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 Karla (not verified)

Hi Karla,

Hi Karla,
Spending the money on things that can help his condition may be allowed, but it's always best to get in touch with the SSA regarding what you can buy with the back pay, just to be sure.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 14:23 Permalink
Monica (not verified)

I'm curious, I have 2

I'm curious, I have 2 sons, they're both hearing? Are they qualified for ssi? Alot people told me they should get it. But I did asking my local ssa office, they told me only disability or deaf children can get it. True?

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 21:27 Permalink

In reply to by Monica (not verified)

Hi Monica,

Hi Monica,

I am so sorry to hear that. Your children may qualify for SSI if they are not fully deaf. While applying for SSI You will need to send evidence of an otologic exam and an audiometric test to show how the hearing loss impacts your children's daily lives.

Best Wishes,

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 16:56 Permalink
Maneeh (not verified)

Hi my daughter was approved

Hi my daughter was approved for ssi due to prematurity since then she got 30 a month for her expenses & once she got out of the hospital she got back payed for 3 months. Since our daughter came so early we didn't have anything for her and we didn't have a chance to have a baby shower either after that all we did was spent time with her in the nicu. We spent a good amount on our credit cards to pay for what she needed when she came home, food, & bills. Now that we got back paid we thought we could use some
Of the money to get back on track. Is that possible?

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 01:42 Permalink

In reply to by Maneeh (not verified)

Hi Maneeh,

Hi Maneeh,
You may be able to do so, but it may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding how you'd be able to use that back pay.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 14:24 Permalink
Megan (not verified)

Hello, if you are divorced

Hello, if you are divorced and you are paying half of everything but have reason to believe your ex is collecting SSI for your child but still having you pay have of everything, how do you go about finding out if that is whats happening, is it fraud and what would i need to investigate?

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:19 Permalink
Bri (not verified)

Hi! My boyfriend draws a

Hi! My boyfriend draws a check off of his parents (both are considered disabled) and the check goes straight to his mothers bank account (no separate bank account for the checks.) well, we have recently had a child and he's been living with me for a year now and not once has she given him any of the check to help with his needs like food or clothes or shoes. And when he came to live with me he only had a few sets of hand me down clothes, shoes that didn't fit, and three pairs of jeans. Is this considered fraud?

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 16:48 Permalink
raquel (not verified)

My son is 11 years old he has

My son is 11 years old he has a lot of disability problems he wears a leg braces ,hand brace,helmet and also a wheelchair for transportation sometimes and we don't own a car we use the bus for transportation. I wanted to invest his dedicated account money for a down payment for a car to help us with transportation to take him to his appointments and places is it possible to use the money for that ?

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 11:39 Permalink

In reply to by raquel (not verified)

Hi Raquel,

Hi Raquel,

I am really sorry to hear that. If your son is approved for SSI or SSDI benefits and you receive a monthly check you can choose to do with the money as you please.

Best Wishes,

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 15:05 Permalink
Brian (not verified)

My wife and I are separated

My wife and I are separated and I have had custody of my daughter for the last six years while my wife has collected the SSI benefits for my daughter the entire time. Am I entitled to back pay for the benefit she has fraudulently collected on my daughter's behalf?

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 17:55 Permalink
Dawn (not verified)

My disabled sone will be

My disabled sone will be turning 17 this year. I need to hire an attorney to handle guardianship and a Rogers (required in Massachusetts for certain medications). Can I use my son's social security funds to help pay for the cost of the attorney?

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 11:52 Permalink
Jett (not verified)

Hi my daughter receive ssi I

Hi my daughter receive ssi I just found out that the school district that my daughter goes to won't bus her even though she is under the special education programs because they don't bus the other children. Is there program though ss that will pay for her to be busy being that I don't drive and it heard for me to get her to and from school.

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 20:39 Permalink
Alicia (not verified)

Both my children are on ssi

Both my children are on ssi disability. They have a separate account from mine. I was told I cannot transfer the funds from their account to mine. Is that true?

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 15:58 Permalink

In reply to by Alicia (not verified)

Hi Alicia,

Hi Alicia,
Transferring funds between accounts may be considered a misuse of funds, as those funds are intended specifically for the care and upkeep of the recipient.

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 16:57 Permalink
John Shelby (not verified)

My son loves to play videos

My son loves to play videos game after the money is spent on food,clothing and shelter for my son, can we use what ever is left for his gaming interests ?

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 20:36 Permalink

In reply to by John Shelby (not verified)

HI John,

HI John,
You may be able to as that would be counted as entertainment, but if you're unsure you may want to contact your local SSA office about any purchases that you're unsure about.

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 12:06 Permalink
New mom to ssi (not verified)

My husband and I had

My husband and I had separated and I made myself the payee of my daughter's ss benefits as she was living with me. I used the money for housing. Now they are investigating for fraud. I thought housing was ok? Will she lose her benefits?

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 22:20 Permalink

In reply to by New mom to ssi (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
While housing is an approved purchase, the SSA may conduct random checks to see if you are using the money in compliance with their guidelines. You may want to gather records regarding what the money was used on, such as reciepts.

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 12:10 Permalink
Sarah (not verified)

Are you allowed to put your

Are you allowed to put your child's check into a state college pre-pay plan account for a year or two?

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 16:05 Permalink
Sarah (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

I see that this is for

I see that this is for Disability benefits, but my son receives "survivor" benefits. Does that difference matter?

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 19:55 Permalink

In reply to by Sarah (not verified)

Hi Sarah,

Hi Sarah,
It does, as survivor's benefits are not limited by income or financial resources, so you may have more options for savings with those benefits.

