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


In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Wow, that is HORRIBLE! You

Wow, that is HORRIBLE! You will need to report this to the SSA. You can do so by calling them at 1-800-772-1213. Hopefully they can help you get your money back.

Thu, 03/24/2016 - 13:20 Permalink
lisa varnee (not verified)

I recently became a relative

I recently became a relative placement caregiver for my nephew dhr of Alabama told me literally the day they gave him to me that they were to keep his disability money (it will be put in an account for him) that they would only cover his school expenses and medical but he is on medicaid so really just school expenses they furthermore do not deem internet in home a school expense nor cell phone or a computer as part of his school needs can they trump ssd laws in restricting said flow of his fundage from the caregiver?

Sat, 03/26/2016 - 15:09 Permalink

In reply to by lisa varnee (not verified)

Hi Lisa,

Hi Lisa,
SSI is a federally run program, so any restrictions on spending the child's SSI benefits are up to the Federal Government. We're not affiliated with the SSA, but I would contact them at 1-800-772-1213 for some more information.

Mon, 03/28/2016 - 16:45 Permalink
lv (not verified)

My nephew was taken into

My nephew was taken into custody by dhr his mother and him were on ssd they did not stop the flow of that money to the mother typically it takes a minute but when I became involved 6 months later they say they were unaware of his funds. I put on my home inspection that he had this and we expected it to flow to us to cover his needs they still did not divert funds away from mother then 6 months later as he was about to come into our care it was discussed in an email and verbally a total of 5 times before they finally did it. Are they responsible for replacing this money to child in light of their gross neglect in doing their job? Will the money be taken from mother will there be a portion written off for her maintaining his homestead if so?

Sat, 03/26/2016 - 15:18 Permalink

In reply to by lv (not verified)

Hi Iv,

Hi Iv,
If you were not the representative payee for the child, you would not be able to have his benefits sent to you. I would get in touch with the SSA to make sure everything is in order. Their Number is 1-800-772-1213

Mon, 03/28/2016 - 16:47 Permalink
don't understand? (not verified)

Someone stays with you for a

Someone stays with you for a month before receiving benefits, pays me that following month for the month before. Now they move out days before their check comes, am i entitled to use a part of that money for their left over bills?

Sun, 03/27/2016 - 21:37 Permalink

In reply to by don't understand? (not verified)

Hi Don't Understand,

Hi Don't Understand,
If you are not the representative payee for the person that had stayed with you, then you would not be legally able to use those funds. In fact, using those funds if you are not authorized to do so may constitute fraud.

Mon, 03/28/2016 - 16:51 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My son was found fully

My son was found fully favorable by the ssi judge in July 2015. He needed to pay for school registration in Sept.2015 to get a spot in the school. I then had to pay for 4 weeks of tuition until I received his ssi back pay. Then his back pay paid his weekly tuition. I reimburse myself for the registration fee and 4 weeks of tuition. Is this allowed since back pay will pay for education. I had to enroll him then or the school couldn't promise me an opening.

Wed, 03/30/2016 - 22:53 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


Yes as a payee you can reimburse yourself for reasonable, out-of-pocket expenses you pay on your sons's behalf.

Thu, 03/31/2016 - 15:13 Permalink
Diana (not verified)

My child is getting ssi it is

My child is getting ssi it is not back pay is there a detailed list of what I can use this money and what I can not use it on.

Fri, 04/01/2016 - 18:48 Permalink

In reply to by Diana (not verified)

Hi Diana,

Hi Diana,
Yes, there is! You can find more detailed information about what you can use your child's SSI benefits for at, or by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 14:32 Permalink
Darren (not verified)

I recently was approved for

I recently was approved for SS Disability. I am divorced and have been fighting for the last four years for a child support modification and to get my ex-wife to help financially with our daughter. My daughter is entitled to 1200.00 per month and is getting 50k in back pay which will start soon. Problem is my ex refuses to work and is terrible with finances. She is refusing to put the back pay my daughter will be getting away for college, etc. Can my ex spend this money on credit card debt, car lease, attorney fees? It just is so unfair as I am the one who worked for these benefits and my ex already is getting 1k in child support and now she will be the one to control my daughters benefits because she is custodial parent.

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 00:25 Permalink

In reply to by Darren (not verified)

Hi Darren,

Hi Darren,
If you believe that your ex will misuse your daughters benefits, you can have a third party as a representative payee. I would contact the SSA to inform them of the situation and they can help you appoint someone as a payee for your daughter. Their number is 1-800-772-1213.

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:58 Permalink
Kaitlyn (not verified)


I know of a family who receives SSI checks each month for their daughter. All of the money goes to rent, but they can afford to pay it themselves. The money they make at work is not spent on the child and is spent on trading cards, collectables etc. It's always like fighting tooth and nail for the mother to get an "allowance" from the father. The father is the representative payee. Is this a correct way to act as a representative payee?

