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


In reply to by Michele Adams (not verified)

Hi Michele,

You might be able to, but a good rule of thumb is to always double check with the SSA with any questions you are unsure of how to use the benefits. Better safe than sorry!

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 09:28 Permalink
Sheila harston (not verified)

can a disgruntled step grandparent tell lies on the mother of the kids and this hurt the kids and their mother cause she lies all the time?

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:08 Permalink

In reply to by Sheila harston (not verified)

Hi Sheila,
A disgruntled step grandparent could do that, but you might want to contact the SSA if she is contacting them about these matters.

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:32 Permalink
Andrea (not verified)

Hi- I work at a non-profit provider. I support a young lady in a group home setting.
She receives SSI- Our agency is protective payee. Her mother is legal guardian.
The mom periodically sends in receipts expecting to be reimbursed.
Upon close inspection- many items on the receipts were not for her child- we do not have those items in the child's group home.

If we were to get audited, who would be at fault for using her funds improperly? The mother or us since we are protective payee?

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 14:13 Permalink

In reply to by Andrea (not verified)

Hi Andrea,
Representative payees would be held responsible for misuse of SSI funds, if this woman has not been reimbursed for these items, you may want to inform her of your liability as a representative payee.

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 14:24 Permalink

In reply to by Francis (not verified)

Hi Francis,
If they're receiving income-based SSI benefits, then they would be restricted to using it for the child for which it is issued.

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 09:25 Permalink
concerned grandma (not verified)

if her mother gets a child ssi benefits is she supposed to take money out of his account and place it in her account for her own personal use?

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 08:13 Permalink
Concern grand… (not verified)

I know for a fact that she had done it to her oldest son not my grandson took his benefit and the child was not in her care she spend his benefit. now she is doing to my grandson he just got acepted for benefits got back money 5 months all that back money is gone and she just bought him some clothes that's it should she be a monitor with his money. Should I report this

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 11:02 Permalink
James hampton (not verified)

I am currently on ssdi. My son is receiving benefits in accordance with disability rules. My problem is that he is only getting half of what he is entitled to because they are paying benefits to another child of mine that I INVOLUNTARILY LOST PARENTAL RIGHTS TO AND HAS BEEN ADOPTED BY ANOTHER FAMILY. From what I've researched my adopted son is eligible to receive his adopted fathers benefits. If this is true how can he also be receiving mine. Isn't that illegal?? What can I do to fix this? It has been going in for 6 years now. Do they owe my eligible son this money? It totals 465 dollars a no th for the past 6 years.. that is quite a substantial amount. Please help.

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 04:17 Permalink

In reply to by James hampton (not verified)

Hi James,
The loss of parental rights may not affect your child's eligibility for benefits, but your adopted child may not be eligible for both benefits. It may be a good idea to reach out to the SSA about this.

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:51 Permalink
Wayne (not verified)

Hi there, I am 26 years old, I can't work at all due to my rare disability which is muscle wastage and chronic pain most of the time. I am currently not on disability due to my immigration status (Not a US Citizen yet) but will be soon. I have been told i will most likely receive SSI benefits because i live with my parents. My question is because i will be having the funds directly, not having a payee, will the SSI be less strict on me? I would really like to buy an Ipad when disability is approved but would SSI be strict on me or would they be less strict and should I be okay as long as i don't go over the $2000.00 limit of funds?


Wed, 09/27/2017 - 03:49 Permalink

In reply to by Wayne (not verified)

Hi Wayne,
You are still subject to the restrictions and responsibilities of any other SSI recipient, there are not two sets of rules for people who require payees and those who do not.

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 09:39 Permalink
susan (not verified)

My husband is over 65. He recieves social security. We have 3 children under 18. They also recieve ssi. We spend money on there upkeep but do put what is left over in savings. They have asked us for an accounting. If we have some money left over will that effect the amount?

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 12:27 Permalink
Penny Aileen (not verified)

My granddaughter is receiving SSI benefits due to her fathers death. My daughter is her guardian but my granddaughter lives with my husband and me. My daughter receives her benefits but doesnt use them for granddaughters needs. Do we legally have a right to request this money be placed in an acct somewhere for ONLY my granddaughter?

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:37 Permalink

In reply to by Renee (not verified)

Hi Renee,
It probably is, but a good rule of thumb is to always double check with the SSA with any questions you are unsure of how to use the benefits. Better safe than sorry!

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 09:52 Permalink

In reply to by Maria Peralta (not verified)

Hi Maria,

You yourself cannot qualify for Social Security just for being their caretaker, however you can apply for Social Security benefits on behalf of the person you are taking care of.

