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 Madrede3 (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
It may be a good idea to contact the caseworker that you had worked with to get your child SSI, they can go into detail as to what you can use his benefit money for. In the meantime, here is a pamphlet on being a representative payee:

Fri, 09/16/2016 - 14:49 Permalink
Madrede3 (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Wanted to say ty for the info

Wanted to say ty for the info and link that was provided

Sat, 09/17/2016 - 07:57 Permalink
Victoria villanueva (not verified)

Hi I just recently received

Hi I just recently received benefits for my child can I withdraw money from her to pay rent and bills? Also my goal was to drop hours at work to dedicate time for her due to the fact she has severe autism and needs a lot of attention would they affect her benefits?

Sat, 09/17/2016 - 04:59 Permalink

In reply to by Victoria villanueva (not verified)

Hi Victoria,

Hi Victoria,
You may be able to use part of her benefits for her housing, but it may be a good idea to contact your disability caseworker before doing so as they can give you detailed information about how you can spend your child's benefits.

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 10:08 Permalink
Gen (not verified)

Here is the question. If my

Here is the question. If my daughter is no longer receiving SSI can we spend the money in her dedicated account. I basically told the Social Security office that I did not want her to receive SSI or Medical any longer. The reason is I have been making more money at my job and my daughter's payment is only about $50 per month. even though I report my income every month I'm constantly getting notices that I have received an overpayment it's a constant problem and I'm always at the SSI Office putting in waviers which is just a huge stress I would like to put that money towards buying a house for my daughter's future my daughter is now 16 years old and holding part time job off and on. She was receiving SSI for emotional issues but I don't think when she's 18 she will qualify and she stopped seeing her therapist over a year ago I feel like as an adult if her problems interfere with her holding a job she can apply for SSI or SSDI but I would rather have her work if she can thank you for any input

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 00:49 Permalink

In reply to by Gen (not verified)

Hi Gen,

Hi Gen,
It may be best if you contact the SSA regarding this, if they think that they have overpaid you they may ask for you to return some of the money that they have paid you previously.

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 10:10 Permalink
Jacqueline VanDyke (not verified) daughter has some daughter has some funds in her dedicated account. We are struggling these past few months. Can I use just some of it to help pay rent, provided I keep the receipt/ records that it is what it was for?

I know it is for medical and school. She has all of her school and mediclw needs met and we need help as far as rent..
We work, no tattoos or i phones and we do not smoke or drink. We are just getting by.

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 14:52 Permalink

In reply to by Jacqueline VanDyke (not verified)

Hi Jaqueline,

Hi Jaqueline,
You may be able to, but it's a good idea to contact our SSI caseworker to check that you would be able to do so with funds from your child's dedicated account.

Mon, 09/19/2016 - 15:04 Permalink
Shardanay lee (not verified)

Hi, my grandmother is my rep

Hi, my grandmother is my rep payee I live with her. She says that I have to give her three hundred a month and I don't have a lease agreement with her. I live in Alabama where you can't sign a legally abiding contract until you are 19 the employee at my local social security office said that she can request this as long as I live with her. My lawyer said that she can't charge me unless I had a lease agreement and I'm confused. I am starting college soon and between medical expenses and saving for college and getting the things I need there's hardly anything left. She barley works and complains about not making enough money. She is also my sisters rep payee and does the same to them. My baby sister is 8 and is in desperate need of clothing she's outgrown almost everything she has and she gets three hundred a month which my granny spends on her bills this child almost never gets what she needs what can be done?

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:57 Permalink

In reply to by Shardanay lee (not verified)

Hi Shardanay,

Hi Shardanay,
You can contact the SSA regarding this and they can assign a new payee for you and your sister, so that you and her can receive your benefits. As far as the rent situation is concerned, I really could not comment on that as I do not have much knowledge of residency law in Alabama.

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 13:24 Permalink
Karen (not verified)

Hi,my 2 children receive ssi

Hi,my 2 children receive ssi due to their fathers passing,my question is ,is a cell phone consider a recreation?

