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

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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

hello (not verified)

Hello, I was wondering if you

Hello, I was wondering if you knew what the maximum savings amount is for auxiliary benefits? My son gets benefits due to my husband's disability but I know his direct deposit account is getting near the $2,000 limit so I need to move some into a savings account but I am not sure how much we can save for him since he is not disabled himself.

Also, what about saving for a family home or family vehicle? Is it okay to use money from his savings account for that even though they will not be in his name?

Sat, 02/20/2016 - 14:32 Permalink

In reply to by hello (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
So if your son is on auxiliary benefits, those have no saving limit. That's because they're SSDI benefits, not SSI.

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 16:22 Permalink
Jonna (not verified)

Hello, I receive social

Hello, I receive social security because my mom died when I was 16, I live with my sister and she was my payee... she would spend my money on all her bills and never helped me with my expenses, I recently am 18 and just received my first check in my name, she threw my check at me and told me all her bills are on the fridge and I have to go cash the check and pay all her bills... is there a way to stop her from taking my money?

Sun, 02/21/2016 - 00:51 Permalink
Lady GG (not verified)

In reply to by Jonna (not verified)

you need ,.. call disbilty

you need ,.. call disbilty abuse,.. your sister is abusing you .... and report ,..!!!

Sun, 04/16/2017 - 14:53 Permalink

In reply to by Lady GG (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
Thank you for sharing! It can be really important to report suspected fraud or abuse.

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 09:44 Permalink
Lee (not verified)

My wife was on disability

My wife was on disability last year when she passed away. My 13 year old daughter now receives my wife's disability payment every month (<$300). I opened a 529 education savings account and pay $200/month into the account and give the rest to my daughter as a clothing allowance. Is that an allowable expense or should I claim that the $200/month is my daughter's share of our rent?

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 16:57 Permalink

In reply to by Lee (not verified)

Hi Lee,

Hi Lee,
I am very sorry to hear that. You might want to check that with the SSA first. They may believe that $200 a month is a very high clothing budget. Overall I think you'll be fine because SSDI benefits are not nearly as strictly controlled as SSI benefits.

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 16:32 Permalink
Amber (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

He said he put the $200 into

He said he put the $200 into the education savings account and the rest (looks like $100 or less) was clothing allowance. Not sure if that changes anything but I was curious about college fund too and the answer didn't seem to address hat part. Thanks.

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 08:07 Permalink

In reply to by Amber (not verified)

Hi Amber,

Hi Amber,
It may would not change anything because SSDI or Survivor's benefits come with less restrictions as to what they can be spent on rather than SSI benefits.

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 09:36 Permalink
Nikki (not verified)

I had been saving my daughter

I had been saving my daughter's monthly payments for college, however I learned last year that as soon as she turns 18 (mid senior year in high school) those funds will automatically taken back by SS. I am now trying to spend the funds on her support, but confused as to how to best do so. How would I handle things like shelter and food since we both use them ( I own the home) and what exactly constitutes as personal comfort items?

Tue, 02/23/2016 - 03:08 Permalink

In reply to by Nikki (not verified)

Hi Nikki,

Hi Nikki,
What I would recommend doing is buying her some high-expense items such as a laptop, printer, etc. for school. These will be allowed expenses and you should be able to use the income you've saved.

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 16:32 Permalink
Nikki (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Deanna, thank you for the

Deanna, thank you for the response. I have purchased her a laptop, and will try to find a good printer for her to use (she's an artist so it has to do good colors). I was wondering if you (or anyone else) can help me with my other questions? I would really like to keep track of these things properly. Thank you.

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 00:38 Permalink

In reply to by Nikki (not verified)

Hi Nikki,

Hi Nikki,
You could always send me an email at if you have questions you wouldn't like to ask here! I can do my best to help you, but I will warn you that our expertise is more in how to qualify. Disability benefits get even more confusing once you're approved if you'd believe that!

Wed, 03/23/2016 - 16:50 Permalink
Betty (not verified)

Can you use back SSI Back pay

Can you use back SSI Back pay. To help purchase a home for the child to live in a better environment and neighborhood.

