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

chad (not verified)

If I know someone that has two child that gets disability and she basically uses the money to buy her New clothes and goes out to eat n take two vacations a month with their check after she buys them only one or two suits of clothes with them what should I do can't she get in trouble for that

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 05:27 Permalink

In reply to by chad (not verified)

Hi Chad,
Are you confident she isn't spending her child's SSI benefits on the child? My concern would be to risk the child losing his/her disability benefits due to a false accusation. If you're 100% sure that she is misusing the child's benefit, you could report this at 1-800-772-1213.

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 09:26 Permalink
Aubrey (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Hi I was wondering if SSI benefits or back pay can be spent on a new furnace for the house that the beneficiary is living in? The furnace is over 30 years old and is showing signs of it going out soon. So no heat in the winter...

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 12:05 Permalink
Lujuana arviso (not verified)

In reply to by chad (not verified)

Can a parent spend back pay on her boyfriend rehab also spent ssi she recipes f

How can it be possible a mother can spend her daughter back ssi on her boy friend rehab? ???also pay boyfriend cell phone bill buy him shoes.And nothing on child ?

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 10:23 Permalink
Elizabeth (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

My children receive disability benefits every month . Their father was on ssd but In 09 their father had been murdered . At that time he ( my children's father ) wasn't receiving any disability benefits . He only worked under the table and never paid into anything . My question is can my children receive anything from him passing or being murdered even though he never paid into anything ?

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 10:36 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

In reply to by Elizabeth (not verified)

I would go to the SS office and sit down with one of the reps. My son just got SS benefits from losing his father, and it was a very strange situation. It doesn't hurt to try. They are here to help.

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 10:18 Permalink
Mariah Garcia (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Hello My son got his back pay(I have to open an account for him still) but ive been having a hard time getting though to the office down here i just have a few questions
Am i able to buy a car i live out of town my son will be starting an other program where i will have to be there for 5 days a week by tbis spring or summer i couldn't bring him this year due to transportation so i got put back on the waiting list..
And Am i able to buy a washer and dryer? Sounds bad but we need one he has missed school because of no money to wash clothes and no transportation. Im a Single mother of 5 we are A low income family

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 02:22 Permalink
Kloya (not verified)

In reply to by Alicia Tyree (not verified)

Hey I also need a car considering I don’t have one and I need to be able to take my autistic daughter to different therapy every other day do you think I would be able to get a car with the back pay also ? If my daughter therapist thinks it’s a need

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 21:49 Permalink

In reply to by Kloya (not verified)


This is something that you should clear with the SSA, however a car is generally something that is not counted against your income or assets. I would give your local office a call.

Fri, 01/31/2020 - 14:58 Permalink
Jenn (not verified)

In reply to by Mariah Garcia (not verified)

So it did not answer weather you can buy a washer and dryer for the person receiving the benefits. My son does not go to public places like the laundry mat. He does not even go to the store with us. I get a list from him in what he wants(he is adult aged now),& can be home alone. We have the hook ups where we live too.

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 12:33 Permalink
Lorraine (not verified)

In reply to by Lee (not verified)

I'm hoping SSI, buckles down on this, so many irresponsible people want SSI for their kids, and when they get it, they have no money handling experience. I'm watching it happen in my own life with my roommate , he thinks he doesn't have to be accountable to anyone, I'm waiting to see how it is being handle between him and SSI

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 06:14 Permalink
Danny (not verified)

In reply to by chad (not verified)

I know someone who does the same thing. He buys his kid stuff but he spends up to $200 a month on pot and beer and then buy $200 shoes for himself. Plus he gives the childs mother( who the kid doesn't even live with) a couple hundred a month as well. He saves none of it. This has been going on for many years now.

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 22:50 Permalink
Laurie (not verified)

My children recently received a check (2 months prev) for disability benefits they are entitled to due to their father recently being disabled (we are no longer married). Moving forward, their money will be deposited to a debit card for use on their expenses. For this particular first time check for them, can I deposit into my account and use for current expenses immediately or am I required to save this into a completely separate account as a "savings" since it is 2 months backpay. I read that 6 months or more should be a designated account but less than that can be deposited and used. My children have expenses for food, shelter, medical, clothing this month that this can be used for being that it's only 2 months worth (kids are not disabled - their dad is) but I was not sure if I needed to save this and wait until next month to be deposited into the debit card. Thanks for your help!

