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


In reply to by Juanita (not verified)

Hi Juanita,

Hi Juanita,
You may not be entitled to any of those benefits, as those are intended for the child themselves.

Mon, 06/06/2016 - 10:09 Permalink
Shane Logan (not verified)

Is my Mother allowed to use

Is my Mother allowed to use %100 of the $900+ social security check for mortgage every month? There is no money saved up and I plan to go to college. Her using all of it towards mortgage doesn't help.

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 19:20 Permalink

In reply to by Shane Logan (not verified)

Hi Shane,

Hi Shane,
Yes, a payee may be able to use SSI disability benefits for housing. You may also be able to change your representative payee, you can do so by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 16:37 Permalink
D (not verified)

SO my child is getting a

SO my child is getting a back pay for two years back. and is pretty mad she cant use it for what she wants. is there a list other then one i signed on.. they can allow her to use this money she is cover under state medical .... and our lawyer has no clue has to why she cant spend it on what she wants .. like clothes and shoes or even a new laptop for her starting high school with???

Mon, 06/13/2016 - 17:03 Permalink
Owens mama (not verified)

My son was approved for SSI.

My son was approved for SSI. Can I use some of the money for rent? Does it have to be a certain portion? For example, there's three of us in the home, can I only use 1/3 towards rent, 1/2 since he has one of the two bedrooms? My apartment allows online payments, can I pay from my account and use his separate account to write a check to reimburse myself for a portion? Also, can I use it towards an automobile payment? I primarily use my car to drive him once weekly to a hospital nearly two hours away multiple times a month and I have to use a car to take us to the grocery store because he has a condition that causes him to not be able to tolerate sunlight, we have a handicap placard because of that.

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 22:21 Permalink

In reply to by Owens mama (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
you may be able to use your child's SSI money for these expenses, but it's a good idea to speak with the caseworker you are working with to get confirmation from the SSA that you would be able to use the SSI funds in that manner.

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 09:53 Permalink
Loa (not verified)

My mom recently died and she

My mom recently died and she left custody of my sister to my aunt and she is getting my sisters SSI benefits. Is she getting benefits too? My father maned up and came back to take care of her(my sister) Doesn't SS need to know about this? My aunt wants to keep receiving my sisters payments but wouldn't that be fraud or something?

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 02:53 Permalink

In reply to by Loa (not verified)

Hi Loa,

Hi Loa,
if the aunt is using those benefits for your sister, then she doesn't need to stop being the payee for those benefits. A payee is simply someone whom the SSA trusts to use the benefits they get on behalf of a person for that person.

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 09:42 Permalink
Missy (not verified)

My 4 year old was approved

My 4 year old was approved for Ssi disability on January 6,2015. She was approved for time around. The problem comes in with backpay. We set up an account especially for the backpay but now her case worker is saying she will not be putting NOTHING in the account until she sees medical bills. My problem with this is we have to pay monthly cost on the account what is the point of setting it up if she refuses to deposit anything? She also says before we can touch the account we have to go through her. Why would you have to go through her if we have to fill out the form at the end of the year saying how we spent the money?

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 04:20 Permalink

In reply to by Missy (not verified)

Hi Missy,

Hi Missy,
It's generally a good idea to ask your caseworker if something able to be bought with back pay. I feel that your caseworker may just want to ensure that the back pay is used specifically for the child's benefit.

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 09:44 Permalink
Missy (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

I had inquired info on my

I had inquired info on my four year old backpay. My question was can she just say she will not deposit no money in the bank account? That is what she is saying. She is saying she will not give us anything until she talk to Medicade.

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 08:22 Permalink

In reply to by Missy (not verified)

Hi Missy,

Hi Missy,
That seems very strange! My best recommendation is unfortunately to just keep on checking in with the SSA like you have been.

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 13:22 Permalink
Tiffany (not verified)

My daughters are six year old

My daughters are six year old triplets. They all received SSI sue to extreme prematurity. Only one receives SSI now and they sent me a letter stating that she will not be receiving her checks any longer. With all of her doctors appts, therapy and issues at school, I have been unable to find work that will allow me so often to take time off. I have been working from home, but they money is not consistent. I have been using her checks for our rent because I do not make enough to pay it on my own. How do I stress that this, plus all of her appts and therapy visits, medications, etc, I cannot afford to take care of my daughters without this income?

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 20:46 Permalink

In reply to by Tiffany (not verified)

Hi Tiffany,

Hi Tiffany,
I am so sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, many children are ruled no longer disabled after a low birth weight. There may not be a lot you can do, but you can always consider contacting a Social Security disability attorney or advocate to discuss her case.