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 15:16 Permalink
Amy78 (not verified)

We'really fairly new to

We'really fairly new to receiving SSI payments for our son born prematurely. Can we use the monthly payments towards our mortgage and utilities?

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 18:39 Permalink

In reply to by Amy78 (not verified)

Hi Amy,

Hi Amy,
While housing may be an accepted use, it's always a good idea to consult with your local SSA office if you're unsure if a purchase is allowed under the SSA's guidelines.

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 10:52 Permalink
Gene (not verified)

My 12 year old son is

My 12 year old son is autistic he gets a ssi check and I work. My question is will my job affect my sons check

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 09:28 Permalink

In reply to by Gene (not verified)

Hi Gene,

Hi Gene,
Your child's benefit does depend on your income level, so changes in income may affect your child's eligibility for benefits.

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 09:40 Permalink
NN (not verified)

My toddler just received some

My toddler just received some back payment from SSI.
His father doesn't live with us because he was Court removed and I am not working, just got my Green Card. We don't have a vehicle in our household and I was wondering if it would be ok to purchase a used car for transportation.

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:13 Permalink

In reply to by NN (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You may be able to do so, however it may be a good idea to speak with your local SSA office regarding any purchases you are unsure about.

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 15:14 Permalink
Kelly (not verified)

I wrote a comment previously,

I wrote a comment previously, but how do I know if anything even gets done or looked into? I know for a fact that my brother in law depends on his disabled daughter's check to come each month to pay the rent. How can he get away with this?

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:23 Permalink
Fred (not verified)

I have a question. Is it ok

I have a question. Is it ok for a working parent to give for example, $300 to the child, and use the remaining $400 for house bills like electricity, water, and rent?

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 22:32 Permalink
Kaitlyn (not verified)

I am 23 years old and my

I am 23 years old and my father got put on disability when I was 17. He told me that I would be getting money monthly as well until I was 18. I ask him about it a month or so later and he basically said that he was going to take the money if it came in. A social security worker told me that I was eligible all those months for money and that they tried to contact me several times and never got an answer. So my dad was keeping this from me so I couldn't get the money all that time. Would I still be able to get a back payment from those months if I was never personally contacted about it? Or was my dad able to take that money and keep it to himself?

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 18:26 Permalink

In reply to by Kaitlyn (not verified)

HI Kaitlyn,

HI Kaitlyn,
If the back payment and benefits were already sent to your father, he may have collected it himself. You may need to negotiate that with your father if that is the case.

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 09:52 Permalink
Alyssa (not verified)

What if my dad is disabled

What if my dad is disabled and he wants to the SSI people to give me a check every month, but can i buy a car using the check for college and/or other activities?

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 20:43 Permalink
Jennifer Davis (not verified)

My daughter will be getting

My daughter will be getting back pay also can I spend some on getting means my kids our own place to live we are living with kids dad's sister and not working out and she has to move soon what can I do I don't have money for rent deposit and plus trying to move also can I use money to pay a baby sitter so I can move

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 17:00 Permalink

In reply to by Jennifer Davis (not verified)

Hi Jennifer,

Hi Jennifer,
You may want to contact your local SSA office, they may be able to point you in the direction of your state's housing programs.

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:28 Permalink
oleilj (not verified)

I have just turned 18 and on

I have just turned 18 and on the second day I went to the social security office with my mom and became my own payee and every since my disability has gotten started as a teenager my case manager have made horrible mistakes had to reimburse and etc and everything that is beneficial to my disability needs she says she can't realse the money for it and like you can use the money for education but yet my mom had to pay 1,000$ for tutoring which each visit was 20$ a hour and I attended tutoring for a year and it totaled up to a thousand dollars she want tell me things I can use my backpay funds on in the dedicated account and she said she can't release it all to me because I was a child when I received it and it's very restricted and she said that if I was a adult when I received it I would have been able to spend how ever I like so I need to know can she be removed from over seeing everything on my case and she even said that the social security representatives that people talk to on the hotline isn't apart of social security she contradicts herself and lies and if this can't be fixed I will be hiring a lawyer

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 21:42 Permalink

In reply to by oleilj (not verified)



I am very sorry to hear that. A social security lawyer will look out for your best interest.

Best of Luck,

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 16:22 Permalink
Imo (not verified)

My 12-year-old son is

My 12-year-old son is already being contacted by recruiters for high school football. Of course these are private schools and the tuition is extremely high. So if he doesn't get a full scholarship his entire monthly benefit will go towards school. I never thought to charge him gas money or meals because I always provided those things before I went on disability and I don't expect to start charging him now. I'm glad I worked the last 27 years so I will be receiving pretty much the same amount as when I was working. I guess working all those years paid off.

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 03:17 Permalink

In reply to by Imo (not verified)

Hi Imo,

Hi Imo,
If your son is receiving benefits based off of your work record, then you may have less restrictions on how to spend the money than if you were receiving it based on your income and your child's disability.

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:29 Permalink
Anthony johnson (not verified)

Back money shouldn't

Back money shouldn't have no stipulation on it when it's a child unless the child is in competent but if the child isn't crazy and as long as you spend the money on the child and have receipts and the money is being used on here and her sister things she wants to do with here back pay a lots of pointments at the end of the day ask a ten year old what' she wants and tell here no money is suppose to be about making the child happy and fixing her

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 16:19 Permalink
Cheryl rummel (not verified)

Can my payee get assistance

Can my payee get assistance advance ssi check to pay probation fees for me

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:01 Permalink

In reply to by Cheryl rummel (not verified)

Hi Cheryl,

Hi Cheryl,
You may be able to have your payee contact the SSA regarding this, they may be able to provide expedited back pay if you have an urgent and documented need.

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 15:20 Permalink

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