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

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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

Michele P (not verified)

Now this dedicated account

Now this dedicated account situation is causing a lot of parents so many problems for 1) Why should any parent have to be told how to spend their own child backpay money 2) Why these SSA people think parents are so irresponsible 3) Why the heck adults get a freaking free meal ticket when they're receiving a big backpay 4) SSA get more say so and privileges to our own children money than we do but I feel if I gotta do all that asking when to spend my own child's money they keep it but as God is my witness I'll be calling the Senator in my district because SSA gotta be stop and God bless and good luck to all the parents that's being stressed out confused and angry over this preposterous situation we need God more dealing with these inconsiderate selfish people!!!

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 22:50 Permalink

In reply to by Michele P (not verified)

Hi Michele,

Hi Michele,
I really could not say why the SSA takes such a hands-on approach to SSI recipients, but it can definitely be frustrating!

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 10:00 Permalink
Tracie (not verified)

My brother just passed away 3

My brother just passed away 3 months ago. He has children with his ex-wife, since they are minors the check goes to the ex-wife. She has been taking trips with her boyfriend, she just bought a car and is fixing up her truck that perfectly fine. Is there a way for me to make her prove that she isn't spending the kids SS money? Can we have that money put in a trust that she can't touch? She is also getting worker's comp of $1200 a month. All this money is for the kids not her own personal use, especially as the ex-wife.

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 23:26 Permalink

In reply to by Tracie (not verified)

Hi Tracie,

Hi Tracie,
I am sorry for your loss.
If you feel that the money is not being used correctly, you may want to contact the SSA, they can assign a representative payee for the children to make sure that money is being used correctly if it is not.

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 10:03 Permalink
Tee (not verified)

Are you allow to spend the

Are you allow to spend the money on beds and bedding for my son also can i use to buy my other kids beds

Thu, 10/20/2016 - 16:48 Permalink

In reply to by Tee (not verified)

Hi Tee,

Hi Tee,
You may be able to spend it on betting but it may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding your plans, they can help you with any restrictions on your benefits that you may have.

Fri, 10/21/2016 - 11:17 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

What about past due car

What about past due car payments due to lack of hours worked and money going to supporting the child? Due to the waiting period i have now incurred past due on my car which can be reposed... its to help transport him to all his appts.

Mon, 10/24/2016 - 13:52 Permalink
D Fralix (not verified)

I was 15 back in 5011 when I

I was 15 back in 5011 when I started receiving ssdi and my mother who was put in charge of my income did non of this things and is refusing to give me my check since I was 18 so i can move out the check goes onto a card every month what should I do.

Sun, 10/30/2016 - 04:16 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I used my son's first

I used my son's first back pay installment to put money down on a car to get him to and from the doctors appointments and school and such as well as school clothes, school supplies, groceries, tutoring, gas, rent and bills. In my mind, if he doesn't ready he will get sick. If he don't have clothes he can't go to school. If I don't have a car I can't get him around anywhere. If I don't post my bills, we will be homeless. Everything I've spent it on had been for the sole direct benefit (medically and educationally) of my child. My understanding was that was the whole purpose of him getting money was so I could use it for things he needs and things that need to be taken care of to take care of him as a mother. So it's everything I've spent it on ok or what will happen?

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 01:13 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
it may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding how you can use the funds, if you are unsure it's always best to contact them regarding this type of matter.

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 09:25 Permalink
Donna (not verified)

I have 2 step children whom

I have 2 step children whom recieve ssi whom live with their mother. She currently has no bills but doesnt buy anything for the children she also receive child support. Do you guys require proof like reciepts where this moneynis going. They are only on ssi for adhad or add. The kids complain they never have clothes, shoes nothing. The kids are asking us constantly for these things. She steady being evicted for mon payment which if using funds correctly she wouldn't she does not work just lives off ssi of the kids.

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 11:24 Permalink

In reply to by Donna (not verified)

Hi Donna,

Hi Donna,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they can change the children's representative payee to someone who would be more willing to use those benefits for the children.

