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

ChrisSr. (not verified)

Can my Son's mother use

Can my Son's mother use my sons SSI to pay for her rent. She uses all of his SSI for her and her boyfriend to live in a apartment my son lives there but does it all have to go to rent?

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 01:01 Permalink
anamichel (not verified)

My son receives SSI he is

My son receives SSI he is only 6, I am the representative payee, If I file for child support will that effect how much I receive for SSI and do I have to report it?

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 01:04 Permalink

In reply to by anamichel (not verified)

Hi Anamichel,

Hi Anamichel,
You may have to do so, it's a good idea to contact the SSA in this case.

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 09:37 Permalink
LG (not verified)

If my son who is 16 is no

If my son who is 16 is no longer disabled will he get his back pay from dedicated account before he is 18?

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 22:04 Permalink

In reply to by LG (not verified)

Hi there, The SSA may do so,

Hi there, The SSA may do so, but it's a good idea to check in with them regarding this.

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 13:17 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What if mother is spending

What if mother is spending the child so check on her and her boyfriend and child lives with someone else

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 09:53 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this as they can re-assign the child's payee to someone that would use her benefits for her upkeep.

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 13:20 Permalink
Gabriela Moreno (not verified)

Can I use my son's back

Can I use my son's back paymepayment money to purchase a car even if other people in the house hold gets ssi

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 07:11 Permalink
Maria (not verified)

I've received SSI and

I've received SSI and SSDI since 2006. I have two sons and I've been told that I should be getting checks for them as well since I'm a single parent and we don't have very much money. Social security has always told me no. However I have a neighbor who basically gets the same kind of check I get she gets 500 and SSDI and another 260 in SSI. Her two children received $250 each a month because she gets $500 SSDI. I don't understand why SSA is telling me that my children don't qualify because all the money's already being spent on me for my benefits however this woman is getting basically the same thing as I do I get for 45 and SSDI and 3/10 and SSI. Can anyone explain to me how that's even possible I don't understand.

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 16:00 Permalink
william vogel (not verified)

was wondering if i can use

was wondering if i can use money for daughters SSi to create learning center out of garage

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 18:14 Permalink

In reply to by william vogel (not verified)

Hi William,

Hi William,

You may be able to. However, you should always double check with the SSA first just to be sure. Better safe than sorry!

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 09:21 Permalink
Rosa (not verified)

I have a job offer in another

I have a job offer in another state. It's a great opportunity for us all. Am i allowed to use some of my son's dedicated account funds to help with the moving expenses? Such as, uhaul, application fees & a deposit for a new home?

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:41 Permalink
Tommy (not verified)



I have a family member who was put on disability 3 years ago, and this year he found out he could collect for his son, got approved and got a big back payment check and monthly payments,
When he got the big check he said that some of the money is his because he has already paid out money for his son for the past two years, and so he has been spending money on his own personal stuff from that check, as well as paying his own rent (his son doesn't live with him).. It seems like he's spending his sons money and not his own SSI... and he's sneaky because I've seen him pull cash out of the account via ATM thinking it won't leave a paper trail... and just last week he bought a used Mercedes benz and said it cost $2000 dollars and I feel bad and I just need to know what to do...

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 11:59 Permalink

In reply to by Tommy (not verified)

Hi Tommy,

Hi Tommy,
If his child is receiving benefits based on the father's work record( SSDI), then this may not be a violation of any laws because the SSA does give parents who receive SSDI benefits for their children a bit more leeway than if the children were receiving SSI benefits based on income.

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 10:02 Permalink
Auntie M (not verified)

I'm new as

I'm new as Representative Payee for my nephew whom has lived with me for the past year. How much is allowable for the Food/Housing portion? I don't want to make any mistakes. Also, he is 13 and wants a cell phone. Is this allowable under the personal items/recreation? Finally, it says I cant save more than $2,000. Does this mean I can't put money aside for his future - college education? I want to make him happy and get him the things he wants (without over spoiling him).

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 06:14 Permalink

In reply to by Auntie M (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
I really could not say how much would be allowable for the food and housing portion as that can vary by where you are and what housing and food would cost in your area. Cellphones may also be an acceptable use of funds, but it's a good idea to check in with your local SSA office regarding these questions as they can give you information specific to your nephew's case. As far as saving, there are ways to save that are exempt from the savings limits, such as ABLE accounts and special needs trusts.

