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

Submitted by Daniel on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 16:13

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!

Blog comments

Heather (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

I I recently have my son has been approved for SSI and back pay but they said it was going to be a dedicated account that I need to open and my question is could I buy vehicle instead of us having to catch buses everywhere wouldn't that help pertain to his safety and his well-being to I mean it is getting winter and it's cold outside and I do have to take him to his doctor's appointments and stuff for his health needs that's my question

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 00:21 Permalink
k (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

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

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 07:19 Permalink

In reply to by k (not verified)

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.

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 10:22 Permalink
Ann (not verified)

In reply to by L.G. (not verified)

I was glad to see another Payee here. Am I allowed to use my son's benefits to transport him back and forth out of state for visits with his father? My ex husband lives 8 hours away from us. So we would have to stay down there for the entire weekend for him to have his visits.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 05:23 Permalink
Mary (not verified)

In reply to by Eric

My son suffers paranoia and anxiety, hav to drive him all over and my car is giving up, runs out of his check, and i have to find gas money to take him when he needs drives, can he get more dissability

Sun, 03/25/2018 - 18:23 Permalink
Ashley (not verified)

In reply to by L.G. (not verified)

What about rent? & facing an eviction... I am a new payee, they told me the dedicated account can’t be used for this stuff? What would happen repay them? Car related stuff as long as it’s for the child?

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 19:17 Permalink

In reply to by Ashley (not verified)

Hi Ashley,

Unfortunately, there is a very specific list that the dedicated account can be spent on and that does not include rent.
The dedicated account can be used to pay:
-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.

For more detailed information specific to your situation, I would contact your local SSA office. Best of luck

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 12:04 Permalink
Mary (not verified)

In reply to by k (not verified)

You must divide everything equally among all members of family that would include boyfriend girlfriend grandparents all children then you must divide that amount that the child pays the child is not responsible to pay for everything including buying a car insurance that would be divided equally among all family members source of this information is social security themselves remember every year you must file papers on what you did with the money and you better keep your receipts

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 13:27 Permalink
Kelly (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

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.

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 20:23 Permalink

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

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.

Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:59 Permalink
heather (not verified)

In reply to by Cassie hernandez (not verified)

how old was ur son mines nine an i really hate trying ti walk yo buse an its cold out im wanting to try to see if ythey will aprove it for us so we can atleast have a lil cheap car to go to dr an school

Sun, 10/29/2017 - 00:54 Permalink
Ashley (not verified)

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

I have problems with my payee she acts like its hers she transforms my money her account and what ever is left in my account she overdrafts fees i will never have access so i want a new payee

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 10:43 Permalink
Marie (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

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.

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 00:49 Permalink

In reply to by Marie (not verified)

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.

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 09:16 Permalink

In reply to by Patricia (not verified)

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.

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 16:58 Permalink

In reply to by Crystal (not verified)

Hi Crystal,
It may be considered an approved use of benefits, you may want to contact your local SSA office for detailed information about approved purchases.

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 15:56 Permalink
Ash (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Im sorry but I too have a child who is on ssi mine doesnt have a dedicated account I heard I can infact buy a car or get into a home for him and for his benefit tommorow will be getting him a portable air conditioner so he can be in our room we share it's too hot for him and the air conditioner will improve his well being also paying the electric and rent living expenses and comfort for my boy

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 23:05 Permalink

In reply to by Ash (not verified)

Hi Ash,

You may be able to to buy those things, but it always best to double check with the SSA first if you are unsure of anything.

Best of Luck

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 14:07 Permalink
Krysti (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Hi there. Wouldn't a reliable vehicle be a part of improving the child's life? If the car is not reliable, then they can't really get back and forth to Dr visits and such.. I'm just curious because I have recently applied and our vehicle at the moment isn't very reliable. It runs, but has broken down multiple times, twice, on the way to the Doctor. It never crossed my mind for using it in things like this, but this question had me thinking about situations like this. So, I'm just curious. If it is a necessity getting back and forth to Dr visits and such, especially if if is your only vehicle. Thanks for your time.

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 15:03 Permalink

In reply to by Krysti (not verified)

Hi Krysti,

You may be able to use your child's benefits on a vehicle. But a good rule of thumb is to always double check with the SSA first just to be sure.


Mon, 08/07/2017 - 09:48 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

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

Sat, 12/19/2015 - 12:38 Permalink
Hope Faith (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

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.

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 23:23 Permalink

In reply to by Hope Faith (not verified)

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.

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 14:16 Permalink
Kat (not verified)

In reply to by Hope Faith (not verified)

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.

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 19:30 Permalink
Dee (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Hi ...i have to get my car repaired in order to keep my son going to his specialist appointments and to back to physical and occupational therapy ...but my car needs these repairs question is can I use some of his money in his dedicated account for that and bring in my estimate to Disabilty and also my son is color blind and has amblyopia in his eye a lazy eye and I can't afford to get him a good pair of glasses and the frame because he needs to wear those for everyday use can I also use his dedicated account money for his glasses also ...please can you let me know ...I mean this is to better him....

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 14:40 Permalink

In reply to by Dee (not verified)

Hi Dee,
The glasses are absolutely an acceptable purchase, but I would double-check with your SSA rep about the car payment. It should be fine, so long as it doesn't come from his back pay.

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 08:22 Permalink
Cole (not verified)

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

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?

Sun, 08/14/2016 - 23:33 Permalink

In reply to by Cole (not verified)

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.

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 11:03 Permalink
Renee (not verified)

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

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.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 14:56 Permalink

In reply to by Renee (not verified)

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

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 14:16 Permalink
Katie (not verified)

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

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.

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 12:04 Permalink

In reply to by Katie (not verified)

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.

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:54 Permalink

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