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

Susan (not verified)

If my child gets ssi for

If my child gets ssi for disability can I use some of his monthly money for a car payment for transportation to and from school and for needs?

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 13:29 Permalink

In reply to by Susan (not verified)

Hi Susan,

Hi Susan,

That should be okay, just make sure to keep all receipts from purchases. You also might want to double check with the SSA before just in case.

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 15:39 Permalink
Tonya (not verified)

I’m legally disabled, receive

I’m legally disabled, receive SSD checks, my children also get a monthly check for my disabilities.
I have recently noticed that 1 of my children hasn’t been receiving hers but my other children have been. I didn’t pay close attention to direct deposits being made. I was just paying bills & supporting my children.
What are the steps to find out why she isn’t receiving check anymore??

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 16:36 Permalink

In reply to by Tonya (not verified)

Hi Tonya,

Hi Tonya,

You can contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to find out. Only children that are dependents, unmarried, and under the age of 18 (unless enrolled in school full time) qualify for Auxiliary Benefits so if one of those changed she is on longer eligible.

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 16:43 Permalink
Unknown (not verified)

Hey I have a friend who is on

Hey I have a friend who is on ssi and her mom is her payee and just a few days ago her mom ups and moves and leaves her daughter behind with no ssi and her mom is probably spending it on alcohol and whatever else instead of giving the daughter the money and finding her own place to live instead she's homeless on the streets going from house to house to shower and sleep!

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 01:37 Permalink
Cary Knowles (not verified)

Can I purchase a wheelchair

Can I purchase a wheelchair accessible van with money in my daughter's dedicated account?

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 23:26 Permalink

In reply to by Cary Knowles (not verified)

Hi Cary,

Hi Cary,

Yes that may be possible, you should always double check with the SSA first just to be safe. And remember to save any receipts from any purchases made with SSA benefits.

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 11:57 Permalink
Me (not verified)

If u use the money to pay a

If u use the money to pay a bill what would happen would you get sent to jail

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 13:49 Permalink

In reply to by Me (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

You would not go to jail. You can spend payments to pay for bills, however just make sure to keep all records of your payments for the SSA.

Mon, 10/01/2018 - 17:00 Permalink
crystal (not verified)

My sons SSI is still pending,

My sons SSI is still pending, but it has been 6 months since we applied so I am assuming if he does get approved that we will receive a back pay check. He had a medical procedure done last spring which we paid for with credit cards. we have paid for other medical bills of his with loans and credit cards. Would it be permissible to use this check to help pay some off this debt we have acquired from his medical expenses, if we were to pay for specific amounts such as the exact cause of his procedure?
I also was wondering as other have mentioned about the purchase of a vehicle that would be used primarily for transportation to and from school, therapy or medical appointments?
Lastly I was wondering about utility bills for our home, is it appropriate for a portion of his regularly monthly checks to be used to help pay for water and electricity?

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 14:51 Permalink

In reply to by crystal (not verified)

Hi Crystal,

Hi Crystal,

It would be okay to spend his SSI benefits on all of those things. And like what has been said before, you need to make sure to save any receipts or records from all purchases from Social Security benefits. It also doesn't hurt to double check with the SSA first about any payments just to be safe.

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 16:15 Permalink
C balard (not verified)

Can I use a SSD deciated

Can I use a SSD deciated account to by my son s computer and printer to use at home for school ?

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 11:01 Permalink

In reply to by C balard (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

It should be okay since it's for school. Always keep physical records of any transactions you make with a child's SSDI benefits. That way the SSA will know exactly what you are using that money for.

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 15:29 Permalink
brook (not verified)

my son has been accepted for

my son has been accepted for ssi, he has adhd, i havent seen any back pay yet but, when an if i do, can i purchase a new carseat for him and can i possibly fence in a piece of the back yard so that i know he is safe when hes outside? he used to run in the roads?

Tue, 01/08/2019 - 15:52 Permalink

In reply to by brook (not verified)

It's definitely possible!

It's definitely possible! Just make sure to keep all physical records of any payments you make with his SSI benefits.

