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


In reply to by Renessa (not verified)

Hi Renessa,
You may need to bring in some information about the software and why it would help your child with his disability, the SSA representative may be able to work with you and find something that would be an approved purchase.

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 09:27 Permalink
Maria (not verified)

Hi I have a question I have a friend who her husband is disabled and her two kids get SSI she has a separate account for them and is trying to save as much of that money for their college even if she struggles a little with her check only. Is this okay?

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 14:19 Permalink

In reply to by Maria (not verified)

Hi Maria,

I can't say for sure but the SSA says If you receive benefits from Social Security, you have a legal obligation to report changes, which could affect Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Best Wishes,

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 16:44 Permalink
Shannon (not verified)

Hi my son recieves SSI and his father spends on his house payment. Is this legal? We have joint custody but he spends the majority of the time living with me. He only has him on weekends.

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 00:05 Permalink
Karessa (not verified)

I don't understand why can't I spend so much of his money on clothes and toys and medical care he is 3 years at this point I can't really buy anything for him!!! But he/we need a vehicle to get him back and forth to appointments cus Medicare transportation is not reliable!!! He has missed many appointments because of them!!! Not coming at all or showing up an half hour late from the schedule pick it time!!! Now I talked to a ssa representative and see said if I find a car for 3500$ they will give me 800$ on it but we not doing car payments well what do u think it's going to be with only 800$ down!!!! This is crazy I can buy my 3 year old a computer but not clothes and other items that he can use

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 13:59 Permalink
Candy (not verified)

My 13 year old is receiving SSI due to his father is disabled. We put the backpay into a savings account. My question is this - he was recently picked to play in 2 all-star football games that cost money - can he use his money to pay the registration fees?

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 20:00 Permalink

In reply to by Candy (not verified)

Hi Candy,
If your child is receiving benefits based on his father's work record, then your child may not be receiving SSI benefits, they may be receiving auxiliary SSDI benefits- these benefits have less restrictions on them than SSI benefits, and you may be able to use that money to pay the registration fees.

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 09:42 Permalink

In reply to by Candy (not verified)

Hi Candy,
SSI and SSDI are two different programs, SSDI is based on work record and does include benefits for dependents, and SSI is income based and does not include benefits for dependents.

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 13:49 Permalink
Candy (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you for clarifying - he's on SSDI, so you think he would be able to use his money he gets monthly for his registration? His lump sum is in a savings and he doesn't use that. Anything he needs - he uses his checking account that has the monthly payments go in

Wed, 04/12/2017 - 18:06 Permalink

In reply to by Candy (not verified)

Hi Candy
SSDI has fewer restrictions than SSI benefits, so he may be able to. You may want to contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 of you are unsure if you are using his benefits in a sanctioned way.

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 09:35 Permalink
michelle (not verified)

My son is 17 and I work but my husband is currently on ss disability so my son is fixing to receive a back pay check and start receiving monthly payment. My question is i work for the state of fl I pay my son insurance through my job so are they saying he can't buy like a vehicle or go on a trip with his money

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 12:28 Permalink

In reply to by michelle (not verified)

Hi Michelle,
If your son is receiving benefits based off of his father's SSDI benefits, then your son would not be receiving SSI benefits. SSDI benefits have fewer restrictions so you may be able to use that money in the ways that you described.

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 13:10 Permalink
tony (not verified)

hey i am 17 years old and my mother gets my ssi income every month, and claims it always goes to "rent" every month, but i do not think all the money goes to rent, i would like to know how i can get my monthly ssi money to buy my personal needs/care

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 22:23 Permalink

In reply to by tony (not verified)

Hi Tony,
YOu may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they can have your representative payee re-assigned if your mother is not using the funds in accordance to the SSA's rules and regulations.

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 16:01 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Recently stsrted receiving s benefitd for my daughter because her dad is disabled. We are no longer together either. Do i still pay my half of childs expenses that gets paid. Gor the child. Also in iowa is there a percentage for housing per child that gets benefits to go toward

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 01:21 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,
I really could not say as that may be affected by your state's laws, any custody or alimony agreements that you may have.

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 16:02 Permalink
Joye (not verified)

Can I be penalize if I use back pay money for my son to purchase clothes and shoes that were destroyed due to my roof cave in from hurricane Matthew? I also purchase a bed because his air bed was destroyed.

