, food and other living expenses. If you have a spouse who earns a substantial income or you live with a family member and you do not have to pay for your living expenses, then your Social Security Disability benefits can be spent any way you see fit.

The Responsibilities of a Social Security Disability Representative Payee

If, for some reason, the Social Security Administration has decided that you are unable to handle your own Social Security Disability benefits, they will assign you a Social Security Disability Representative Payee to handle your benefits for you. This representative payee must handle your Social Security Disability benefits in a way that is much different than you would handle benefits for yourself.

If your Representative Payee is handling your disability benefits on your behalf, he or she must use those benefits to cover the costs of your basic living expenses before doing anything else with the money you receive from Social Security. Approved expenses include housing, food, clothing and other necessary bills. If there is any money left over after these bills have been paid, the Representative Payee may provide you with money for entertainment purposes. Any remaining funds from your Social Security Disability payments must be put into a savings account for your future use.

Each year your Social Security Disability Representative Payee will be responsible for providing the Social Security Administration with a detailed report explaining how your benefits were spent. Each dollar will need to be accounted for and the Social Security Administration will ensure that your funds are being spent properly.

If a Social Security Disability Representative Payee does not use your disability payments for their intended purpose, you should report this fact to the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will review any potential misuse of your Social Security Disability payments and, if necessary, will reclaim any misused funds for you.

Spending Social Security Disability Benefits Wisely

In most cases, Social Security Disability payments are not substantial enough to afford for an affluent lifestyle. Because of this, you should always spend your benefits wisely. Be frugal and do not make lavish purchases that you cannot afford. There is no guarantee that your Social Security Disability benefits will last forever. Because of this, you should try to save money whenever possible. If you have money left over at the end of the month after your living expenses have been paid, consider putting a portion of your Social Security Disability payments into an interest-bearing savings account. By putting away money now you can protect yourself from unforeseen financial emergencies in the future.

Blog comments

Lucille (not verified)

My mother is currently being discharged from the hospital and was declared incapacitated I am going to be her payee and guardian and her nursing home is an hour and a half away from me can I use her benefits as her payee for gas to get out there I am not working right now I am in search of a job but I do not want to financially destroy my household if she has more than enough each month to help with gas to come see her there were no nursing homes available nearby.

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 20:49 Permalink

In reply to by Lucille (not verified)

Hi Lucille,

I am so sorry to hear that. You may be able to do so, however it is always best to double check with the SSA just to be sure just to be safe. Best wishes.

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 09:40 Permalink
Annette (not verified)

My stepdad lives with me i have been taking care of him five years now. He recieved some back pay from ssi. I am his representative payee. Can i use the back pay for moving? And current rent and utilities? He is wanting to blow half the money on a moped and cant even see good enough to read road signs. He is legally blind and is deaf in one ear and half deaf in the other one. He needs clothes ,shoes and food also. I cannot afford all these bills alone anymore. As long as i keep reciepts for expenses do i have to let him spend half of this money on a moped that would put him in danger to drive? Please let me know

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 21:57 Permalink
Josh (not verified)

Hello, my mom got a full approval and will be getting her back pay of 36k. I will be her representative payee. She has promised to pay me back for supporting her for 3 years. She owes me a lot for out of pocket expenses like prescriptions, me paying her bills, repairs on her car, housing/utilities etc. As a rep payee can I pay myself back? If you don't have an idea, please don't answer by saying contact ssa. Thanks

Mon, 12/18/2017 - 08:02 Permalink
Liz (not verified)

My daughter got her back pay and I am her payee. On her first check we put it towards a apartment unit as a deposit. Her name and my name is on it. My ex husband now was with us. All of us is on the lease and he gets his own SSI can my daughter and I get back the deposit when we move out?

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 01:13 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

Hi my daughter is 9 years old and recieced her back pay for disability and I am her payee. My ex husband receives his own disability SSI not her bilogical father. As her payee as listed on her 1st check with her name and mines I put it towards our apartment unit my ex kicked us out once we got it not legally were still on the lease ys 3. Can my daughter get back her deposit since we don't live there? I nottified Legal Aide about it. I was wondering since i did uae it for a place for her.

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 01:30 Permalink
Jill (not verified)

Can a Beneficiary let the mentally disabled person use the majority of his SSD check to get drunk everyday? The disabled person lives with his beneficiary and gives him only $350.00 towards bills. That leaves him $4-500 to spend getting drunk everyday til he is broke! I think the beneficiary would like to see him use his money towards better things but the person is an alcoholic.

Sat, 02/03/2018 - 06:56 Permalink
Angela (not verified)

As a payee can i disburse funds for my sons nurse (like buy her a movie ticket) so that he can go on an outing (he can not go without someone) and same for her food? he does not eat. Same question about him paying for a hotel room when he goes to the doctor in another state even though someone else will stay in the room to care for him. Is there a place these specific rules can be found?