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 23:24 Permalink

In reply to by Karen (not verified)

Hi Karen,

Hi Karen,
It seems like your two children are receiving survivor's benefits rather than SSI. For survivor's benefits, you may have more leeway to use those benefits than someone receiving SSI. It may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding any limitations on your spending of benefits and to confirm what types of benefits you have.

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 09:32 Permalink
Amanda (not verified)

Can i pay my electric bill

Can i pay my electric bill with my kids ss money

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 14:04 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My nephew lives with us and

My nephew lives with us and were in the process of adopting him hes 2 and a half recieves ssi payments has several appts each month can we use some of his money for transporting to the doctor

Sun, 09/25/2016 - 11:28 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
That may be an appropriate use of his funds. However, it may be a good idea to contact his SSA caseworker to confirm what you would be able to use the money for. Additionally if he receives Medicaid, he may be eligible for free or reduced price medical transport. In that case, you may want to contact the office that administers Medicaid in your state.

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 14:24 Permalink
Alyn (not verified)

I am not the Payee for my son

I am not the Payee for my son. I'm fighting to become it though. I live with my sister, but my son's Payee is in another state. I'm wondering, can my son's SSI Benefits be used for a house repair if it is a safety hazard for him?

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 12:37 Permalink

In reply to by Alyn (not verified)

Hi Alyn,

Hi Alyn,
You may be able to use his SSI benefits for home repairs, but it's always a good idea to contact the SSA if you're unsure if the purchase is allowed. You also may want to let them know that the payee is in another state and is unable to give the money to your son as well.

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 15:57 Permalink
Ed (not verified)

I am receiving social

I am receiving social security disabilty. I just recieved back payments for my 2 girls cause when my claim was filed the girls wasn't included. The girls are not disabled but I am. How should I handle their payments. Is it wrong to use that money to catch up on my bills and maybe improve my transportation. The girls are minors and I am raising them on my own.

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 14:38 Permalink

In reply to by Ed (not verified)

Hi Ed,

Hi Ed,
Since you're receiving their benefits as part of your SSDI coverage, you may have a good amount of leeway with which to use those benefits. It may be a good idea to contact the SSA just in case to make sure, however.

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 15:58 Permalink
Steven (not verified)

Hello, i was wondering when a

Hello, i was wondering when a child turns 18 and still goes to highschool if they can recieve their own monthly check instead of the mother is mysteriously spending unwisely?

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 22:21 Permalink

In reply to by Steven (not verified)

HI Steven,

HI Steven,
If the child is receiving benefits based on his own disability, he may be able to apply again after he is 18. Also, you may want to contact the SSA and inform them about the mother not spending the money in SSA approved ways if she is doing so.

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:35 Permalink
Jacie (not verified)

Hi what if car repairs are

Hi what if car repairs are needed for my car to drive my daughter whom I got the back pay from ...can I use that money on the car repairs.

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 11:16 Permalink

In reply to by Jacie (not verified)

Hi Jacie,

Hi Jacie,
You may be able to use your child's benefits for that, however it is always best to contact your SSA caseworker if you're in doubt.

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 13:59 Permalink
Kathleen (not verified)

This question has been

This question has been bothering me for a few years. I have been raising a boy for many years who receives a disability check. I share a home with his father. His mother receives disability due to mental illness and this is why the boy receives disability. I pay half of the bills to the, utilities, water, cable, food etc. The man that I share the home with uses his sons entire check to pay his half of the rent, utilities, etc. Effectively, not having to pay a penny towards taking care of himself or his son. Without getting into the whole story, I feel this is wrong. His father spends a good portion of his day playing online games, he spends lots of money on beer and drinks every night from about four or five in the afternoon until he goes to bed, and tinkers with his boats. He does not pay proper attention to his son, is quick to anger, and if I was not here the child, half of the time, would not eat dinner as his dad is busy with his boats, computer and beer. Most of his clothing is hand me downs from the neighbors. He has never gone on a vacation, played sports(except once at school), he needs braces, he has never been to a movie or spent quality time with his dad. In the last six years I have seen this man interact with his son in a positive way perhaps 7 times. Am I wrong to believe the father is misusing his sons check to support himself. Yes, he keeps a roof over his sons head with the check, but his son's check puts a roof over his fathers head and pays all of his other bills as far as the house is concerned. Am I wrong to think that a father should be contributing to supporting his son instead of his child's check totally supporting him? There has not been a penny saved for this child, his college education etc. yet the father has money for beer every night(not the cheap beer either), spends approx. 10 hours a day on the computer playing games and scrolling on Facebook, buys lottery tickets. I could be wrong, but I feel this is an inappropriate way of spending his sons check. If I pay half of everything, I think the father should at least pay for 1/4 of the expenses instead of his sons check supporting him. I have tried talking to him about this, but he feels it is his right to use his sons check in this way and that is how the government makes him spend it. I am just trying to get some clarity on this and the correct answers. Thank you.