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 16:47 Permalink
DJ (not verified)

My nephew and his wife have 5

My nephew and his wife have 5 children. Their 4th is severely, physically handicapped. She is 5 and can not walk or stand and has some restrictive use of her arms and hands. They have not applied for SSI for her but were wondering if they did, could the funds be spent on a handicap accessible van to help get her to school, therapy, doctor, hospital and her specialists’ appointments in the city and just to get her out with her family? They need a larger, more dependable van that will transport their whole family as well as their daughter’s electric wheel chair and she needs a special handicap car seat. Since the van would also be used by the whole family, we are not sure if it would apply. Thank you for your time and answer.

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 16:27 Permalink

In reply to by DJ (not verified)

Hi DJ,

Hi DJ,

The money can be used on the van! Just know, SSI if for those of extreme financial need so if your nephew and his wife make a decent income, then she may not qualify. On the SSA's site you can find a chart on income limits here:

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:28 Permalink
Shey (not verified)

Is it ok to buy things such

Is it ok to buy things such as baby soap/lotion, diapers and wipes for your child with ssi benefits?

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 07:40 Permalink

In reply to by Shey (not verified)

Hi Shey,

Hi Shey,

That is a totally acceptable use of your child's benefits. If they are part of your child's daily living needs, then you are okay.

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 12:49 Permalink
Carolyn Thomas (not verified)

What do you do when you now

What do you do when you now someone is not spending a childs check properly

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 21:39 Permalink

In reply to by Carolyn Thomas (not verified)

Hi Carolyn,

Hi Carolyn,

You should let the SSA know of that, you can also file a request to have the representative payee changed as well.

Fri, 03/15/2019 - 13:54 Permalink
bama (not verified)

i am the payee to a 14 yr old

i am the payee to a 14 yr old that has disability. her check dropped then stopped because my income was too much... what does my income have to do with me taking care of a court appointed child...

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 22:25 Permalink

In reply to by bama (not verified)

Hi Bama,

Hi Bama,

A child's SSI eligibility is dependent on their household income. If you are the court appointed guardian then the SSA takes your income into consideration when determining the child's eligibility.

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 11:47 Permalink
Jaki's Mom (not verified)

My son is 9, Autistic , and I

My son is 9, Autistic , and I now has a dedicated account for the back money owed to him. My son does not need (thank God) any specific medical supplies or home modifications; however, he does need social and behavioral skills to be developed. So, it was suggested to me that I take him out of our environment and introduce him to different scenarios. Question; I live in Housing (projects) and am considered low income, If I am doing things with him; for him.. why would I be penalized for using his money?

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 13:46 Permalink

In reply to by Jaki's Mom (not verified)



I understand how that can be confusing. I would recommend reaching out to your local SSA office for a little more clarity.

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 15:41 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My ex husband an I have 50/50

My ex husband an I have 50/50 of our child. I dont think my son is seeing any of his money. No new clothes No new shoes. Its like where does all the kids money go to? I have no say where it goes. I've tried to seek help, from ssi but no one will give me info. I feel it's getting spent on everything but my child.

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 23:53 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)



If you believe there is fraud happening, I would get in contact with your local SSA office. They should be able to guide you on either switching the payee or filing a fraud complaint.

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 14:11 Permalink
Annette (not verified)

My grandson has a disability

My grandson has a disability and lives with me, but his mother is receiving his check but she is not using any of the money on him. What can be done about this? He has a saving account, and would like to know can his money go into his account?
He doesn't see any on his money not even two cent. What I or how can I help him. He is now 22 yo and will be 23 next month.
HELP, HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 04:00 Permalink

In reply to by Annette (not verified)

Hi Annette,

Hi Annette,

Your grandson can try to change his payee. If he chooses to do so, he and his new payee can visit your local SSA office. The new payee will need their Social Security card and a valid picture ID. Or, the SSA can appoint him a new payee.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 16:38 Permalink
Delicia (not verified)