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 09:56 Permalink
lucy (not verified)

Does my new car payment affect my childs ssi? Does the amount of how much my new car is worth affect my childs ssi since i am her payee she is 17 and will be 18 in four months?

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 19:17 Permalink
Raymond Hutto (not verified)

I'm inquiring about my disabled brother who receives SSI and my mother is his quardian. Since my dad died he is getting more and she thinks she has to spend every bit of it - and buying him expensive toys, etc. Can the remaining money be put in an ABLE account or is the standard - he can only keep $2000 in his name. All this frivilous spending is spoiling my brother to say the least. He is mentally and visually impaired and will never be able to manage his own money. Thanks!

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 14:59 Permalink
Abi (not verified)

If a person buys a vehicle with SS monies of the kids and they lose custody, do they get to keep the vehicle or does the vehicle go with the kids?

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 18:25 Permalink

In reply to by Abi (not verified)

Hi Abi,
While the parent may still be able to keep the car, the SSA may consider that an overpayment or misuse of funds, and would ask for the money back.

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:07 Permalink
aaliyah (not verified)

My father is retired & because of his health he counts as disabled. so i receive money every month from SSI, but it goes to my mothers account & i NEVER get any of that money, never get bought new things, never even seen a penny from that money since almost 2 years ago when i first started getting the checks. She uses the money on her car payments & to buy things for her husband & to go on vacations .. without me... isn't there a way i can have control or at least partial control of the money since im 16? if i can't is there any way for me to have the checks to stop coming in so that way no one has the money?

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:15 Permalink

In reply to by aaliyah (not verified)

Hi Aaliyah,
you may want to contact the SSA if you believe your benefits are being misused, you can get in touch with them at 1-800-772-1213.

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:10 Permalink

In reply to by aaliyah (not verified)

Hi Aaliyah,
you may want to contact the SSA if you believe your benefits are being misused, you can get in touch with them at 1-800-772-1213.

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 09:10 Permalink
Annie (not verified)

The rules seem to be very vague. I had wondered how I go about paying for my (minor) daughters housing as she lives with us. Do I just charge her for a quarter of our mortgage payment, a quarter of the property taxes, etc.? What about things such as adding insulation to her bedroom walls and repairing the rotten bathroom floor? It's not quite the same thing as a wheelchair ramp but I still feel that it's necessary for her health and welfare.
Any information would be appreciated!

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 15:09 Permalink

In reply to by Annie (not verified)

Hi Annie,
You may want to contact your local SSA regarding this, you may not be required to charge your daughter for a portion of your housing costs as the SSA may have already accounted for that when issuing benefits.

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 16:22 Permalink

In reply to by J B (not verified)

Hi JB,
Since the SSA uses household income to determine a child's financial eligibility for SSI, then they would use your income to calculate your child's benefit if they are eligible. It may be a good idea to contact your local SSA office regarding this.

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 16:23 Permalink
Stacie Lucchesi (not verified)

I have my 11 year old niece full time. Her dad, my brother passed in 2015, her mom decided to stop being a mom in 2013. I've taken care of the child full time, no help since 2013 and just found out the mother is receiving death benefits, hasn't spent a penny on her kid in years. What can I do? Can they cut her off from that money and make sure the child actually gets it ?

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 14:18 Permalink

In reply to by Stacie Lucchesi (not verified)

Hi Stacey,
You may want to contact your local SSA office regarding this, they may be able to send it to you as the payee for the children.

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 16:53 Permalink

In reply to by Angela (not verified)

Hi Angela,

You may be able to do that, however it is always best to double check with the SSA with any questions you may have regarding how to spend your child's SSI check.

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 09:01 Permalink
Ma (not verified)

Hi Can a child's ssi be used to give him piano lessons. He has been asking since he was 4. I think he may have a talent for music,?

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 03:17 Permalink
Gracy (not verified)

I would like to know can they use the money to pay the car note every month or use it a a down payment for a new vehicle since my aunts car a/c doesn’t work and her child receive the disability money she’s the payee

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 04:04 Permalink
Martinez (not verified)

I have some questions
Can I use my son back pay money for those things...

1.If I’m behind rent for 2 months???
2.Can I buy a car so I can take my son to his appointments???
3.Can I use the money for car gas to take him to doctor appointments???

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 18:57 Permalink

In reply to by Martinez (not verified)

Hi There,

You may be able to on all of those. However, you should always double check with the SSA first just to be sure. Better safe than sorry!

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 09:26 Permalink

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