Tue, 02/23/2016 - 12:18 Permalink

In reply to by Betty (not verified)

Hi Betty,

Hi Betty,
You might be able to, but it's very hard to tell because SSI back pay is very strictly monitored. I'd call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to make sure first.

Mon, 03/21/2016 - 16:33 Permalink
Allison (not verified)

Hi, I am so excited to see

Hi, I am so excited to see this blog. My son is 10 and has Autism, ADHD, and severe asthma. I work full time and I am single mom. We live with his grandmother but we need to move as she has mental issues. If I apply for disability for my son, we can use that to help pay for a home? I am also going to nursing school so I when clinicals start in the fall this would really help us for food, daycare, his medical bills, and to help towards a home payment? etc. That way I can still care for him. And if he gets disability can he still get a regular job one day if he gets better with his treatment? He's on a IEP at school. Also, he doesn't walk correctly and this could help us to get treatment for that.

Thu, 02/25/2016 - 12:10 Permalink

In reply to by Allison (not verified)

Hi Allison,

Hi Allison,
You might be able to, but this is tough to say because SSI benefits are for the sole use of the benefit of the child. And if he gets better with treatment, he can of course get a job! The SSA can help him with that once he's older, so certainly do not worry about that.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:29 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Define "living expenses

Define "living expenses " rent,bills cable tv etc food clothing personal comfort items "my son watches tv my son lives with me under my roof hes going to be using a pc program called abc mouse and other educational programs an ipad so he can communicate an ipad required connection to a pc to put his movies on for his enjoyment if someone pays rent with all of or half that should be appropriate if anyone has questions talk to a real person

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 16:31 Permalink
Arly (not verified)

I get S S for my grandaughter

I get S S for my grandaughter she was 8 now 13 I get 640 a month for her I live in low income housing they take 30 % of her check toward rent leaves me not much for her as a teenager it's a lot she wants and needs I'm on disability myself and I took a part time job what I don't understand is kids that go to college live home work part time don't have to claim his her income can someone explain to me why that is?

Sat, 02/27/2016 - 13:10 Permalink
ashley (not verified)

Hey ok so im 17 and my father

Hey ok so im 17 and my father is drawing disablility and where im his blood child i resieve ssi like child's where things get messed up....i live with my sister because my dad used my check for drugs and his needs. I moved out of his home and moved In with my sister and she promised that she would not do what he did to me....well she lied.... She and i and her husband and 2 kids were staying with her husbands mother , then we found this place to rent and she asked me if i wouldnt mind to let her use my check for the first couple months for rent....i had no problem what so ever with that .....but the conditions on that was just for the first couple months... So now it is almost march and she still since she took it for "rent" in december has not yet let me have it back.... She has a good paying job as well as her husband does too she also gets student loans and just recently recived her taxes.....i had been sleeping on a box spring (no matress) since october!!! She just got me a bed today?? She comes home with new lotions perfumes clothes jewelry shoes etc..... I met my bf in november and he has provided my every need since she took my check .... And still is!! I really dont know what to do at this point?? I spoke with her on an agreement about giving me half of my check whitch would be 325 seeing as to how my check is 650 a month but no....thats not good enough for her !!! She said her husband needs a new vehicle and all my check went on rent...?? I need help !!!

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 20:42 Permalink

In reply to by ashley (not verified)

Hi Ashley,

Hi Ashley,
I'm sorry to hear about all that!
If your sister is your representative payee, you can contact the SSA to have another representative payee appointed. If you feel your sister has been misusing your benefits, please contact the SSA, their number is 1-800-772-1213, and they can help you with your situation. You can also go to their website at

Wed, 03/23/2016 - 12:10 Permalink
Andrew (not verified)

I currently collect ssdi and

I currently collect ssdi and my 4 kids get 50%, I currently have a bank account for each kid, and its becoming a nightmare. Can I have just one bank account for all for of them? Also, I split household bills evenly, but that doesn't always work, can I use one child's money for gas bill, and other child's money for light bill? (just examples)or use extra money from 1 to help with other's childcare?