I have a son who just got

I have a son who just got approved for SSI disability. He is getting a large amount in back pay. He is an autistic 14 yo. With developmental delays, yet does not need a lot of things medically or use special medical equipment or devices. I have been calling SSA for help on what to use his back pay money on. They stated that for things outside the guidelines it is best to have a Dr note, eg. new bed etc. My question is can I use part of his back pay to use on a down payment for a new vehicle. A larger one so that he has room and is not crammed into the backseat with his two siblings who cause him anxiety and meltdowns when they are together for an extended period of time. Mind you my other son is a newly diagnosed autistic 10 yo. Who does not receive benefits. The two together causes many issues especially since we travel a lot for their appointments and schooling as well as weekly visits to their father. Please help or guide me in some direction. Thanks

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 02:45 Permalink

In reply to by Delicia (not verified)

Hi Delicia,

Hi Delicia,

A down payment for a car should be fine, but to be safe you can always double check with the SSA and make sure it is an approved item.

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 16:19 Permalink
Nathan (not verified)

My ex wife keeps telling my

My ex wife keeps telling my son she is getting ssi benifits for him it has been 4 months now and he hasn’t seen any of it we sat up a bank account and sent her the numbers so could be deposited but nothing is it legal to hold money are how you find out if she is lying

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 20:52 Permalink

In reply to by Nathan (not verified)

Hi Nathan,

Hi Nathan,

If that is the case, you should look into switching your son's payee. I would contact your local SSA office and they will be able to help you with the details of your case.

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:24 Permalink
Monica Gonzalez (not verified)

Can we use money from the

Can we use money from the dedicate account to repair the car from what we use on daily use for my disable child

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 01:49 Permalink

In reply to by Monica Gonzalez (not verified)

That should be okay, you

That should be okay, you should make sure to keep all physical evidence of that transaction.

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 14:50 Permalink
Naujiaonna (not verified)

If I know some one getting

If I know some one getting SSI for their kids.and not taking care of their kids . What should I do ?

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 10:53 Permalink

In reply to by Naujiaonna (not verified)



That is not an uncommon situation unfortunately. To report fraud, you can do it anonymously on the SSA Website.

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 14:56 Permalink
K. J (not verified)

Are children on the autism

Are children on the autism spectrum eligible to receive benefits.
The household income at this time is $0

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 14:38 Permalink
John (not verified)

I have a question concerning

I have a question concerning direct deposit of my daughters SS survivor benefits. It is currently set up for direct deposit, but we have moved and in the process, moving banks. Is there a form or number I can call to change to the new bank/account?

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 14:43 Permalink

In reply to by John (not verified)

Hi John,

Hi John,

You can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213! You can also make an appointment at the local SSA office (just make an appointment first!). Be sure to have all the account information with you when you call or go into the office.

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 15:34 Permalink
Courtney (not verified)

Can I use my child’s back pay

Can I use my child’s back pay to buy a double wide mobile home since our single wide isn’t suitable for her and her wheelchair?

Sun, 10/06/2019 - 15:30 Permalink

In reply to by Courtney (not verified)

Hi Courtney,

Hi Courtney,

Household accommodations are generally a good way to spend ssi back payments. Make sure that you keep track of everything that you spend and be able to explain to the SSA.

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 14:59 Permalink
Amanda (not verified)

My son's has been

My son's has been recovering SSI for awhile and we just found out that we can use some of his SSI for his shelter, lights, ect. I' am needing to know how much we can use. I don't want to use more of his money then allowed.

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 10:46 Permalink

In reply to by Amanda (not verified)

Hi Amanda,

Hi Amanda,

Everything that is considered a necessity is okay to use the money. Make sure that you keep careful records and that all of the other necessities are being met.

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 14:57 Permalink
Mel (not verified)

If I have a debit card that

If I have a debit card that is only for ssi benefit money can I use it to purchase clothes online?

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 15:08 Permalink
Ashley (not verified)

My son now lives with his dad

My son now lives with his dad I am the payee can I stay my son's payee even though my son no longer lives with me

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 11:44 Permalink

In reply to by Ashley (not verified)

Hi Ashley,

Hi Ashley,

Yes, that should be fine as long as the money is still easily accessible and being used on your son.

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 13:55 Permalink

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