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 10:05 Permalink
Auntie M (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your input. I will call them today.

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 07:01 Permalink
Timaf (not verified)

Hello! Im just wondering. My

Hello! Im just wondering. My sons dad is dieing and he was approved for ssi we have a 6year old but he also has a 24yo and 20yo previously. His older child is his POA. Im wondering who will get his ssi benifits and if it goes to my child does she have the right to be his payee or will i be after all im still here.

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 23:47 Permalink

In reply to by Timaf (not verified)


If your son's dad is unable to handle his own benefits, your 24 year old would be eligible to become a payee if he chooses.

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:00 Permalink
Lora (not verified)

How do I effects split up the

How do I effects split up the rent? I would have to transfer 125 to my account to write the full check, or pay the other 350 separately, which my landlord would hate! Wouldn't it make more sense to look at this as rent 475, electric and heat 200, water 60... and then just use my daughters card to pay electric and only electric every month, since this bill in its entirety, is estimated to be the same as her share of the monthly bills? What about car payment, gas, and car insurance for the vehicle that runs her to 4 therapies a week? I think people often get a bad ra for paying the whole rent with a child's check, but If we considered all of the expenses for food, power, water, food, and transportation that the child uses, and divide it, in our case by four, the rent is approximately one quarter of our entire expenses.... In all honestly 80% of the usage of the car is for transportation to therapies and classes for my daughter. I don't want to come off as exploiting my daughter, but to me it makes more sense to pay one large bill, so long as that bill costs no more than her fair share of the total. Is this ok? Also, our school district was unable to accommodate her appropriately, so we are homeschooling, can I use back pay to purchase curriculum and some special educational games and books pertaining to social skills, executive functioning, and relational vocabulary? These directly pertain to her disability.

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 19:15 Permalink

In reply to by Lora (not verified)

Hi Lora,

Hi Lora,
These bills should be fine for monthly SSI payments, so long as you save some kind of receipt or evidence of the transactions. Just be sure to NOT use the back pay lump sum for bills--that's a lot stricter and should only be used for medical costs or housing modifications for your daughter's disability. I'd run the purchases you mentioned by the SSA rep who handles your daughter's claim first.

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:01 Permalink
Brenda (not verified)

I have a sister, and my

I have a sister, and my mother is on SDD and my grandmother is her payee. My mom gets 2 checks one for her and my sister which all goes to my grandma

My sister no longer lives with my mom and does with the grandma. She doesn't give the check any to my mom (Which duh) but my grandma just gives it all to my sister (her part of the check) and she spends it all on shopping hair. Going out to eat etc.

But my question is she should no longer get it if she's not living with the disabled persons RIGHT?

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 20:23 Permalink

In reply to by Brenda (not verified)

Hi Brenda,

Hi Brenda,
That is correct. If there is a more suitable payee, he/she can file the paperwork to become the payee at your local SSA office.

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:02 Permalink
Dee Dee (not verified)

I am separated from my child&

I am separated from my child's disabled father who applied for and is receiving SSI for my child BUT the child lives with me full time, although he has the child every other weekend, and I manage her including medical, education, etc. The father only reimburses me for items HE wants to and at only 50%. Shouldn't I be the payee in this case?

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 08:07 Permalink

In reply to by Dee Dee (not verified)

Hi Dee Dee,

Hi Dee Dee,
You can and should. You can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file the paperwork to become the payee in person.

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 11:02 Permalink
Mikayla (not verified)

Hello, my son has just gotten

Hello, my son has just gotten approved for his own dedicated account. The back pay portion. I was wondering if car maintenance was allowed since its his main reliable transportation to his appointments to his specialists 2 hours away? Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 14:24 Permalink
Carla (not verified)

Im the payee of my grandson

Im the payee of my grandson we have full guardianship of question is can i pay my electric bill or house payment with his SSI check..i never have done that but some people are telling me i can so im just wondering...thanks

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 20:03 Permalink

In reply to by Carla (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You may be able to pay a portion of it using the check, you may want to contact the SSA for more details.