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 14:57 Permalink
Melanie (not verified)

My ex gets social security

My ex gets social security for our son, it's supposed to go into a bank account for him, but when I check the statement there is 0$ in the account. He says he shouldn't have to keep receipts and prove to me where the money is going. I'm worried it's not going towards my child. If I ask he will say it's going to food and shelter but can he use all of it for food and shelter for the whole family? How does that work? Can he pay his house payment with his check? How can I see if it's being spent on my son? He won't show me where the money is going.

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 14:06 Permalink

In reply to by Melanie (not verified)

HI Melanie,

HI Melanie,
I'm sorry to hear about that! You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they can re-assign your child's payee to someone who is more willing to track their purchases with the money.

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 14:58 Permalink
adrianna (not verified)

I know someone that has been

I know someone that has been receiving SSI for her child for the past 7 years and the money is not spent at all on the child. The money is being spent by the mother as if it were her source of income. The mother isnt employed and not once has she prioritized the money to better the child. Is there anything that can be done?

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 19:20 Permalink
Kaylan (not verified)

I just got 3yrs worth of

I just got 3yrs worth of backpay from my dads disability, Im 17 and i was wodndering what i can spend this money on? I dont plan on spending it on stupid things. Can I use it on gas for my car? my high school band is taking a trip to new orleans that could be counted as educational, could i use it on that? thanks

Wed, 11/02/2016 - 23:17 Permalink

In reply to by Kaylan (not verified)

Hi Kaylan,

Hi Kaylan,
If you're receiving it based on your father's SSDI claim, then there are less restrictions as to how you can spend them as they are not benefits based on income.

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 09:20 Permalink
Sasha (not verified)

My son has issues with being

My son has issues with being outside and afraid of playground equipment. His therapists have suggested getting a play/swing set to help with the fear and getting more active since he prefers sedentary activities is this something I could purchase with his SSI?

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 14:57 Permalink

In reply to by Sasha (not verified)

Hi Sasha,

Hi Sasha,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this to confirm that it is, but that may be an acceptable use of his back pay.

Thu, 11/03/2016 - 15:48 Permalink
Sarah (not verified)

Can you use it to pay your

Can you use it to pay your credit card which you had use it for your child the whole time purchasing food, diapers, clothes, gas to take her to her program, etc as the transaction did prove that during the times waited to receive the ssi payment and back payments?

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 04:20 Permalink
Shelia (not verified)

Can I buy my daughter a cell

Can I buy my daughter a cell phone her back pay?

Sun, 11/06/2016 - 16:01 Permalink

In reply to by Shelia (not verified)

Hi Sheila,

Hi Sheila,
You may be able to but it also may be a good idea to contact the SSA if you are unsure about any purchases you would make with your child's back pay.

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 10:10 Permalink
Cheryl McFadden (not verified)

I just recieved guardianship

I just recieved guardianship of a 16 year old that gets death benefits. Her grandmother had guardianship but terminated it but refused to give up as her rep payee. She is only giving me a small amount for room and board but not enough to purchase clothing or other comforts. She wants to take drivers training but I have no money for that. I agree to an amount under duress while at court and didn't have time to think about this. I there anything we can do about this? the child get $1430 in death benefits an grandma is suppose to give me $600 a month for her which includes a small allowance for her. She was to put money into an account in which the child has no access to. What do we do? This is my daughters money and grandma needs to let it go. If there are any back insurance payments to be made then a monthly check should be made to her. Correct. The judge new nothing about SS law so please help.

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 16:51 Permalink

In reply to by Cheryl McFadden (not verified)

Hi Cheryl,

Hi Cheryl,
Those benefits are the child's, you may be able to contact the SSA and have the payee re-assigned.

Mon, 11/07/2016 - 17:06 Permalink
Allison (not verified)

If children are receiving

If children are receiving social security benefits because one parent died. Can the other parent quit work for several months and live off of the children's benefits?

Tue, 11/08/2016 - 22:13 Permalink

In reply to by Allison (not verified)

Hi Allison,

Hi Allison,
I really would not recommend it due to the loss of income due to not working, and also those benefits would be intended to help support the child rather than the spouse.