Fri, 09/30/2016 - 23:42 Permalink

In reply to by Kathleen (not verified)

HI there,

HI there,
I'm sorry to hear about that! You may want to contact your local authorities if you feel the child is being neglected. The SSA gives a good amount of leeway for the reciepients of SSDI auxiliary benefits, however it may be misuse. It may be a good idea to contact the SSA as well, as they can assign another person to receive the child's money if the father is judged to not be using it correctly.

Mon, 10/03/2016 - 16:09 Permalink
rachael (not verified)

my son wants a swimming pool.

my son wants a swimming pool. if I was told yes can I go ahead and transfer money to pay for the stuff online or should I wait for the approval letter?

Mon, 10/03/2016 - 16:43 Permalink

In reply to by rachael (not verified)

Hi Rachael,

Hi Rachael,
I would highly recommend waiting for any approval letters you may be waiting for. In the meantime it may be a good idea to contact the SSA to make sure that this purchase is in line with their rules for spending a representative payee's back pay and monthly benefits.

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 09:20 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

Hello my daughter received

Hello my daughter received part of her back pay in April. Everything was approved I was told they automatically have to deposit back pay every six months. The women I talked to today said that the only way I can access her funds because I used a good portion before on learning supplies is now I have to have her therapist approve the items or I can't use her back pay. How is this possible

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 09:00 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

I have read this before. The

I have read this before. The previous backpay I received in April was all approved. Now I'm being told I can't access her funds without a therapist approval for her needs. I don't understand why.

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 09:28 Permalink

In reply to by Jessica (not verified)

Hi Jessica,

Hi Jessica,
If they placed further restrictions on your use of the money, it may be because they have reason to believe ( possibly incorrectly) that the money would be misused or mis-appropriated.

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 09:34 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

How can that be when

How can that be when everything was approved the first time before they even dispensed her money?

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 09:36 Permalink

In reply to by Jessica (not verified)

Hi Jessica,

Hi Jessica,
They don't need to approve things you buy with your own money, however you may not be able to reimburse yourself with your child's funds in that case.

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 11:29 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My son is due for second

My son is due for second payment installation, is that going to be installed into his dedicated account automatically or do I have to show proof of spending and go through some other things that they probably want me to go through efore getting that?

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 13:51 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
Generally the SSA will send you a letter asking for that, but generally it would just show up in his account.

Tue, 10/04/2016 - 15:08 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

A friend of mine put all of

A friend of mine put all of her son's Social Security into a savings account for him for his future. Now Social Security is asking for all unused money back why and does she have to give it back. This was his money and they lived barely getting by so that he could have some money towards college and his future.

Fri, 10/07/2016 - 14:45 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
The SSA can provide people with benefits using something called "presumptive disability". Under this system, someone who has been granted benefits would have to repay the SSA after they are either approved or denied for benefits. This may be the case with your friend.

Fri, 10/07/2016 - 14:57 Permalink
Michelle (not verified)

My boyfriend's son is

My boyfriend's son is receiving SSI payments that go to his mom, since my boyfriend and the mother of his son were never married and there is no court order in place (yet) We are currently going through the courts now to gain 50/50 joint custody/legal decision making over his son. Will they apply the SSI payments she receives towards the Child Support Order, or does that not apply at all?

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 17:44 Permalink

In reply to by Michelle (not verified)

Hi Michelle,

Hi Michelle,
How SSI is regarded in relation to child support differs in every state, so that would vary in every state.

