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 Confused (not verified)

Hi there,
It's best to check with your case worker about using your son's disability benefits, but paying housing costs for your child may be an approved use of disability benefits.

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 09:56 Permalink
Lanai (not verified)

Hi I know someone who is 16 and her mother gets her ssi and her mother spends it on herself and the brother. The mother is not meeting her needs. She wouldn't even buy her a pillow. The mother tells her that she has to make her own money. I'm irritated and I'm pretty sure that this is wrong.

Sun, 05/01/2016 - 21:46 Permalink
brother of ALS… (not verified)

My sister, who is currently on SSD, received a lump sum for her son who is a minor and living with her. Is this lump sum and the monthly payments supposed to go into a separate account under his name? He turns 18 soon... what happens to unspent money at that point? If the son moves in with the father (yes they are divorced) does he become responsible for managing the son's account?

Mon, 05/02/2016 - 23:56 Permalink

In reply to by brother of ALS… (not verified)

Hi there,
If the child is getting SSDI auxiliary benefits, then they may not need a dedicated account for his back pay, and regardless of his age, the money is intended to help with his costs of living. Additionally, if the mother is the payee, it may not be necessary for the mother to be living with the child to be the payee, they just need to be someone that would use those benefits for their intended use.

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 09:34 Permalink
Confused (not verified)

Hello, I am a disabled veteran and my child is receiving SSDI benefits based on my disability. I am also the representative payee for my child. The child is active in sports and the competitions often require over night stays and extensive travel distances. Can I use some of the SSDI benefits to cover some of the expenses for gas, hotels, food etc. to cover parts of my expenses to go and support my child. Without using some of the funds I am not able to attend the functions. Parental moral and emotional support are an important factor but not sure if this is authorized. It is in direct support of the child?

Tue, 05/03/2016 - 21:46 Permalink

In reply to by Confused (not verified)

Hi there!,
Thank you for your service to our country. As far as SSDI auxiliary benefits go, it's much less restricted than managing SSI benefits for a child. I'd say that it may be an entirely fine by the standards of the SSA, but you may want to check in with them to confirm. Their main number is 1-800-772-1213, and you can also find a listing of local offices here:…

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 09:44 Permalink
Elizabeth (not verified)

I just recently found out that my Ex has been receiving monthly benefits for our son, based on his own disability, for the last five years. We share equal custody, yet he has never paid for any portion of our sons medical, dental or vision insurance costs. Wasn't he supposed to share in that cost?

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 03:10 Permalink

In reply to by Elizabeth (not verified)

Hi Elizabeth,
Those benefits are intended for your son, however as I do not know the whole story, your ex may be spending those benefits on other needs for the child, such as housing, food, ect that would take up the entirety of the benefit, depending on amount. Additionally, the decisions as to who would pay for what may be determined by your custody agreements, rather than any restrictions on SSDI auxiliary benefits.

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 09:50 Permalink
Elizabeth (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

He is justifying $1088 each month in expenses while he only has our son for only 2 weeks & I pay for half of everything. He received a $15K backpay, I understand that money should have been placed in a separate savings account, separate from the subsequent monthly payments. My 15 year old recently went to the bank to get statements for the last year and he only had $149.00 in his account. As soon as the money was/is deposited his Dad is immediately transferring the funds to his checking account. From what I read about big payouts, his $15K should have remained in a savings?

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 05:03 Permalink

In reply to by Elizabeth (not verified)

Hi Elizabeth,
Unfortunately, as he is receiving SSDI benefits rather than SSI, he may not need a dedicated account for the child's back pay, as there are less restrictions as to how that money may be used in comparison to SSI back pay.

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 10:00 Permalink
Shannon (not verified)

Hi .My question is my sons (which is 14 )father just applied and got ssi (old age) no disability. He is court ordered to pay 500 a month in child support and 50% of all medical.Being that my son lives with me is he able to recieve ssi as well?

Wed, 05/04/2016 - 22:45 Permalink
Stephanie (not verified)

Hello, my daughter was just arrested for her 3rd DWI, my grandson will be living with me for her time spent in state jail. My grandson receives SSI, (his father committed suicide), will he still be able to receive his benefits since he will be in my care? That'll be the only way I'll be able to afford to have him in daycare while I work. Also, I'm looking into getting legal guardianship of him and possibly custody. My daughter will not contest. Do I need to apply to be his payee? Thank you so much for your time and response.

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 12:38 Permalink
Curious (not verified)

A friends spouse is a representative payee for his two children for survivors benefits. Their mother died. He is remarried. Can his new spouse become representative payee? If not, then what happens if he gets in trouble and goes to jail and she takes care of the children. She also has two children.

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 10:40 Permalink

In reply to by Curious (not verified)

Hi there,
If your friend is doing things that may result in jail time, it may be best to gently ask your friend to stop whatever he's doing that would put him in jail, if possible.
Regarding representative payees, yes, his new spouse may be able to become the children's representative payee.

