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

MCNB (not verified)

I recently became

I recently became Representative Payee for a brother's SSDI. I also need to keep his assets below $2,000 for MediCal purposes. I am trying to figure how to pay for some of his non-food-or-shelter expenses using non-SSDI income. To do this I am going to use an ABLE account as a conduit for some of the rental expenses. Here's my question: If I give him some SSDI money for groceries or other expenses and he doesn't use it all, can he save that money in his ABLE account to avoid the $2,000 asset limit?

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 00:54 Permalink

In reply to by MCNB (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You actually cannot save SSDI payments in an ABLE account, but I believe ABLE accounts are only designed for SSI recipients. Otherwise, I might consider keeping the income yourself for the MediCal purposes. The SSA does not mind if SSDI recipients have assets.

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 15:23 Permalink
Idali (not verified)

My Child is receiving

My Child is receiving benefits with ssi but dont allow me to use funds for clothes, personal higene for my son or rent payments. Only medical expenses. I cant work. And my husband doesnt make enough money what can i do?? Or what is the benefits i should apply for?? If what im looking for is help for rent and my sons personal needs items.

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 22:27 Permalink

In reply to by Idali (not verified)

Hi Idali,

Hi Idali,
SSI should be used on your son's clothes or his own personal needs! Back pay is the only funds that are a little trickier to spend.

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 16:51 Permalink
Veronica (not verified)

I know that " shelter

I know that " shelter" was on the list but I was wondering if that includes being able to buy the materials to build a room addition for my son.

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 14:10 Permalink

In reply to by Veronica (not verified)

That would definitely be

That would definitely be acceptable, Veronica, so long as the addition was to help with his disability.

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 16:52 Permalink
Aries Jennings (not verified)



Mon, 12/05/2016 - 17:24 Permalink
Anonymous person (not verified)

My son just started receiving

My son just started receiving his SSI benefits. Can i use that to help pay rent or bills if I need to. Also can I use it to buy him a gift for Christmas?

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 16:26 Permalink
Emily (not verified)

For back benifits: do you

For back benifits: do you have to go to ssa and request a form to release each amount you need to spend with what you are spending it for and return reciept? Or can you buy what is needed and save the reciept. Can you purchase furniture like couch table mattress with back payments? Can you use it for therapy dog? For sports offered for the child disability? Alarm system so child dont sleep walk/walk out the home. I wish it just had a list of cans and cants. Very confusing and ssa is like reading it from a book and i get no where.

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 20:18 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Can I spend my ssi check on a

Can I spend my ssi check on a porn subscription?

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 07:38 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
That may not be the best use of a SSI payment, even if you would be allowed to use some of your own funds for entertainment. If you are talking about using a child's funds for your own personal use, then you may not be able to do so.

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:00 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

My child recived 2199.00 in

My child recived 2199.00 in back pay..I am also on disability so Can I use that money to get my license straighten out and purchase a car so that I can transport her to and from therapy, school, and doctors? If so will ssi cut or stop my beniffits because I now own a car?

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 14:21 Permalink
Raquel (not verified)

My Son is 13 years old and he

My Son is 13 years old and he has received ssi since born ....recently i received a letter saying i was not payed correctly and that they owe back payed ...i have open a dedicated account ......i was told i able to use the money with anything my son may need ..... how much is in that what im confuse why is it said that the money can not be there after a period of time ??

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 23:15 Permalink

In reply to by Raquel (not verified)

Hi Raquel,

Hi Raquel,
Because SSI benefits are based on income and resources, having over $2000 in resources available may make your child ineligible for benefits.

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 11:03 Permalink
Jesse (not verified)

My son had a spine surgery

My son had a spine surgery done in Feb2015, we didn't start getting SSI for him until Oct2015. I had to modify out house, Restroom specifically to met his needs. Can I use the back payment to cover the cost of the restroom even though I re-did a restroom specifically for him in April2015? I had to get a loan for that

Thu, 12/15/2016 - 12:09 Permalink

In reply to by Jesse (not verified)

Hi Jessie,

Hi Jessie,
Using back pay for house modifications is an approved use of funds, so you may be able to use your child's back pay for that purpose. If you're ever in doubt as to what you can use the back pay for, you can always contact your local SSA office to check just in case.

Thu, 12/15/2016 - 12:59 Permalink
Marysue (not verified)

My sister receives funds for

My sister receives funds for her son and told me she transfers the funds to her own personal account so that the spending cannot be tracked. She spend no money on her child she shops for herself and her boyfriend she is never even with her child but I have no proof. She said if I turn her in she will not let us see the child.

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 02:23 Permalink
Sandra (not verified)

We have three foster children

We have three foster children that we have had for three years, and will be adopting them very soon. Their father died about a month after they were in our care. Should they be receiving survivor benefits since then?

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 07:43 Permalink

In reply to by Sandra (not verified)

Hi Sandra,

Hi Sandra,
They may have been eligible for survivor's benefits, but the SSA only pays survivor's benefits from the time of application, not the time of death. You may want to contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 for some more information.

Thu, 12/22/2016 - 14:16 Permalink
Sandra (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you! Another question

Thank you! Another question is.. can they receive AAP (adoption assistance payment) and survivor benefits at the same time? Will their AAP benefits be reduced if they get both?

Sun, 01/01/2017 - 18:02 Permalink

In reply to by Sandra (not verified)

Hi Sandra,

Hi Sandra,
I'm not familiar with adoption assistance payments, however survivor's benefits are not based on income so there may not be any effect on your survivor's benefits.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:36 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you!

Thank you!

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 15:24 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You're very welcome!