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 16:51 Permalink

In reply to by Joye (not verified)

Hi Joye,

I am very sorry to hear that. That is a very unique circumstance, so I would recommend speaking to a SSA representative:1-800-772-1213

Best of Luck,

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 16:29 Permalink
Shannon (not verified)

My daughters dr wants her to start gardening...he said it would be good therapy for her...he even stated he would write out a prescription for it... Is this something the back pay can be used for? .. She only has 3 months worth..

Sun, 04/30/2017 - 10:45 Permalink
Sissy (not verified)

I don't have the money to buy a push mower when we moved in is it ok if my daughter can buy one with her check

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 23:17 Permalink

In reply to by Savings (not verified)


You may be able to use his SSI benefits for his future savings, but I would double check with the SSA just to be sure:1-800-772-1213

Best Of Luck,

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 16:18 Permalink
xo (not verified)

In reply to by Savings (not verified)

Hi, my name is autistic, we got his backpayments funds,can I use it to buy these things
*Car,and a car seat, I don't have a car, it's nightmare taking public transit.
*bed for me(parent) cz hes so attached to me, he doesn't sleep in his bed, he jump into my bed every night, I'm thinking of a big bed for us.
* potty training stuff, he's still on diapers
* tv, cz he damaged the tv and couldn't afford a new one.
Thanks in advance.

( these things will improve and help him !!)

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 00:54 Permalink
Simone (not verified)

Hi, if I know someone who is using the beneficiary checks to pay all the bills in their house. And only giving a little bit of the money to the child can I report that? The child also is a mother now and has no support but the little bit of money the payee gives her

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 15:11 Permalink
Destiny (not verified)

I'm 19 and my mother is my rep. payee. When I ask for some of my money, she makes excuses: I'm immature, she uses some of my money for the family rent, she buys food for the family, my cap & gown I paid for (I always thought the parents were suppose to do that) (just to name a few). By the end of the month, all I receive is $20.00 out of my check. What are my options ?

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 16:20 Permalink
Concerned (not verified)

I know someone who's lights have been out for a month now. But they used their childs disabitlty benefits to buy a new car, for drugs and alcohol and things for their entertainment. They spend the kids money every month on drugs and alcihol , and maybe buy the kids 1 or 2 things. What can be done about this?

Sun, 05/07/2017 - 03:49 Permalink
Eric (not verified)

I have a 16 year brother in law who is currently staying with me my wife and 2 kids. He gets social security from his dad dieing years ago. However I'm struggling to make ends meet could I possibly use some of his ssi to help with water gas etc...?

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 14:47 Permalink

In reply to by Eric (not verified)

Hi Eric,
I'm sorry to hear about that! Unfortunately the SSA may not offer benefits for housing someone receiving Social Security benefits.

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:06 Permalink
Donnie smith (not verified)

I receive supplemental ssi for my son who is thirteen..i live in housing authority which is low income housing HUD..should his check be calculated in with my income to determine my rent?

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 20:59 Permalink

In reply to by Donnie smith (not verified)

Hi Donnie,
You may want to contact the housing authority about this, they would know the criteria that they use to determine your rent.

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 13:17 Permalink
Ellie (not verified)

Does a representative payee have the right to spend money out of the beneficiary's account without the consent of the child? In this case, the "child" is over the age of 14.

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 00:20 Permalink
Belinda (not verified)

I was wondering, is it ok for an entire family to live off the ssi benefits of a child? It is the only income being brought into the house and is used for everyone. The mother could get a job but hasn't looked. I'm not even understanding how the son gets the benefits since he can take care of himself

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 13:02 Permalink
Alisha (not verified)

Can i use some of my sons ssi back pay on a down payment for a vehicle to get him back fordwards to the Docter and threpy. Its so hard to get rides and i cant use the medical transportation bus because i have 4 other kids and only the parent and patient can ride. Then i have to pay 50 a week to get him to school in back.

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 17:19 Permalink
James (not verified)

Hey, my child recently got approved for SSI and me and my wife are currently going through a divorce. The custody arrangement is 50/50 but she is the beneficiary on this account. Not only has she hidden he fact that this became approved, she has a terrible problem with money management and being less than honest with spending. How can I go about receiving a part of this, to cover my child when he is with me half of the time, for his expenses? Is it something I'll have to take to the courts since there is no child support order? Plus I have a daughter in the pre stages if approvement as well.

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 05:36 Permalink

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