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 13:23 Permalink
Jordan Carlson (not verified)

My son will be receiving back

My son will be receiving back pay from approved SSI, he has been sleeping in our room on a roll out mat because he can't be on the second floor. I gave a seizure camera alert system due to epilepsy but we want him to start having his own space, can I use back pay to add a room on the first floor with a safe bed for him?

Fri, 06/24/2016 - 09:35 Permalink
Dakota (not verified)

Can you use ssi to pay house

Can you use ssi to pay house payment and utilities

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 08:53 Permalink

In reply to by Dakota (not verified)

Hi Dakota,

Hi Dakota,
You may be able to use your child's monthly SSI payments for that, but you will not be able to use SSI back pay for rent or utilities unless you are about to be evicted and your child will become homeless.

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 16:12 Permalink
Kim (not verified)

My son receives disability

My son receives disability for lung disease from being preemie. Right before he started receiving his monthly checks his dad had to serve time in jail for a charge before we had met or had our son. He was the provider for our family. Now im a single stay home mom with no family assistance and at times I've had to use my sons backpay for things like diapers if we come up short or over the counter meds for like his eczema sometimes to pay a late bill even groceries when we are out at end if the month. His check barely covers our bills. Will my son lose his check because of these emergency purchases?

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 21:00 Permalink

In reply to by Kim (not verified)

Hi Kim,

Hi Kim,
No, your son shouldn't lose his back pay for paying for these items. Back pay is meant to be used for medical bills anyway.

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 16:14 Permalink
Doug (not verified)

Me and my wife are separated

Me and my wife are separated and I our two kids live with me.. My son receives disability (SSI) but she is the payee over his funds. How can I apply to be the payee over his check since he lives with me and I provide for him??

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 23:06 Permalink

In reply to by Doug (not verified)

Hi Doug,

Hi Doug,
You can do so by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to ask them to change your child's payee.

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 11:04 Permalink
Mary (not verified)

My adult disabled daughter

My adult disabled daughter rips through her money in the first ten days of the month by calling or texting me in a panic that she lost her bus pass and could I please please please get her money right away before Western Union closes? I am tired of her blowing through her money and then getting mad when I won't let her blow through mine. There's more to it than just this, of course, but I am just not equipped to deal with this behavior and don't know how to keep her from wasting her money. She's mentally ill with impulse issues, and she has a drug problem, but we live in different cities. I just don't know what to do. Telling her 'no' doesn't work. I don't appreciate her insinuations that I'm not providing for her food when her money is flat-out gone.

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 04:00 Permalink

In reply to by Mary (not verified)

Hi Mary,

Hi Mary,
If you are your daughter's payee, you are obligated to make sure that her money is used to maintain or improve her living conditions, but that does not mean that you need to give the entirety of her benefits to her at once, or even give her the money at all. You may buy the things that she needs for her without directly giving her money. if she does not have a payee or if you feel that someone else may be a better payee for her, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and they can help assign or re-assign a payee for her.

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 12:08 Permalink
michelle (not verified)

Can i used my sons backpay to

Can i used my sons backpay to buy a vehicle

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 10:53 Permalink

In reply to by michelle (not verified)

Hi Michelle,

Hi Michelle,
as long as the vehicle is used and owned by the beneficiary, you may be able to use your son's backpay for a vehicle.

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 12:09 Permalink
Cassandra (not verified)

I was wondering my young

I was wondering my young daughter receives ssi disability. She has her accounts and all. So I called because we have been watching the bank no action on her backpay. So we call and speak with people at the office on the 23rd and the 24th because we still had no payment. now not to mention her dates are off and I have proof. But she put the money in and took it right back then makes another made another deposit but fail to put all it back. She took $1823 can she do this.

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 17:27 Permalink

In reply to by Cassandra (not verified)

Hi Cassandra,

Hi Cassandra,
Generally you'd start to receive the back pay about four months from the date of approval, if it has not been four months from the date of approval, you may need to wait a bit. Additionally, I'm not really sure what's going on with the deposits and withdrawals.

Fri, 07/01/2016 - 09:55 Permalink
Suzie (not verified)

If there are 6 people in my

If there are 6 people in my household,do I divide the living expenses into 6 and that's the child's portion of what's to be paid. And what all does it cover?

Thu, 06/30/2016 - 22:45 Permalink

In reply to by Suzie (not verified)

Hi Suzie,

Hi Suzie,
If you're referring to deemed income, the SSA has their own calculations regarding deemed income.

Fri, 07/01/2016 - 09:56 Permalink
Mary Rose (not verified)

Can my 20-year-old autistic

Can my 20-year-old autistic son's SSI funds be used for his airline ticket to visit grandparents 1000 miles away? What about other costs related to family vacations?

Mon, 07/04/2016 - 13:22 Permalink

In reply to by Mary Rose (not verified)

Hi Mary Rose,

Hi Mary Rose,
You may be able to use his SSI funds to do so, but I would contact your local SSA office and inquire with them as to if that would be an acceptable use of his SSI benefits.

