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

Submitted by Daniel on

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

Liz (not verified)

I’m a single mom and I have

I’m a single mom and I have trouble getting my disabled son back and forward to his therapy and doctors appointments can I use the money for transportation needs

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 20:10 Permalink

In reply to by Liz (not verified)

Hi Liz,

Hi Liz,

Getting your child too and from appointments is a good way to spend your monthly benefits. Just make sure you keep track of transactions!

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 15:51 Permalink
jeff (not verified)

can i use my child's

can i use my child's back pay to buy a house for them?

Sun, 12/01/2019 - 15:16 Permalink

In reply to by jeff (not verified)



Shelter is generally a good way to spend back pay assuming that it is a necessary upgrade from the previous home and all other needs are being met. To be safe, I would recommend clearing everything with the SSA by giving them a phone call.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 15:42 Permalink
Sarah Madak (not verified)

I am currently taking care of

I am currently taking care of my little sister who gets social security disability. I was wondering if I can use it to pay for a line for her phone? As well as help with bills like electric and things she uses here. I already buy her food and clothing with it. I am just trying to make sure I am using this correctly. I use it for help with gas too, since I do drive her places (almost everywhere) as well including eye doctors appointments and whatever else she might need or want to do.

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 12:37 Permalink

In reply to by Sarah Madak (not verified)



The things you mentioned are generally good ways to spend the money because they are necessary for your sister. Just make sure that you are keeping track of all transactions. If you have questions on a specific purchase, you can always give your local SSA office a call.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 15:53 Permalink
Gwen (not verified)

My husband has not had much

My husband has not had much work due to weather conditions as he is self employed and works our doors. I work but don't make enough to cover all expenses. Is it ok to use a little extra to go toward mortgage payments this month.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 10:28 Permalink

In reply to by Gwen (not verified)



Providing a home is generally a good way to use the money, however make sure that all needs are being met and keep track of each transaction.

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 15:58 Permalink
Barbara Hosey (not verified)

My daughter collects a ss

My daughter collects a ss survivors benefit check every month for my grandson..he is almost 17. He hasn't lived with her for over a year & she has spent $0 on him..I'm going to see if I can get the benefit payee changed to me...I will keep track of everything spent

Thu, 12/05/2019 - 02:42 Permalink

In reply to by Barbara Hosey (not verified)

Hi Barbara,

Hi Barbara,

That is something you'll have to contact the SSA about. You can try visiting your local office (I'd bring a copy of your Social Security card and photo ID incase you can switch). You can call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment before you go.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 15:25 Permalink
Evelin (not verified)

When one of the parents is

When one of the parents is working two jobs and the money they are getting from his son benefits they use to pay the rent is this a smart way to use the money or those parents are taking the advantage of their son benefits?

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 00:59 Permalink

In reply to by Evelin (not verified)



Assuming that their income and asset limits are not being hit, housing is generally a good way to spend benefits if it is done in a reasonable way.

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 15:27 Permalink
tim (not verified)

my neighbors child receives

my neighbors child receives ssi his father uses the check every month to pay on his car,he does buy the kid anything or saves any of the check for the kid once the funds arrive he transfers it all to his account so the car people can withdraw it nothing is be saved and im giving the kid clothes

Thu, 12/19/2019 - 13:10 Permalink

In reply to by tim (not verified)

Hi Tim,

Hi Tim,

You are able to report fraud anonymously online on the SSA website. Just keep in mind that a car can actually be a good use for SSI if it is improving the life of the child by getting him too and from appointments, school, therapies etc. However, that does not seem like the case in this situation.

Thu, 12/19/2019 - 17:22 Permalink
Kevin (not verified)

My wife and I are divorced my

My wife and I are divorced my son lives with me I’m on disability but she receives his SSI and spends it on her self. Why can’t I get his benefits?

Tue, 12/31/2019 - 10:47 Permalink

In reply to by Kevin (not verified)

Hi Kevin,

Hi Kevin,

It seems like you are in a situation where you need to switch your representative payee. This can be done by making an appointment with your local ssa office. It works best if all three of you can make the appointment.
That money is supposed to be used on your child's daily expenses/quality of life expenses.

Thu, 01/02/2020 - 16:32 Permalink
Debbie (not verified)

How do I know who my child’s

How do I know who my child’s representative is ?

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 12:00 Permalink

In reply to by Debbie (not verified)

Hi Debbie,

Hi Debbie,

This is something that is chosen by the SSA at the beginning of the process. I would recommend calling the office that you initially filled out the application at and they will be able to give you more information.

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 14:34 Permalink
Van (not verified)

Can I use my child back pay

Can I use my child back pay to pay for security and first month on a new rental? So child can have his own bedroom and equipment.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 14:14 Permalink

In reply to by Van (not verified)



Housing is generally a good way to spend back pay. Always make sure that you are documenting how you spend the money to show that it is being spent in a way that benefits your child.

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 14:47 Permalink
Katherine (not verified)

Hey, question that bothers me

Hey, question that bothers me greatly is that my dad doesn't really use my sisters disability money on her. He uses the money to pay his car payments and I think it's unfair for my sister what can I maybe do so my sisters money goes into her and not payments for cars

Wed, 04/15/2020 - 23:03 Permalink

In reply to by Katherine (not verified)

Hi Katherine,

Hi Katherine,

Your sister may be able to switch her payee to someone else. To do so, she and the new payee would need to visit an SSA office. The new payee would need their Social Security card and a photo ID.

Thu, 04/16/2020 - 16:48 Permalink
Ashley (not verified)

My 16 year old daughter who

My 16 year old daughter who is an auxiliary beneficiary wants to get a job, can she work and still get benefits?

Tue, 06/16/2020 - 11:57 Permalink

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