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 08:59 Permalink
Shareen (not verified)

Can I use my childs money

Can I use my childs money from dedicated acct to buy hearing oil for the winter for our home

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 10:36 Permalink

In reply to by Shareen (not verified)

Hi Shareen,

Hi Shareen,
You may be able to, but if you're in doubt it's best to contact the SSA to confirm what you would be able to buy with your child's back pay.

Tue, 10/11/2016 - 15:37 Permalink
Lisa B. (not verified)

My medically fragile young

My medically fragile young adult son recently qualified for SSI. O am his payee. We fully support our son. received a back paymrny check representing aprox. 4 months of his SSI benefits, and since that time have received three additional monthly checks. I have parked all of that money in a newly created combined savings/checking account with our son as sole beneficiary and myself as his payee. Here are my questions: 1. Do I need to divide these monies into two accounts-- one for the back pay and one for the ongoing monthly checks? 2. Void I dump all or any portion of these funds into an ABLE account set up in one of the few states that are up and running with that program? 3. We have paid and continue to pay monthly private school tuition for our son. Can we reimburse ourselves for those well-documented payments ( which we would then turn around and spend on upcoming tuition bill)? Ditto private tutoring services ( but person providing tutoring is not a licensed, credentialed teacher)? 4. We purchased a car specifically for use by our son's nurses to transport him to school and dr appts. We r making monthly car and auto insurance payments on this vehicle. If we transfer title of the car to our son, could we apply his back pay and/or ongoing benefits SSI towards the monthly car payments or auto insurance? Would putting car title under his name render him ineligible for SSI? Lastly, within what time window do I need to use the back pay in an appropriate manner and how much can accrue in this account st any given time? Help us Obi-wan-- we r total novices at this and want to do this by the book!

Wed, 10/12/2016 - 11:35 Permalink
cred (not verified)

I was in a house fire this

I was in a house fire this year we lost everything. I only have a couple of rent receipts. My question is can I use his monthly payments to purchase a new house? I need a car to get to his appointments. Can I buy a car?

Thu, 10/13/2016 - 22:14 Permalink
Cindy (not verified)

I have been saving my sons

I have been saving my sons SSI for college. He turns 18 tomorrow and is still in high school until June. SS wants me to return what I have saved! I don't trust them to return it to him.

Can I purchase the tuition now for him to use next fall?

Can I use the rest to pay off the balance of the 529 play I've been investing in since he was 4? And reimbursing me some of the money I've been putting in to the 529 plan?

Or is buying him a truck a better option?

I'd prefer to keep some in savings for him post colllege graduation but if I am expected to return it, I will find ways to spend it for him.

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 22:59 Permalink

In reply to by Cindy (not verified)

Hi Cindy,

Hi Cindy,
If the SSA would like the money back, it may be because they consider the money paid to your son as overpayment, it is possible that he became ineligible for benefits due to your income or that his disability benefits were on a presumptive basis - that means that they can provide benefits, but may ask for them back if they come to the conclusion that your child was ineligible for benefits.

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 13:16 Permalink
Kim (not verified)

My son has cerebral palsy, he

My son has cerebral palsy, he was born at 26 weeks, a micro preemie weighing 1 lb 10 Iiz, he was automatically given disability at birth, until age 3, they wanted me to take him to go see their Dr 2 hrs away, & I didn't understand why they couldn't speak to the Drs & therapists that were with him since birth, so it was went on, we applied for ssdi as a teen, he's been denied 3 times, so at 17 he was given ssi. He cannot form sentences, or write, the ssi was direct deposit and heloed pay his needs, it he just turned 18 & they want to give him a paper check. I went to the social security office, they said he can call to appky for his own direct deposit card, which is fine, but he cannot form many words, can I apply for my handicap son for his direct express card? Yes we hired a lawyer to address the disability issue, my son at 18 has a child's mind and is in a walker, I homeschool him daily..thanks for reading, god bless

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 07:21 Permalink

In reply to by Kim (not verified)

Hi Kim,

Hi Kim,
You may want to consult your disability lawyer, but as your child is in your care, you may be able to apply for him.

Wed, 10/19/2016 - 09:59 Permalink

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