Tue, 07/05/2016 - 10:27 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

OK so I'm in a house

OK so I'm in a house where the the landlord stay way in Miami so I call many of time to fix the mold under the sink and other stuff but my question is can I take the pictures I have of the things to social security can I request to use money out of the dedicated account to move its not safe and I have contact the city

Tue, 07/05/2016 - 22:18 Permalink

In reply to by Tina (not verified)

Hi Tina,

Hi Tina,
Yes, it's a good idea to check with the SSA to see what would be allowed for purchase with the dedicated account funds.

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 09:32 Permalink
Sophia (not verified)

I am two months backed up on

I am two months backed up on my rent. I am able to use my daughter back payment money? Am I able to use her money to put down a security on a new apartment when I move?

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 22:46 Permalink

In reply to by Sophia (not verified)

Hi Sophia,

Hi Sophia,
You may be able to use the back pay for rent, however I would contact your local SSA office and double check.

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 09:43 Permalink
Marchia (not verified)

My niece currently received

My niece currently received her ssi benefits. I am the payee rep. I am nervous about what is or isnt allowed in purchases or paying bills. She is wanting a horse is this considered an ok purchase? Also, is their a percentage of payment to household bills?

Sat, 07/09/2016 - 08:06 Permalink

In reply to by Marchia (not verified)

Hi Marchia,

Hi Marchia,
I wouldn't worry about purchases, as you can always ask your local SSA office what would and would not be an approved purchase. as far as a horse, that may not be an approved purchase. However, the household bills and housing in general, may be an approved purchase. Here's some more information:

Mon, 07/11/2016 - 10:09 Permalink
Wills (not verified)

My spouse is using our Sons

My spouse is using our Sons SSI fund to defray her fact our Son would not be getting a dime for the next 3 months because the account was linked with a credit card that she used to rent a vehicle that she kept for 2 months without paying,the car was repossessed and would take 3 months to pay off everything.I am a new immigrant still waiting for my work permit so as it stands now I have been begging around to make sure my son doesn't lack pending when I can work..She uses deportation to threaten me so I can't make an official report....What can be done about this??

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 18:07 Permalink

In reply to by Wills (not verified)

I would contact someone you

I would contact someone you trust and have them contact the SSA about this, the SSA can change payees for the child so that they will have access to their benefits.

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 09:51 Permalink
Cassandra (not verified)

My child has been receiving

My child has been receiving Ssi payments for 4 months but still no backpay. Her caseworkers told us she was doing it two weeks ago only to call the main Ssi number to find out she has done nothing. So I call and everyone is giving us the run around who can we go to about this matter? She needs the pay for physical therapy equipment

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 18:47 Permalink

In reply to by Cassandra (not verified)

Hi Cassandra,

Hi Cassandra,
I would expect your child's back pay any time now, while 4 months is the average wait, your state still has to release the funds, which may take some time.

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 09:29 Permalink
Kayleigh Young (not verified)

Hey my son is receiving

Hey my son is receiving temporary ssi benefits. .. be hasn't been approved yet!!! Could I use his temporary toward a down payment on a used car to use for transportation from doctor appointments ?

Wed, 07/13/2016 - 20:57 Permalink

In reply to by Kayleigh Young (not verified)

Hi Kayleigh,

Hi Kayleigh,
While you can use benefits for transportation, you may want to check with a caseworker at your local SSA office as they can give you detailed guidelines about how you would be able to purchase a car with SSI benefits.

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 09:32 Permalink
Lance Cech (not verified)

My son's mother passed

My son's mother passed away earlier this year. He just started receiving benefits. I have opened up an account as you have described and I deposit the money monthly. My it ok to simply let the money accumulate so he will have a little money to further his education after graduating high school? He is 16 ( in August) and will be a junior in high school this year.

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 08:33 Permalink

In reply to by Lance Cech (not verified)

Hi Lance,

Hi Lance,
I'm sorry to hear about that. If he is receiving survivor's benefits based of of his mother's work record, then you may be able to let it accumulate.

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 09:34 Permalink
Lance Cech (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you very much

Thank you very much

Mon, 07/25/2016 - 11:10 Permalink
Leslie (not verified)

Question? Our child has

Question? Our child has mental disabilities. one of them is Asperger's, O.C.D. and most of what is on the list other than educational doesn't apply or I should say doesn't fit our daughter's needs. What can we spend that back pay on?

Thu, 07/14/2016 - 15:48 Permalink

In reply to by Leslie (not verified)

Hi Leslie,

You can spent your child's backpay on dental, orthodontic, optical, sports, lessons like tennis horseback riding but remember that it is strictly for your child. Hope this helps!

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:05 Permalink

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