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 01:24 Permalink

In reply to by Andrew (not verified)

Hi Andrew,

Hi Andrew,
Because your kids are on SSDI and not SSI, I believe you can have one account for all of them. Be sure to double-check this with the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 just to be sure.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:28 Permalink
Charlie (not verified)

Ok so my daughter just got

Ok so my daughter just got her first SSI payment for me being retired and her still in high school (until Next May). I am having them put it in my account, but My wife wants to transfer the money to my daughters own checking account, so that it's kept separate for our money, and being able to show that she's using it for her needs/wants. Now, she's wanting to make a big purchase later in in the year.. and again this is strictly for her.. She does rodeos and racing, and wants to buy her another horse..could she use her money to do that?

Wed, 03/02/2016 - 11:19 Permalink

In reply to by Charlie (not verified)

Hi Charlie,

Hi Charlie,
Because the benefits are under your account, they're actually SSDI benefits, not SSI. SSDI benefits have FAR less strict spending limits. It could be possible that this purchase would be approved!

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:27 Permalink
Amber (not verified)

My child will be getting

My child will be getting three months worth of back pay. And I seen it says that it needs to be spent on medical and school. But my child's medical care is all paid by Medicaid and there is no school expenses.. I was wanting to know if I could use some of the money on new clothes for her and a new bed since her's is in pretty bad shape and is out growing it. As for the rest. Can I put in a savings account for her birthday and Christmas?

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 10:48 Permalink

In reply to by Amber (not verified)

Hi Amber,

Hi Amber,
You might be able to, especially if the bed is designed to help children with disabilities! (such as having rails, a step ladder, etc). I'd clear this with the person who handles your account just to be safe.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:26 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Someone had told me that I

Someone had told me that I could use my 4 year Olds SSI to get him a ticket to an amusement park. I sort of feel like that is not allowed for a SSI checked to be spent on. Could anyone verify this for me? I'm new at this SSI thing and unsure on what we should or shouldn't use it on. This friend said it should be allowed because in some sort of a way it's benefiting him. I see this as a luxury that parents should do in their own expense not the child's SSI.

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 09:53 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

This is a tricky question!

This is a tricky question! SSI monthly benefits can be used for anything on behalf of the child's well being. I suppose it would all depend on the SSA rep who handles your case.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:24 Permalink
Shirley (not verified)

I have a question so my

I have a question so my husband is receiving disability and he has a child from a previous relationship who receives the benefit, he recently got a new job that can accommodate his medical needs so he will be looking to cancel the benefit to work full time. My question is when he cancels the benefit will the child receiving it still get the benefit every month even though his father no longer gets it, or will his benifit also stop. Keep in mind the child has no disability just gets it because the father was getting it. Just wondering so we can take necessary steps to accommodate the child of the benefit will stop

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 11:13 Permalink

In reply to by Shirley (not verified)

Yes, the child will also stop

Yes, the child will also stop receiving benefits once the father stops receiving benefits.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:24 Permalink
Malkie (not verified)

Can my client use her SSI on

Can my client use her SSI on treatment products and unknown therapies for her Autistic child?

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 14:03 Permalink

In reply to by Malkie (not verified)

Hi Malkie,

Hi Malkie,
That's really something that's best suited for the SSA rep who handles her case! It's possible if it helps her child.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:23 Permalink
Anna (not verified)

My spouse was recently

My spouse was recently approved for ss due to injuries in the military. His lawyer told him that his son may also be able to receive back pay as a dependent. I'm not positive with all of the wording here. His son resides primarily with his mom, but we have a lot of visitation. Who would the back pay go to? Who would have control of the funds? Our concern is the money going to mom and being misused... how does this normally work? Could dad just set up a savings account and never tell the mom or does she have to know/be involved... thank you!