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 09:36 Permalink

In reply to by Laurie (not verified)

Hi Laurie,
You should definitely put this in a separate account. Because they're receiving auxiliary benefits the SSA will likely not be as strict with back pay, but because they're children, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Wed, 11/11/2015 - 13:05 Permalink
Robyn (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

if the mother is the payee and divorced from the father, can the father use some of the money each month. Since he has the child every other weekend and every Wednesday?

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 13:42 Permalink

In reply to by Robyn (not verified)

Hi Robyn,
Those funds are intended to be used for the child, so if the father would be using the money for approved purposes, the payee may be able to give him the money to do so.

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 16:58 Permalink
Lonnie (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

My nephew receives SSI and his mother is his payee my question is we have had him for the last 2 months and we have not received any of his money to buy clothing or anything else that he has need. We had to buy him a whole new set of clothes for the time that he has been with us what can we do?

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 23:08 Permalink
Katie (not verified)

In reply to by Robyn (not verified)

Hi Robyn,
I'd be careful with that. Because the father has the child only every other weekend and Wednesdays, the benefit is probably used largely on his/her share of the rent/utilities/clothing, etc. How much does the father truly need those funds, especially if they are paying child support. Often when child support is ordered, that amount is taken into consideration in the amount they are receiving as well. It probably is truly not in the best interest of the primary household nor the child to pass funds to a parent that has such limited visitations and parenting time.

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 12:02 Permalink

In reply to by Katie (not verified)

Hi Katie,
Thank you for sharing! It's true, if your child receives disability benefits or auxiliary benefits based off of either of their parent's SSDI benefits, it's a good idea to have a plan to use those benefits for the child.

Tue, 02/07/2017 - 11:45 Permalink
Sandy (not verified)

In reply to by Laurie (not verified)

My husband receives ssdi not sure if it's permanent but my children ss# are included and he never contributed to their financial well being. As a matter of fact he's still collecting - he is not tge father and we where not even married 1 yr. why haven't they removed this ( my kids ) from ssdi

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 06:31 Permalink

In reply to by Sandy (not verified)

Hi Sandy,
you may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they may be able to assign you as the payee for your children's benefits. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 09:45 Permalink
Kelly (not verified)

I had used some of the back pay 2,000 on fixing my car is that ok or not? Either way already done. I spent 383$ new tires alignment and oilchange

Sun, 12/13/2015 - 09:53 Permalink

In reply to by Kelly (not verified)

Hi Kelly,
No, this is likely not an approved payment. Back pay can ONLY be spent on improving the child's live, such as on doctors' appointments. Your child could lose his or her benefits.

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 15:31 Permalink
Smashgirl (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Just because car maintenance is not specifically listed, does not mean it can't be approved. It's common sense. How else do you get the children to doctor appointments and everywhere else they need to be? Usually, for me as a mom, just about everyplace I go is either directly or indirectly related to caring for the children.

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 20:36 Permalink
brandon (not verified)

In reply to by Smashgirl (not verified)

if the child recieve ssi then they also get medical insurance and that insurance will get that child to whatever medical appointments he would have all you have to do is call insurance and schedule a ride.

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 08:26 Permalink
Renee (not verified)

In reply to by Smashgirl (not verified)

Exactly! There is quite a bit of erroneous information being listed in the comment section of this site. To tell someone that their child could lose their benefits BC they fixed their sole mode of transportation is unnecessary. Same with saying gas "may" be okay-- funds can be used for gas to transport that child. Funds can be used for nearly ANYTHING that improves a child's life.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 15:00 Permalink

In reply to by Renee (not verified)

Hi Renee,
The improvement, maintenance and upkeep of a child is the intended use of these benefits, however there may be restrictions, and it's best to consult with the SSA if you're unsure if the purchase would be allowed.

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 16:59 Permalink
NICOLE (not verified)

In reply to by Renee (not verified)

hear hear :)
I was hoping to hear that son will be getting a retro and i don't have a car. Pretty sure it would be a improvement in his life as well as us all. seeing how "specialists is quite a bit a way. I find it ridiculous how someone can say a car or expenses to maintain a car cannot be of improving my sons needs

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 23:55 Permalink

In reply to by NICOLE (not verified)

Hi Nicole,
Thanks for sharing! You may also want to contact the office in your state that handles Medicaid, as they may also be able to arrange transportation for medical appointments.

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 09:57 Permalink

Add new comment

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!