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

Submitted by Daniel on Mon, 08/05/2013 - 16:13

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

Jarod (not verified)

My son gets disability pay. I was wondering if he gets a say on what he wants to spend the money on. For example, a monitor for his computer or can I say no and spend money on things like bills or food?

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 19:59 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Someone was helping me good and clothing, medical supplies and whatever else that was needed with the understanding that if and when my son SSI was approved I would repay my debt to them. Can some of the back pay be used to repay that debit

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 07:23 Permalink
John (not verified)

My 20 year old autistic daughter who lives with us received her first monthly SSI payment today. The payment amount says it is $735 minus $245 for the value of food and shelter for a total payment of $490 per month. I'm confused - we are providing the food and shelter why is it considered her income? Also if it is considered the value of food and shelter should set up a monthly withdrawal to our account for food and shelter or basically room and board payments to us as parents? $245 seems low for monthly room and board.

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 21:25 Permalink

In reply to by John (not verified)

Hi John,
The SSA can reduce benefits in part for food and shelter provided to a beneficiary with $264.33 being the maximum reduction. However you may not be able to to reimburse yourself from your daughter's check for providing food and shelter.

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 09:28 Permalink
Curious Dad (not verified)

My oldest son is autostic and is now getting ssi. He is getting back pay of about $5,000. We currently live in an apartment that doesn't have a yard, or a place for him to play. We are wanting to buy a home, to give him a better life. My question is, can we use a portion of the back pay as a down payment, and also purchase a camera security system (he's a wonderer and have issues with him unlocking doors even with the guardian locks and getting outside in the middle of the night.)

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 15:12 Permalink

In reply to by Curious Dad (not verified)

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

You can use your child's monthly benefit payments can be spent on everyday living expenses and daily support needs. The security system may qualify for that and the down payment for the house may also qualify for that.

Best Wishes,

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 16:54 Permalink
Bryan rowland (not verified)

I need help i have my disabled child have fir a year the mother is his ssi payee she has not had him or seen him but will not send him abpenny spends it on drugs her boyfried jail visit what can i do about it can i have her arrested

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 19:12 Permalink
Caren Robinson (not verified)

what should I do if I know that a Mother is spending her daughters Social Security Disability on getting herself new Tattoo's and not cheap work ,I am talking 2 to 300 dollar Tattoos and also on makeup, hair dyes and other things and only getting the bare needs of her daughter.

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 00:45 Permalink
Gabrielle (not verified)

TY for this site. My daughter is 6 In kindergarten in Moore County NC. ( She has special needs Been in ITP and Now in IEP)She has has A.D.H.D & Anxiety since she was 2, Also been in 3 Daycare's and kicked out of 2. She has been on medication and seeing a DR since age 2. I am her mom age 30 and I have P.T.S.D , A.D.H.D & Severe anxiety. Her Father passed in his sleep on the morning of our wedding I woke up to find he was not breathing ( I was 2 months pregnant ). Ever since that day life has been Hard to deal with. I have an appointment over the phone tomorrow with SSA to try and get her benefits. I also am in need of S.S.D.I . Can't keep a Job and provide for my family. I'm embarrased and I don't know if I can apply for myself because we both have special needs. Since 2010 Ive saw a Psyciatrist every month and been to 2 psycologist for half of that time. thankyou for any information and help. If U need more info please ask me. I'm anxiuos about this interview and I didn't want to have to do this but We need help can't pay bills , Sometimes I don't eat si she can. I don't have transpotation and we live In a place that ia all country. Lord help

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 11:24 Permalink

In reply to by Gabrielle (not verified)

Hi Gabrielle,
I am very sorry to hear that. She might qualify for SSI! You may as well. You can learn more and potentially schedule an appointment to apply by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 17:02 Permalink
Aly (not verified)

I will be receiving a large amount of money for my son, whose father is on disability. Can I use the back pay to cover the expenses that I already paid for and the father was supposed to help pay for, such as braces, driving school, etc.? If this is to take the place of back child support can I also use it as back payment for the last four years of arrears to cover all that I have paid for my child if I have receipts to prove it?

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 12:41 Permalink

In reply to by Aly (not verified)

Hi Aly,
You may be able to use a child's back pay to reimburse yourself for approved purchases, however it may be best to contact the SSA regarding this, you can do so by calling 1-800-772-1213 or by going to

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:25 Permalink
Julie (not verified)

I have two kids that live with me full time, there father( lives in another state) is on disability so my children receive a monthly SS payment. Is that payment able to purchase a car for one of my sons?

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 17:18 Permalink

In reply to by Julie (not verified)

Hi Julie,
If your children are receiving that benefit because their father is receiving SSDI benefits based on his work record, you may be able to.

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:26 Permalink
Jennifer (not verified)

I have questions about the retro payments for my son. He just got his first check this month after being awarded his SSI. I however SSI is still working on his retro but in the mean time he needed a new bed, a dresser and we needed another washer&dryer ( both were not working ). I used our income tax to buy these things for him because he was in need. Am I able to use some of the retro payment to get that money back? Also, he attends a school where I have to pay for his bus ride to and from school. Am I able to use his retro to re-coupe what I have already spent for this bus expenses? I know what his monthly money goes for, its the retro that is tricky. And 1 more question, will he get penalized for having that money every month just sitting there not being used because of the strict stipulations on where its being spent?

