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

Veronica (not verified)

Can i use my kid money to buy

Can i use my kid money to buy a car from the dealership since my car i use to go to place broke down and use it for monthly payments

Sat, 05/20/2017 - 18:21 Permalink

In reply to by Veronica (not verified)

Hi Veronica,

Hi Veronica,

You may be able to, but it is always best to double check with the SSA first.

Best Wishes,

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 08:54 Permalink
John (not verified)

My wife died 5 years ago and

My wife died 5 years ago and my children have been receiving SSI checks with me as the representative payee. I want to save for their college fund, but I read that if I save more than $2,000 they could lose their benefits, as this is considered an asset above what is allowed. Is this accurate, or am I misunderstanding the rules?

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 18:01 Permalink

In reply to by John (not verified)

Hi John,

Hi John,
This is accurate, however there are ways to save for your child's college benefits without having the funds counted as a financial resource. You may want to contact the SSA for more details, as they could give you guidance as to what sorts of savings plans would be exempt from the financial resource limits.

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 14:03 Permalink
Pamela (not verified)

Good afternoon, I would like

Good afternoon, I would like to know if it's possible to be a payee for both of my children? I am curious because I'm not sure how that exactly works. My son currently receives and I haven't applied for my daughter because I'm not certain if I was allowed to represent both of my children? I apologize if this is a dumb question. Thank you

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 12:54 Permalink
Danielle larson (not verified)

I was told that I have too

I was told that I have too bring in my receipts and all bank transactions. Every time I get his back pay. Not once a year. Also they sent me a letter saying that I would receive his 2nd payment in June. I called a representative that told me I have to come in with my receipts for one deposit.

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 14:06 Permalink
T (not verified)

In reply to by Danielle larson (not verified)

They just making sure you

They just making sure you putting the back pay in the bank and what you did with it.

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 09:09 Permalink
Alex (not verified)

How old can a child be to be

How old can a child be to be responsible for there own ssi and not a a payee ?

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 19:50 Permalink

In reply to by Alex (not verified)

Hi Alex,

Hi Alex,

There's no specific age but, if you have a representative payee because of a physical or a mental disability, in order to become your own payee, you must show SSA that you are now mentally and physically able to handle your money yourself.

Best of Luck,

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 15:04 Permalink
Unknown (not verified)

Can a person get in trouble

Can a person get in trouble if they used some of there daughters money on 2 plane tickets once for a family vacation?

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 00:39 Permalink
Tanishia (not verified)

Can money received from ssi

Can money received from ssi that was put into the dedicated account be used for a vacation for the child?

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 18:17 Permalink

In reply to by Tanishia (not verified)

I would recommend double

I would recommend double-checking with the SSA regarding that. It is always best to with any unsure questions regarding representative payee.

Best Wishes,

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 16:32 Permalink
Nikki (not verified)

Hi my ex is disabled and

Hi my ex is disabled and receives SSI for himself. My son also receives SSI and when we divorced I told him to keep it to provide.or son with items he needs. I do not see this money being spent on our son or being put away for his future. Can he get into trouble for that? Im going to request that the fund be deposited into my son's savings account since I provide almost everything for him, while his father is out buying hunting gear, lift kits for his trucks, etc.

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 23:24 Permalink

In reply to by Nikki (not verified)

Hi Nikki,

Hi Nikki,

He could get in trouble for that, but it is best to check in with the SSA to make sure. 1-800-772-1213.

Best Wishes,

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 10:40 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I currently checked my credit

I currently checked my credit report and there are medical bills from my son in collections. He lived with his mother and she received ss disabilty for him. The collector says that I am responsible. Anyone have input on if this is true

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:01 Permalink
Kimberly (not verified)

My children receive survival

My children receive survival benefits from their dad can they spend the money anyway they choose. I have also opened an account for each of them how do I get the checks​ deposited into either their accounts or mine so I can give it to them?

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 11:26 Permalink

In reply to by Kimberly (not verified)

Hi Kimberly,

Hi Kimberly,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they can give you advice regarding your case. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1312

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 12:19 Permalink
lkv (not verified)

Can a judge order a portion

Can a judge order a portion of child support benefits to be put in a savings account?

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 16:46 Permalink
Robert Washington (not verified)

My wife spent all of my 2boys

My wife spent all of my 2boys ssi payments on herself and did nothing for the kids and won't talk to them. They are living with me know. What can be done about this

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 22:03 Permalink

In reply to by Robert Washington (not verified)

Hi Robert,

Hi Robert,

I would recommend speaking to a representative from the SSA regarding that. 1-800-772-1213.