Fri, 03/02/2018 - 16:54 Permalink
Ms. McKenzie (not verified)

My brother gets disability a pretty good amount. Well he lives with me and 5 other people. He is my question.... everyone in the house pay rent and there part of Utilities. But my brother doesn’t pay rent or any Utilities. Can I call social security and get him in trouble for not paying his bills/rent?

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 17:26 Permalink
Tammy (not verified)

My 19 yr old son receives ssi he wants internet to download music to use to calm himself and to use for YouTube can that be considered a bill he pays beside rent food and part of the utilities he still lives with us I'm his representative/payee both our names are on his check

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 22:11 Permalink
Sean (not verified)

I have been granted early release of some of my back pay to purchase a vehicle, to go to Drs appts, etc. Before I could purchase the vehicle I was informed that the people I've been renting from are going to move me out and use the place for one of their family members. Can I use my funds to pay rent and turn on utilities in my new place, instead of buying a car??

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 12:57 Permalink
Darleen (not verified)

I am the representative for my husband on SSD....do I need to save receipts to attach to the yearly report that I need to fill out ?

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:36 Permalink
Mike (not verified)

Hi my name jacke i just finished paying bills can i buy anything i want with the left over money i have because i was curious for example can I buy new toy or new shirt

Sun, 08/19/2018 - 21:42 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Can a payee of a disabled person pay their car payment with the disabled persons money? She doesn’t let him have spending money. The minute she gets the person check she pays her bills such as brand new car payment and when he asks her for money she says he is broke. Just wanting to know before I hire a lawyer and it’s not a waist of money or time. I feel the person is not being properly taken care of. He’s been known to bum money off strangers to get food or cigarettes because the payee will not give him spending money. His only bill is a cell phone bill. He gets a link card so that doesn’t take from his monthly check.

Thu, 01/10/2019 - 22:45 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi There,

A payee is not supposed to spend the money on themselves. If they would like, the beneficiary can change their payee by visiting their with who they would like to be their new payee. Or the SSA can assign someone to be their payee.

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 10:53 Permalink
Richard Bruce yates (not verified)

My socal security representative payee is letting someone else not authorized by the socal security addim to spend my socal security disability benefits what can I do about it?

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 07:32 Permalink

In reply to by Richard Bruce yates (not verified)

Hi Richard,

You can try changing your payee. You can find someone you trust or have the SSA appoint you one. To change your payee, you'll need to do so in person at your local SSA office (call and make an appointment ahead of time). If you have someone in mind you'd like to be your payee, try to bring your payee with you and have them bring their Social Security card and a picture form of ID.

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 13:45 Permalink
eleanor hartmann (not verified)

person on ssd knows how to handle their bills but thinks it is more important to use it for other items,mother is paying all bills in her name with the promise that it will be paid backNOT SO. mother is losing her ability to provide for herself because of this person.WHERE DOES SHE GO FOR HELP/

Wed, 03/13/2019 - 04:41 Permalink

In reply to by Kenneth Wetter (not verified)

Hi Kenneth,

You may be able to use part of your backpay for dental work. It's always a good idea to check in with the SSA first before though, better safe than sorry.

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 16:57 Permalink
Elena Rios (not verified)

I am the representative for my son and he wants to purchase a vehicle with disability funds after covering his basic needs, can the benefits remaining used for purchasing a vehicle?

Fri, 06/14/2019 - 11:32 Permalink
Beth (not verified)

My son has a learning disability and has to get back and forth to a tutor three times a week can I buy a car for transportation for him with his back pay

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 11:35 Permalink

In reply to by Beth (not verified)

Hi Beth,

I would make sure to call your local SSA office to run any major purchases by them. Be ready to provide evidence that this is a vital part of your son's treatment.

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 17:34 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

My son has his father my ex as a payee.for years I have had to buy his medicines..pay for most if the food.and also a little towards his social activities. Does his payee have to reimburse me?..He absolutely refused.

Tue, 10/29/2019 - 16:30 Permalink

In reply to by Tina (not verified)


Is the money still being used on your son? If not, this could be fraud. I would contact your local SSA office and explain the situation and that would also be where you change your payee.

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 14:32 Permalink
Shannon (not verified)

To start there’s so much about misuse of funds but question is I keep getting calls about my adopted child not paying her bills I recently got three calls from dish cable she order the dish never paid for it over 300.00 she changed her cell number buys new cell phone every month Atlantic electric called looking for her unpaid bill of 1400.00 she lives with bf he works full time his ex wife lives in home and another male friend all on ssi living high my question is how can she get full amt of 803.00 a month doesn’t have to pay child support for a child she walked out on and not made to try and work she able to work but likes the free money he’s her payee it’s been said he keeps everything in his name so she can get ssi. Note she can work but refuses to if people in wheelchairs can work so can she but I call this stealing services from utitilies she sitting back waiting for 2020 increase free medical he’s an alcoholic they buy things and post it for sale on fb it’s truly not fair to people struggling and that truly can’t work

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 16:20 Permalink

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