Wed, 11/09/2016 - 09:47 Permalink
Christine Dockery (not verified)

How can it be possible that

How can it be possible that my granddaughter's mother had been spending the $she receives on drugs and personal items ?each Month I have to buy diapers,wipes etc.

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 16:20 Permalink

In reply to by Christine Dockery (not verified)

Hi Christine,

Hi Christine,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they can change the child's representative payee so that the child would have those funds available to them.

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 09:08 Permalink
Andrew.D (not verified)

My gf is receiving a check

My gf is receiving a check for my daughter but she not spending the $on the child she spends $on drugs make up and other personal items she also deposits fake personal checks into my daughter's saving acct she recently received a card which my daughter $ goes onto also the savings acct has 0 amount .is there anything I can do to stop her from being a payee ?

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 16:38 Permalink

In reply to by Andrew.D (not verified)

Hi Andrew,

Hi Andrew,
Yes, you can contact the SSA regarding this at 1-800-772-1213, they can help you change the payee to someone who would use it for the child.

Thu, 11/10/2016 - 16:52 Permalink
Destiny (not verified)

Could I use my child's

Could I use my child's SSI to order online bulk items such as diapers and cleaning supplies?
Also how about getting myself food as well as his food? Cause I forfeited my food stamps to get his SSI.

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 13:57 Permalink
chelle (not verified)

My brother recently passed

My brother recently passed away leaving a 7 yr old son he had custody of. Now my nephew is living with his mother who doesn't work and is using his ssi like her personal bank, yet he needs shoes clothing boots etc. Instead she's using the money to pay her rent utilities and living expenses. Is there some way that somebody can oversee his ssi?

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 15:47 Permalink

In reply to by chelle (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they can re-assign your nephew's representative payee to someone who would use the money responsibly.

Fri, 11/11/2016 - 16:49 Permalink
Shirley (not verified)

My Dad has applied for SSI

My Dad has applied for SSI for my youngest sister (against my beliefs, seemed to be a money catch scheme), he plans on buying a truck with her back pay and paying back $ on a fraud charge for food stamps. The truck would be a second vehicle and used for leisure as he does not work. Am I able to call and address my concerns to a case worker or will they tell me they cannot discuss with me?

Mon, 11/14/2016 - 20:01 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Would it be okay to use some

Would it be okay to use some of the money for rent? It belongs to my son who is 3.

Mon, 11/14/2016 - 22:12 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
you may be able to use part of your child's back pay for housing, but it may be a good idea to contact the SSA if you're unsure of what purchases you can make with your child's benefits. You can find some more information here:

Wed, 11/16/2016 - 10:29 Permalink
Kimberly (not verified)

Hello :) my son just started

Hello :) my son just started receiving ssi, our land Lord knows this and feels we should use his monthly payment and the beginning of the month to lay our rent. I feel that she is in the wrong for expecting this. As it is to be spent in his actual needs. Please confirm this.

Sat, 11/19/2016 - 16:36 Permalink
david (not verified)

My 2 lil girls receive ssi

My 2 lil girls receive ssi for the last 2 months everything has been spent on them . But im just curious is the ssa going to be checking up on us asking us for receipts or anything cause we didnt keep any receipts on anything. The ssa didnt tell us we had to spend it a certain way so we jus spent it on my lil girls.

Mon, 11/21/2016 - 14:20 Permalink
Frank (not verified)

Is there a calculator or a

Is there a calculator or a guide to figure out what portion of a child's benefits are to be used, for such things as food, shelter, utilities, etc.

Wed, 11/23/2016 - 12:49 Permalink

In reply to by Frank (not verified)

Hi Frank,

Hi Frank,
Not that I know of. As long as you save all of your receipts and show that your payments were beneficial for your child, you should be fine.

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:19 Permalink
Carole Sickman (not verified)

My son received a retroactive

My son received a retroactive SSI check. He has had difficulty depositing it into my account. He has no checking account and has lost his ID. Is there a way in which he can deposit his check without ID.

Wed, 11/23/2016 - 20:27 Permalink

In reply to by Carole Sickman (not verified)

Hi Carole,

Hi Carole,
That may be a problem you bank would be better equipped to handle. Have you tried contacting it regarding this issue?

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:20 Permalink

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