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:56 Permalink

In reply to by Carla (not verified)

HI Carla,

HI Carla,
You may be able to pay a portion of it with his check, but it's a good idea to check in with your local SSA office regarding this.

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:59 Permalink
Pat (not verified)

Our two children receive

Our two children receive benefits under my husband’s SS RETIREMENT. What percentage of the house, utility and car payment are we permitted to deduct from the monies received each month?

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:39 Permalink

In reply to by Pat (not verified)

Hi Pat,

Hi Pat,
It may be a good idea to contact the SSA to confirm what you would be able to use as it may vary.

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:07 Permalink
Dana (not verified)

Well, I don't believe

Well, I don't believe that you guys really have the payees prove where the childs ssi money goes. I had my grandson living with me for 4 years. His mother collected it and didn't offer or give me any of his money for his living expenses. So, what can be done about that?

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 14:18 Permalink

In reply to by Dana (not verified)

Hi Dana,

Hi Dana,
We are not affiliated with the SSA or the federal government and as such we do not verify payee's use of funds.

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:08 Permalink
Jayce (not verified)

So my mom gets 660 a month

So my mom gets 660 a month cuz my father passed away may 27th 2016 and I moved back in with my mom and things just didn't work out I asked nicely multiple times just to let me get my money so I could pay rent or buy food or just simple things like that and now trying to work things out with my mom. It just isn't happening and she has a lot of money of my dads that she says is hers and she has spent on me by paying her bills like honestly that haven't helped me as well I'm honestly furious about this she just treats me like shit and all I want is to have a family and live good she is the worst parent ever I swear I need someone to let me know if I'm wrong for telling her it's mine money not hers once again I was homeless for a year after after passed away so yea I know she is wrong but don't know how to prove it she owns a bar and it's always either her way or no way she is terribly disprespectful and I have no say about my life plz help

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 19:25 Permalink

In reply to by Jayce (not verified)

Hi Jayce,

Hi Jayce,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding any suspected benefits fraud.

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 13:10 Permalink
Alice (not verified)

My son gets SSI and lives at

My son gets SSI and lives at home, my home is paid off can I deduct one third of his money for real estate taxes on the home and insurance taxes on my home?

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 21:05 Permalink
Karen (not verified)

Hello I am a single mother of

Hello I am a single mother of thee kids. I separated from my husband early this year. I started renting a room where me and my three kids live in (it’s all I was able to afford). My son just got approved for ssi. He will receive back pay and it will be in separate account from mine. My question is is there a possibility I could use some of the back pay he will receive for a better place to live? A place he can have his own room his own bed and have his therapy?

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 17:37 Permalink
Ann (not verified)

I would like to know can I

I would like to know can I use my child dedicated account to replace the central HVAC which will help with breathing cleaner air. Also we have been without a washer & dryer for approximately 18 months. We are constantly going to laundry mat.

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 20:34 Permalink
Fernadad (not verified)

Can I use some of the back

Can I use some of the back pay if I need to replace the transmission on my vehicle being that my daughter's always getting sick and I need to have transportation available to take her to either the ER or a doctor's appointment

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 22:42 Permalink

In reply to by Fernadad (not verified)

Hi There,

Hi There,

You may be able to. However you might want to check in with the SSA first just to be safe.

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 09:07 Permalink
Steve T (not verified)

My 14 year old son will start

My 14 year old son will start getting monthly child benefits in January 2018 as my wife has retired and is starting to collect. We all live in the same house. My question is, can I use some of that money to help cover our mortgage payment (housing) and help pay for food? The food is obviously purchased all together like a normal family would do. If so can I attribute 1/3 of the mortgage payment (There are 3 in the household) and 1/3 of the food bills as well?

Fri, 11/24/2017 - 11:59 Permalink

In reply to by Steve T (not verified)

Hi Steve,

Hi Steve,

You should always double check with the SSA first with any questions just to be safe. 1800-772-1213.

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 09:08 Permalink
Marie (not verified)

My ex husband was collect ss

My ex husband was collect ss benfits and was receiving money for my daughter as well. She was living with me during this time. What happens with that money he received do I need to try getting it from him or go down to the office... Also if she receives her back pay is it ok to open a savings account for her to save for a car she is 15

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:15 Permalink

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