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 03:25 Permalink

In reply to by Kaitlyn (not verified)

Hi Kaitlyn,

Hi Kaitlyn,
I would contact the SSA to have another payee appointed if you believe that the money is not being used for the daughter.

Tue, 04/05/2016 - 13:01 Permalink
Jocelyn (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

She cannot appoint any one

She cannot appoint any one and rent is a living expense in my situation our rent is 1035 part of the money will go to rent the other part will go for his clothing diapers and pay the tv bill he watches tv the money made from work will get him toys and comfort items toiletries electric transportation im sure ill have to pay for food for all of us

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 17:00 Permalink

In reply to by Jocelyn (not verified)

Hi Jocelyn,

Hi Jocelyn,
That is correct that she could not appoint anyone herself, but she can ask the SSA to do so if the current payee is not complying with the SSA's rules regarding purchases.

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 16:12 Permalink
Melissa (not verified)

Hello. My son gets SSI

Hello. My son gets SSI payments now and he has back pay dated back from last year. My question is can I use the some of the money from the dedicated account to purchase a computer desk, educational software and a computer for him? He is going into 6th grade and I want him to be prepared for the new school year in September. I've also been researching getting him a tutor for the summer to keep him on track since he has learning disabilities and falls behind very easily. Any info will be appreciated.

Fri, 04/08/2016 - 17:50 Permalink

In reply to by Melissa (not verified)

Hi Melissa,

Hi Melissa,
I would say that they are items you are buying to improve your child's quality of life and may acceptable uses of the back pay. However, I cannot be totally sure, so I would contact the SSA just in case. Their number is 1-800-772-1213.

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 10:52 Permalink
Lindsey (not verified)

I recently became the payee

I recently became the payee of my sisters ssi. CaN I use it to pay a lawyer to get custody of my sister since my mom abuses her? My sister wants to live with me. Others I the family know that she wants to live with me. So since paying for a lawyer is the only way to make my sisters wish come true can I use my sisters ssi for a lawyer?

Sat, 04/09/2016 - 01:58 Permalink

In reply to by Lindsey (not verified)

Hi Lindsey,

Hi Lindsey,
If your mother is abusing your sister, I'd say the first thing to do would be to call the local authorities and inform them that your sister is being abused, they would be able to remove her from the household. Also, you can use your sister's SSI money on things that would improve her living conditions, like legal help to remove her from your mother's custody.

Mon, 04/11/2016 - 17:05 Permalink
Frank (not verified)

If a person is on disability

If a person is on disability and has a payee represnetive can the payee rep put the rent money in their own or their wifes bank account?

Mon, 04/11/2016 - 11:43 Permalink

In reply to by Frank (not verified)

Hi Frank,

Hi Frank,
I would say that you should keep any money you get as a representative payee separate from your normal funds because you can easily track what you spend on the beneficiary's behalf.

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 10:46 Permalink
Maria (not verified)

Hello, my son is receiving

Hello, my son is receiving ssi benefits because he is autistic. Can i get some money to pay rent?

Wed, 04/13/2016 - 13:03 Permalink
Marie (not verified)

Hi Daniel, a couple questions

Hi Daniel, a couple questions..I have a friend who was wondering :
1. Will opening a savings account affect his daughters SSI?
2. Is there legislation in affect that allows minors on SSI to open a savings account?
3. If it does affect SSI, can he set up an account and she be the beneficiary?

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 09:21 Permalink

In reply to by Marie (not verified)

Hi Marie,

Hi Marie,
There are specific types of savings accounts that will not be counted against their income or resource limits. I would have your friend get in touch with the SSA to explore what options they would have as far as creating a savings account.

Fri, 04/15/2016 - 10:53 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If a 17 year old is getting

If a 17 year old is getting ssi from there dads death and turn 18 but say they are still in school when they are not to keep getting ssi can they get into trouble

Sat, 04/16/2016 - 00:43 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
Yes, they may get in trouble if they are not eligible for the benefits that they are receiving.

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:10 Permalink
monica (not verified)

i just received back pay for

i just received back pay for my daughters ssi shes 2years old what could i spend it on ??

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 21:59 Permalink

In reply to by monica (not verified)

Hi Monica,

Hi Monica,
you can use your child's back pay for things like:

  • education
  • job training
  • personal needs assistance ( goods and services to help your child with their disability)

If you're unsure about whether a purchase is allowed, I would contact the SSA for some more information, their number is 1-800-772-1213.

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:15 Permalink
Monica (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

She has asthma attacks and

She has asthma attacks and speech delay she gpt 2000 in back pay i got her allergy sheets pillow cases clothes shoes food and about to get her a purifider for our home what do i do with the rest pf the money will they take it back

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 01:32 Permalink
Robert Holland (not verified)

As Rep Payee, how long should

As Rep Payee, how long should I keep receipts, checkbooks and expense records for my daughter who is now 33?