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 02:59 Permalink

In reply to by Anna (not verified)

Hi Anna,

Hi Anna,
Regardless of what form of disability benefit that your spouse is getting (either SSI or SSDI), your spouse's child ( assuming the child is deemed unable to handle these funds themselves due to their age) would need a representative payee for any back pay that they would receive.
Representative payees are obligated to track the money they spend. The SSA appoints representative payees, and the funds that are paid are intended for the child's current needs, and any funds not used are intended to be saved for their future needs. As your case involves custody, I would suggest that you and your spouse consult a lawyer about what you would need to disclose to the child's mother.

Wed, 03/16/2016 - 15:37 Permalink
Jaime (not verified)

My daughter is receiving back

My daughter is receiving back payments from 6 monthsbof not receiving SS. My car is up for inspection and not running. And there are so many problems there is no way it will pass inspection. I have been using all my money on things for my daughter, hospital bills, diapers. Food,etc. And wasn't able to get the car fixed and have to take it to a junk yard . would it be okay to use some of the back payment for a used car for transportation to doctors/ wic appointments, etc.? We do not live on a bus line , and my daughter is a preemie and doesn't have the health to be in public places like that. Would this be approved ? I also cannot work because the doctor said no childcare for the baby, so I don't know how I would be able to afford transportation for my baby any other way.

Thu, 03/17/2016 - 22:17 Permalink

In reply to by Jaime (not verified)

Hi Jaime,

Hi Jaime,
If it was her monthly benefits, then you could (possibly) use them for a car payment. But because it's her back pay, I highly doubt it. Back pay for children has the strictest regulation of any SSD benefits.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:22 Permalink
Tomara (not verified)

In reply to by Jaime (not verified)

You can if you can provide a

You can if you can provide a letter from her doctor stating that youre her only transportation to and from doc appointments etc. I know because i was approved. If you can prove your car is not working at all then i say ask SSA.

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 17:27 Permalink
Rae (not verified)

My son is autistic, and is

My son is autistic, and is limited in verbal skills. I know there are a lot apps out there for autistic children. Can we spend his back payment on an ipad. I know that this is used for medical and educational purposes, and I just want to make sure it is ok to use his money for an ipad.

Sat, 03/19/2016 - 22:33 Permalink

In reply to by Rae (not verified)

Hi Rae,

Hi Rae,
If you can show that you want to use it for sensory purposes, then an iPad could definitely qualify as an approved purpose.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:21 Permalink
Stan (not verified)

I am payee for my adult child

I am payee for my adult child (he's over 18) are his qualifying expenditures of his ssi the same as an eligible childs (under 18) qualifying expenditures

Sun, 03/20/2016 - 10:37 Permalink
Stephanie (not verified)

In reply to by Stan (not verified)

They are MUCH less strict. I&

They are MUCH less strict. I've been on SSI since I was 21 and got an increase when I moved out of my parents' house. I'm 28. I pay my rent, phone, food etc but I have no restriction otherwise. I must remain in the asset and income limits, but I am not restricted in what I choose to buy. I can save too as long as I don't go over $2000

Mon, 09/26/2016 - 18:52 Permalink

In reply to by Stephanie (not verified)

Hi Stephanie,

Hi Stephanie,
Thank you for sharing! It's true, the SSA does give more leeway to people receiving SSI benefits as adults than they do their representative payees.

Thu, 09/29/2016 - 10:33 Permalink
anita (not verified)

Hi I have a question the

Hi I have a question the dedicated account funds is to be used for educational .well I'm woundering is it electonics like a computer iPad lab top because now days the school tell them to look on line to learn more educational stuff .so will those items I listed can we buy them to

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 17:10 Permalink

In reply to by anita (not verified)

Hi Anita,

Hi Anita,
An iPad might be approved if you can show how it can be used for educational purposes! I might clear it with an SSA representative first. Toys are often approved, so you should be ok.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:20 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am on disability so i

I am on disability so i recieve a check and so does my son. My sister is my payee for both. My son recieved about 25000 back and i recieved about 50000. My sister in charge of all of it. I used some of the money to pay some bills and i bought a new car. I had around 20000 left. My sister spent the rest of my money and all of my sons money. What should i do.

Wed, 03/23/2016 - 14:58 Permalink

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