Mon, 06/12/2017 - 09:18 Permalink
Shirl (not verified)

I am now the beneficiary of

I am now the beneficiary of my son's benefits because the last person he appointed to be that took all of his benefits and kicked him out of the house is want to know how do I become the only sole beneficiary of his benefits so he can get the proper care. With out him changing it to another wrong person just on a whim. He can not make proper choices. Or live alone

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 20:51 Permalink
Karen Brown (not verified)

I need help please re: what I

I need help please re: what I can spend my child's SSI on. Specifically, her regular monthly payments are $654.xx. I hear conflicting input. Legally the SS website and your site state that I can spend her SSI on shelter. However, the SSI office personnel I had to apply thru, provide boatloads of data to, told me I CANNOT use her SSI money on shelter under certain circumstances. We live in CA where the cost of living is crazy high. We rent. Our monthly rent is $4200. There are 6 in our family (self, husband, and 4 children all living at home). What the SSI guy told me was that I could not use her SSI for living expenses IF the housing cost (4200) divided by # of residents (6) exceeds her check amount. Basically, it was my understanding that 1/6 the rent (700) is greater than her monthly 654.xx check so it CANNOT be used toward rent. As if that isn't crazy enough... he also told me that the amount she receives is based on many things including that she still lives with us under our roof. There is no available group type housing near us that she could go to and even if there was, she is functioning so low (about 3rd grade) that we don't feel that is a safe situation being that she is female. Anyway is it true that we cannot use her SSI toward rent because she still lives with us? I am so confused. She is 19 just today, and is also covered under my husbands medical and dental as well which has great coverage and minimum co-pays and she is rarely ill, so basically, as far as I can tell, there are NO approved spending items her SSI money can be used on that would even come close to the monthly amount, which means it gets saved up and then within 4 months max she has more than $2000 so that stops her eligibility, so I hear? Then there is the lump sum back payment and its ridiculously limited uses, a whole other tangled web of confusion.

Sun, 06/11/2017 - 19:39 Permalink

In reply to by Karen Brown (not verified)

Hi Karen,

Hi Karen,
I'm sorry to hear about that! You may want to look into a special needs trust, as you would be able to use those to save money over the financial resource limit.

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 15:43 Permalink
Linda (not verified)

Iam a representative payee

Iam a representative payee for my 2 kids..And they share the same back account..Is that a problem?

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 09:49 Permalink

In reply to by Linda (not verified)

Hi Linda,

Hi Linda,

I don't believe that should be a problem, but as a precaution you should let the SSA know about that:1-800-772-1213.


Tue, 06/13/2017 - 16:35 Permalink
Jennifer Scrivano (not verified)

Apparently as a child I was

Apparently as a child I was supposed to receive a retro-check (from Father's Disability Benefits...?) but of course I never knew of it until my parents and step parents were all trying to get their hands on it thru me when I became of age (18). There are strong accusations that the money was stolen by the benefits Payee Representative (again, I was only a child-beneficiary) and/or a former step-parent. I can't imagine that such a large sum of money in this particular case wouldn't have a paper-trail, but I have no idea how to find out who ultimately--and unlawfully-- received the benefits. I never cared to help my family find it since they all fought over it, but it's been a whole decade and I had a lawyer tell me I should definitely try to find the money.

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 01:24 Permalink

In reply to by Jennifer Scrivano (not verified)

Hi Jennifer,

Hi Jennifer,
I'm sorry to hear about that! Unfortunately, we are not affiliated with the SSA or the federal government, so we wouldn't have any information as to where those funds would be.

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 09:32 Permalink
Rick (not verified)

If father of is getting child

If father of is getting child payment and does not have the custody of minor and does not give any money to the mother for the child's needs would that be considered Fraud, the mother and father were never married and are not living together, mother takes care of baby, can mother get payment for child changed to her to take care of child.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 15:29 Permalink
Sterling (not verified)

I am soon turning 62, I am

I am soon turning 62, I am eligible to take SS and I have 3 minor children who I will take SS for as well. I keep reading about spending the payments for the needs of the child but nothing specifically is mentioned. For example someone says food cost. Yet prior to claim my SS benefit I paid to feed my children. So how do I determine the cost of feeding them after I start receiving SS for them? The same for utilities etc?

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 01:05 Permalink
Michelle (not verified)

Hello, my husband is disabled

Hello, my husband is disabled and my daughter receives auxiliary benefits because of his disability. My daughter received a large lump sum and receives a large monthly payment as well. I fill out the rep. payee report every year and this year I received a letter 6 months later requesting a summary of monthly expenses for the year 2016. I was concerned and I called SS and asked them to clarify what they would like from me. They said that my report was flagged because of the large amount of money I spent in 2016 and they wanted to ensure that the money was being spent on the welfare of my child. ALL of the money was spent on her. We enrolled her in many activities, took her on vacations, bought her clothes, an electric scooter, etc. I also still have a large lump sum in a separate bank account for her. I am just wondering what happens next. I am preparing my monthly summaries and am going to send them off in 2 days. I was told that SSDI auxiliary benefits were less strict, but I still can't help but be concerned because I have read that some items are at SS discretion. Am I going to be audited?

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 02:50 Permalink

In reply to by Michelle (not verified)

Hi Michelle,

Hi Michelle,

I am sorry to hear that, but I don't know for sure. It is best practice to keep all receipts from all payments using payments because of disability benefits.


Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:19 Permalink

In reply to by Michelle (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
They may just be asking for this information because there was a change, it may not necessarily mean that you are going to be audited. However, it may be a good idea to contact the SSA regarding this, as they may have sent it out mistakenly.

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:22 Permalink
Michelle (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Hello again, I actually did

Hello again, I actually did contact them and they said that they wanted to make sure that the money was being spent on my child. I sent them a month by month summary of expenses today. SS told me to send this info and if I didn't hear anything back from them, it would be a good thing. If I did hear back, it would be for more in depth information... I have not been able to find anyone who has had this happen to them with auxiliary benefits. I have only heard that those kind of benefits are more relaxed, but I guess not in some cases.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 01:07 Permalink
Sloane (not verified)

My husband passed away last

My husband passed away last year and our son and I were completely dependent on him. He was our only source of income. My son and I are both receiving survivor's benefits from social security but it's not nearly enough to cover living expenses. Basically, all of it goes to pay the mortgage and there is nothing left over. Can my son lose his survivor's benefit because I use it to pay the mortgage? We desperately need the money and it seems ridiculous that they could take it away from people who need it the most.

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 00:25 Permalink

In reply to by Sloane (not verified)

Hi Sloane,

Hi Sloane,

I am so sorry to hear that. Fortunately though your son won't lose those benefits just because you use it for your mortgage. Wishing you and your son nothing but the best.


Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:38 Permalink
Sloane (not verified)

In reply to by Eric

Thank you Eric, that is such

Thank you Eric, that is such a relief to hear. I do have a few other questions.

So is it safe to say that my son and I are pretty much guaranteed the survivors benefit, no matter how we spend it or save it?

Is it okay that I do not have a dedicated account in my son's name to have his survivor benefit directly deposited into? It's currently being deposited into my checking account which is in my name only.

Once I start working and earning an income, I plan to save a good portion of my son's survivor benefits. Would I be forced to turn it over back to social security when he turns 18 because they'll view it as an overpayment? And would I need to open a savings account in my son's name to put those savings in or can I deposit into my own savings account?

Lastly, I received a questionnaire in the mail from Social Security requesting a breakdown of what I spent on my son and what I saved. Could this have been sent to me in error? I don't understand why I have to keep records of my spending as it is money we are entitled to as survivors of my husband who diligently paid into the social security system with each paycheck. My number one priority is my son and you can bet that he will be taken care of first and foremost before my own needs. It is kind of insulting that social security is questioning my spending habits, as if I were an irresponsible or an unfit mother. So is it really necessary to fill out the questionnaire? Because I was never told I needed to keep track of my spending when I first applied for the survivor benefit last year.

Thank you so much Eric!

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 17:06 Permalink

In reply to by Sloane (not verified)

Hi Sloane,

Hi Sloane,

1. Your son is only eligible for survivor's benefits until he is 18. Yes; you will be covered under the Social Security Survivor's Insurance program. Though that SSDI benefits could convert to retirement benefits once you hit retirement age.

2. In terms of having your son's own account, I would recommend speaking to a representative from the SSA and your bank regarding that. Better be safe than sorry.

3. Your third question about once you start working, again I would recommend speaking to a representative from the SSA about that.

4. It was most not likely not an error, the SSA is just doing their due diligence. They want to know exactly where the money is going because they don't want there to be any fraud involved. It's probably standard protocol. You can double check with the SSA regarding that as well.

The number to call is 1-800-772-1213.

Best of Luck,

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 09:19 Permalink
Martel (not verified)

Do you know about the %of

Do you know about the %of each items (food, bills, clothing, tutoring ect

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 14:46 Permalink
Hakeemah (not verified)

My son recently was approved

My son recently was approved but didn't receive all his back pay. I would like to know can I request for my car that in use to transport him to and from school, doctor appointment, and visits be paid off with his back pay. If so how can I go about making those arrangements.

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 21:27 Permalink

In reply to by Hakeemah (not verified)

You may be able to use that

You may be able to use that money for transportation. However I would recommend speaking to a representative from the SSA first just to be sure. 1-800-772-1213.


Mon, 06/26/2017 - 17:13 Permalink
ab (not verified)

i'm getting child

i'm getting child benefits because my dad is on disability. do these benefits pay for travel? like airplane and hotels?

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 03:15 Permalink
MJ (not verified)

Hello I am rep payee for my

Hello I am rep payee for my granddaughter. She recently received a large back pay amount after an appeal. She was previously on SSI and they decided to do a review. They also decided she was no longer disabled. Well after an appeal they reversed their decision. I had to open a dedicated account for back pay which is fine. Now I'm told that the funds can only be used for certain things which is fine. But my question is this... wouldn't the back pay be considered her monthly benefit she was already getting? I was told by a rep from SSA that she is responsible for a fourth of all bills in home since there are 4 of us. Would back rent be okay to use from dedicated account?

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 09:40 Permalink

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