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 16:14 Permalink
CATHY (not verified)



Thu, 12/22/2016 - 14:53 Permalink

In reply to by CATHY (not verified)

Hi Cathy,

Hi Cathy,
They may not regard your ability to save the money as anything bad, however it's a good idea to save any and all receipts you have for items and services bought with SSI finds.

Tue, 12/27/2016 - 11:25 Permalink
Sahara (not verified)

Last year I got social

Last year I got social security disability because I have permanent incontinence. I know that my mom is spending the money in the right way, she told me that I have no right to the money what so ever, she said she uses it for the bills. But I have to pay for my own clothes and soap and pretty much everything but basic food. She makes me do extra extra chores so I can get $40 every month but she doesn't always give it to me. And every weekend she sends me to my pca who is super unqualified basically I go there and sit around and sleep and do their chores until Sunday and I go home. Am I right to feel suspicious?

Sat, 12/31/2016 - 00:54 Permalink

In reply to by Sahara (not verified)

Hi Sahara,

Hi Sahara,
Those funds are to be used for your care and upkeep, you may want to contact the SSA regarding this. They can re-assign your representative payee.

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:34 Permalink
Corey (not verified)

Can I get a PlayStation 4?

Can I get a PlayStation 4?

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 12:24 Permalink

In reply to by Corey (not verified)

Hi Corey,

Hi Corey,
You may want to speak with the SSA regarding this, you can call them at 1-800-772-1213 .

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:37 Permalink
mario (not verified)

the hot water tank is broke.

the hot water tank is broke. am i allowed to use the ddsi payment for my daughter to replace the tank

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 18:33 Permalink
Dave (not verified)

My child is on ssi but his

My child is on ssi but his mom is the beneficiary. We are no longer in a relationship. I have paid his daycare since birth. I told her to use his ssi money for daycare but she says that I should be paying it. I thought ssi was used mainly for the childs expenses?

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 10:21 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

We adopted our son in October

We adopted our son in October he is 5yrs old. We will be getting the funds transferred to us from his current payee soon in the amount of around $3,000.00. We were told he should continue to receive about $300 a month here after. While he was still in foster care but living with us, we were able to buy him things like clothes, learning toys and such. Is there anyway to use the large amount he will be receiving to try and help us get into another with a backyard where he can play outside more. We currently live in an apartment. Are there any stipulations that may allow us to do this. With Christmas and his birthday right near each other he received everything a child could have wanted. His medical is covered...a new home would benefit him the most. I feel like that would be the best use of his money.

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 18:53 Permalink
Susan (not verified)

I have guardianship of my

I have guardianship of my granddaughter and she draws SS benefit payments due to her deceased father. I have put all of her money in a savings account for college and used my own money to take care of her. Is that illegal?

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 16:00 Permalink

In reply to by Susan (not verified)

Hi Susan,

Hi Susan,
Because those benefits are survivor's benefits, they are not affected by income, so that may not be illegal.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 13:00 Permalink
Candice (not verified)

Back in 2012 I lost my job

Back in 2012 I lost my job due to my daughter's behavior. (attendance) I had to leave work constantly, and she was expelled from 2 schools by the age of 8. I was finally able to get her on track with an IEP and eventually the disability, but during that time I was unemployed I defaulted on a credit card. It was that or our rent. Well here it is 2017, and that debt just came to bite me. Civil suit filed in court, or the $4000 to settle. I still live paycheck to paycheck, and if they rule against me they will freeze my bank account and garnish my wages. We will end up homeless. I still have over $5000 in her backpack I have rarely touched. Would this qualify as an emergency for this use? I'm terrified. But I have no other assets to wage. Tried to think of everything first. Honestly forgot about the backpay until today because it's rarely used. Help

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 01:04 Permalink
Sheila (not verified)

I will like to know why all

I will like to know why all the approved items on the backpay list is things that the country pays for so why can't we spend it on the child well being like us working parents do anyway I'm being denied my son back pay and I have to pay my nephew to watch him while I work or stay home and miss work because the school suspend him all the time i miss work because court like once a month and have 2 other kids I'm rising

Fri, 01/13/2017 - 15:38 Permalink

In reply to by Sheila (not verified)

Hi Sheila,

Hi Sheila,
Those benefits are intended for your child's well being, you may be able to use it for childcare.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 14:00 Permalink
Jocelyne (not verified)

So my son will be getting a

So my son will be getting a payback money from ssi how can I spend that money if he is only 2 months old, his Medicaid covers his medical expenses and he doesn't go to school just yet ? And can the bank statement that they send every month count as prove on where I'm spending the money ? Or do I have to keep every single receipt?

Mon, 01/16/2017 - 08:08 Permalink
dee (not verified)

I can write a book about this

I can write a book about this back pay/ separate account thing.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:39 Permalink
dee (not verified)

My granddaughter is disabled

My granddaughter is disabled ( intellectual ) so she gets disability benefits, she also received that separate account money and my daughter the payee used some of it to put put towards the maintenance of there car, the car is also used to get my granddaughter to school, Drs etc .Well ssi want that money to be paid back, even though the car does benefit my disabled granddaughter. So what ever you all do Make sure and get the approval from ssi before using any of the funds. In my opinion its a waste of money that can not be touched.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:46 Permalink
Karla (not verified)

Hi my 4yr old son was

Hi my 4yr old son was approved for ssi benefits, he is due to receive his back pay here soon and I just need clarification on specific approved purchases he is ADHD and has SPD, and it was highly recommended he takes like swimming and karate classes, and was also thinking of redoing his entire room to accommodate to his needs for both ADHD n SPD a sensory play bunk, reading area, special bedding, a 2 n 1 essential oil diffuser n humidifier, glow tubes, trampoline, etc does all that qualify for the back pay to be used on?

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 16:19 Permalink

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