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 14:29 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

My son receives SSi for a

My son receives SSi for a disability, I have 3 other healthy children. I work full time and want to use some of that money to start saving accounts for my other children. Will that conflict with assets or resource qualifications if I do so..

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 01:55 Permalink

In reply to by Tina (not verified)

Hi Tina,

Hi Tina,
Your child's SSI benefits are intended specifically for your child, and as such starting savings accounts for your other children with those funds may be an improper use of those funds.

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 12:28 Permalink
Sue (not verified)

I'm a single mother of a

I'm a single mother of a child with disability , we now reside in Florida , I've been offered a job in Arkansas - it is a lot easier & cheaper to live in Arkansas than Florida - my question is - can my sins SSI money go towards renting a UHAUL truck to get there - as it will benifit us , in terms of me being able to take better care if my son - Thank you

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 11:44 Permalink

In reply to by Sue (not verified)

Hi Sue,

Hi Sue,
It's possible so long as you don't use the back pay! I would call the SSA rep who handles your son's case just to be sure, but I believe it will be ok.

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 12:42 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified) child was approved child was approved for ssi and is owed a backpay of 6 months I believe he needs a dedicated account how do I get the money out for his needs like a computer for speech and also we are being evicted as of may4th can I get approved to use his back pay for a security deposit as well? AnD how does a dedicated account work is it a debit card or checks I'm so confused

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 09:47 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
A dedicated account can only be a checking, savings, or money market account. Additionally, you may use the back pay for housing and other things that would improve your child's life, like a computer. I would contact your local SSA office for some more advice about your case, you can find a listing of them here:…
Also, here is some more information about dedicated accounts:

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 09:57 Permalink
April (not verified)

Can you pay some of power

Can you pay some of power bill with some of your 12 year olds SSI?

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 12:55 Permalink

In reply to by April (not verified)

Hi April,

Hi April,
Yes, you may be able to use your child's SSI payments for utilities where your child lives.

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 14:03 Permalink
Janet (not verified)

My son (19) has Autism, ADHD

My son (19) has Autism, ADHD, is aggressive, impulsive and self-abusive. He has damaged many things in our home over the years. - he's blown up 2 relatively new microwaves, put holes in the walls with his head , and completely put his head through two hollow bedroom doors. Luckily we have been able to patch drywall and paint over it. But we would like to replace the bedroom doors as they look awful. Is there a way he could pay a percentage of the replacement costs on the damage he does?


Mon, 04/25/2016 - 00:42 Permalink

In reply to by Janet (not verified)

Hi Janet,

Hi Janet,
Yes, you may be able to use some of your child's SSI money to make repairs to the house or apartment that he lives in.

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 14:04 Permalink
lakeysa bailey (not verified)

hi my son received back

hi my son received back payment I used the money to buy school uniforms,booster seat,toys for his adhd mostly education,a used mattress because of worns bed and exposed wood and nails,a car window repair of a some car from child and also a tablet repair from my son breaking others belongs and cell phone from child throwing items when he become upset. The biggest portion of the funds are spend on school uniforms because it is mandatory in his school district for uniforms. I'm trying to understand why those funds could not be used to buy uniforms since it is part of his education and required for him to attend school. Why is it that I can't not use those funds as part of his education vs his monthly payments which could be use for everyday items and bills.

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 20:57 Permalink

In reply to by lakeysa bailey (not verified)

Hi Lakeysa,

Hi Lakeysa,
You may be able to use your son's benefits for school uniforms as that would be an educational expense. However, I would contact you local SSA office to make sure that your purchases are approved by them.

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:26 Permalink
Lavonna (not verified)

So I set up a dedicated

So I set up a dedicated account for my daughter and the 2199 still remains because I am scared to spend it because the things the money can be used for is not all that clear. For instance, my daughters case worker told me special equipment could be an iPad or a TV. She has adhd and aggressive mood disorder. I’m not sure how that would help. Also if something did come up to where the 2199 doesn’t cover it, such as educational purposes, what would I need to get a payment expenditure? Do I need a letter from some professional, a list of expenses or what? Thank you

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 08:24 Permalink

In reply to by Lavonna (not verified)

Hi Lavonna,

Hi Lavonna,
You would have to contact the SSA to find out if you would be able to get an advance payment of benefits, but it may be a good idea to have documents stating the cost of whatever you would need an advance payment of those benefits for.

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:28 Permalink
Kim (not verified)

Are you allowed to use your

Are you allowed to use your child ssi to help fix your car so you can get them to and from dr appt.

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 09:00 Permalink

Add new comment

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!