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 18:33 Permalink
Donna (not verified)

My daughter just started receiving SSI two months ago. Check should be here soon. We had to buy her a mattress during these two months. Can I reimburse myself for the cost of the mattress that we had to buy her? Also, can ssi money be used for vacation for her specifically? Is this considered recreaction? Also gas $ to pick her up and bring her home? Thank you

Sat, 03/11/2017 - 17:13 Permalink
candice (not verified)

hi can the benefits be used to purchase an airline ticket for a child to visit with in laws? parents will be spending our own money for our tickets but for the child can we use her money to purchase her ticket?

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 17:03 Permalink

In reply to by candice (not verified)

Hi Candice,
That may be an approved use of funds, however you may want to consult with your local SSA office if you're unsure whether a purchase would be an approved use of finds.

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 10:28 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi I need some help on what I can do.. My son has back pay n his account.. I'm trying to have the special ed teacher write something up.. I want to get my son a computer with ABC mouse and other things. We'll the school is not waiting to do that.. What other choices I have I can do to get so I can take to ssi saying a computer will help him

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 09:01 Permalink
Kim (not verified)

My brother's 3 children are receiving SS benefits due to my Brother's disability. My brother and his wife are separated (he lives with me) and the children's funds are direct deposited into an account that only his ex-wife can access. Do the children need to have a representative payee or does being a parent automatically give her the rights of a payee?

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 10:25 Permalink
brenda (not verified)

Can I spend dedicated funds on home improvement like putting a flooring floor has rotted out anytime the frig going to fall through for safety issues

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 08:47 Permalink

In reply to by brenda (not verified)

Hi Brenda,
You may be able to use those funds in that way, however if you're ever unsure you may want to contact your local SSA office for guidance about what would be an approved use of funds.

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 13:54 Permalink
Hector (not verified)

Hi I have a question, My daughter was born with a life long disability and her mom left 5 years ago, I have always had the majority of custody and have been my daughters representative payee, but a few weeks ago, the courts granted her 50/50 because she claim she missed them which I didn't really care because I felt it was about time she spend and took some Responsibility's but today she called me saying to be ready because now that she has 50/50 she will be asking for my daughters benefits, I always take her to her tharapist ,I am always the one showing up to her IEP meetings, I'm involve in her girl scouts, I'm pretty much have been her primary taker since day one, my question is CAN SHE GET AWAY WITH THIS ??? And what are my options...

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 09:20 Permalink

In reply to by Hector (not verified)

Hi Hector,
Your daughter's mother may not be able to do so, however you may be subject to any agreements that you had made with your daughter's mother.

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 13:56 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

My husband is on disability . We received a check for our daughter.She turned 18 last November but she is still in highschool so she continued to receive a check but it started coming in her name . Can we still use this to provide a home for her or is that check for her to do whatever she wants ?

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 18:19 Permalink

In reply to by Tina (not verified)

Hi Tina,
I really could not say as those benefits were received through your husband's work record and are intended for the benefit of the worker's dependents, however there are not as many restrictions on this as there are for SSI benefits. You may have to decide that on your own.

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 10:04 Permalink

In reply to by Shari Winebarger (not verified)

Hi Shari,
You may be able to use those funds to buy a van for your child, however you may want to contact the SSA regarding any purchases that you are unsure of.

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 10:04 Permalink
Kev (not verified)

My mother uses the social security money on all bills n personal use for her self like buy new laptop her phone but its for me due to my father passing but doesn't use it on me an she takes it out my account is that aloud.

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 13:54 Permalink
tim (not verified)

my son is 7 soon to be 8 in june. i used to live with his mom, we had a family and all lived together. however, the relationship crumbled. i then moved out when my son was 3 and he has been living with me ever since.
it will be 5 yrs this august that he has been living with me and his mother has been recieving his check. i can count on one had how many times she has giving me anything from it. since i moved my son and i have been living with a relative. he's growing and will be 8 soon and i would like to get a place of my own. his funds would help maintain shelter for him. has this been fraud or misuse by his mother as his payee? i should be getting his funds because im the parent who has been raising him and dealing with his dissability all the while she is getting his funds and not giving me anything from it. also, will i have a difficult time being appointed his payee since he's been with me close to 5 yrs now?

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 21:48 Permalink
FV (not verified)

My son, who is receiving SSI due to a developmental disability was removed from my care by the State of Florida. He was in foster care and DCF was the representative payee. They kept the money in a Master Trust and, although they took out the cost of his care, some money was accruing for my son's extra needs such as an electronic learning tool.

Last August they moved my son to a "non-relative" placement so he could be closer to me. I now keep my son from when he wakes up in the morning until I put him to bed at night. I take care of all his needs and the "non-relative" only lets him sleep in his extra room.

I thought DCF was continuing as the representative payee, but this man went to the SSA office and got the SSI check sent to him directly. He spends all the money, none of it on my son. DCF and Medicaid pay for all his medical and therapeutic services and I pay for all his food and transportation. The court said this man and his wife were my son's "custodian" but did not give him guardianship. How can I get my son's SSI check to be set aside for his needs and not be spent on whatever this "non-relative" wants?? I want the money to go back into his Master Trust and be managed by DCF.

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 10:20 Permalink

In reply to by Sheyla (not verified)

Hi Shayla,
You may be able to use those funds for car insurance, however you may want to contact the SSA regarding any purchases that you are unsure of.

Best Wishes,

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 11:07 Permalink

In reply to by Barbara (not verified)

Hi Barbara,
You may want to contact your local SSA office regarding this, they may be able to give you specific information based on your particular case.

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 14:17 Permalink
Renessa (not verified)

Can some one help me out.. My son got back pay and I'm trying to get him a computer to have these software installed to help him with his disability .. Ssi is giving me a hard time

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 06:02 Permalink

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