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 14:41 Permalink
Ana (not verified)

Hi .. my daughter receives ssi because of her dad . I was never told how to use the money . I bought her clothes glasses food etc. Is that acceptable.

Thu, 05/12/2016 - 23:42 Permalink

In reply to by Ana (not verified)

Hi Ana,
If your daughter is getting benefits because of her father's disability benefits, then she is getting SSDI auxiliary benefits, rather than SSI. With SSDI, there's less restrictions as to how you can use that money. I would say that clothes, glasses and food are all things that may be acceptable, but I would check with the SSA. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213 or you can also visit their website at

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 09:20 Permalink
Olean (not verified)

Hey, if the child is receiving monthly payments as a result of disability from the dad and/or retirement with the SSA, does the expenses rule go under deductive accounts or regular monthly spending? thanks

Fri, 05/13/2016 - 20:20 Permalink

In reply to by Olean (not verified)

Hi Olean,
If the child is receiving benefits in behalf of a dad from retirement, your spending limits will be much less strict. You'll just need to fill out a short form at the end of the year stating where you spent the money and how it was used for her.

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 15:21 Permalink
Olean (not verified)

In reply to by Deanna

Olean here again,
I was just wondering if money could be saved all the way till the end of the 18th birthday and the child could save it or will it go back to the government?
Basically my question is does all the money have to be spent in this timespan till the 18th birthday or can the money be saved up?

Tue, 06/14/2016 - 15:53 Permalink
Olean (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Olean again,
I was wondering what items are limited for the account of a child's benefits, whose father is receiving benefits as a retiree. Like is clothing fine is there a limit to the type of items needed is a computer fine are SAT admission tickets and books fine to buy? is there a price range limit to the expense of clothing and shoes. does the ss check what the item is and the name and the type?

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 20:54 Permalink

In reply to by Olean (not verified)

Hi Olean,
Those may all be fine to buy. If you're in doubt, you may want to contact your local SSA office regarding this.

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 09:19 Permalink
John Degree (not verified)

My daughter is 12yo. Is it okey not to spent the monthly SSI benefits but to save it for her college plan ?

Sat, 05/14/2016 - 22:45 Permalink

In reply to by John Degree (not verified)

Hi John,
No, you will not be able to do this. Because SSI benefits are only for the very needy, you will need to prove that you absolutely need all of that income for your daughter to have a decent life.

Mon, 05/16/2016 - 15:21 Permalink
Michelle (not verified)

My boyfriend just got custody of his daughter. He went to get on stamps today and they told him that she is on ssi. He has had her for 2 months and was never informed by the mother about the ssi and has not seen any money to help with his daughter. What should he do?

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 14:09 Permalink

In reply to by Michelle (not verified)

Hi Michelle,
Your boyfriend should contact the SSA as soon as possible, so that they can assign another payee for his daughter. You can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 15:38 Permalink
Sunny F. (not verified)

My mom won't buy me new shoes no matter how much my feet hurt. My shoes have holes in them and are way too small that thy are making blisters and scabs on my feet. What do I tell her? ( I get checks )

Wed, 05/18/2016 - 21:05 Permalink

In reply to by Sunny F. (not verified)

Hi Sunny,
I think you may want to talk to someone you can trust, like a social worker, teacher or a policeman and tell them about this. It may be a little scary to tell them, but they can help you, and you're not going to get in trouble by telling them.

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 09:56 Permalink
Dana (not verified)

My two children will be receiving benefits soon bc their dad died. I feel very confused and lost. If I try to reach the Social Security lady with questions, she's busy and I don't know what I'm doing. It's all very overwhelming. Do I have to pay half the power bill with my money and half with their money? Can I take them on a family vacation and use the money? Do I have to pay half of the hotel fees and they pay half? It's overwhelming street everything we've been through and I need legit guidance, advice, and support. Is there a class I can take to become more efficient at this? I certainly don't want to make a single mistake.

Sat, 05/21/2016 - 14:20 Permalink

In reply to by Dana (not verified)

Hi Dana,
I'm sorry to hear about that! It's always tough to lose a loved one. If they are getting survivor's benefits, then the money that you get is less restricted than SSI benefits and you would be able to use that money for most anything for the children's benefit, like paying the whole power bill or taking them on a vacation.

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 16:12 Permalink
Dinessa (not verified)

Hello I have a son with epilepsy an adhd I have a court date coming up an my lawyer is pretty confident that my son case will be won , he will receive 3 1/2 years of back pay will I be able to use that money for his spectate account that the lawyer said needs to be made to take him to Disney world that's been his biggest dream an he's finally been seizure free to travel so will I be able to use that out of the back pay ?

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 17:12 Permalink

In reply to by Dinessa (not verified)

Hi Dinessa,
Entertainment for the child is a legitimate use of back pay, but I would confirm with your SSA case worker, just in case.

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 11:21 Permalink
Ashley (not verified)

my uncle passed away in 2013 his children are 6 and 4 they receive survivor benefits, in November of 2016. The children moved in with my grandmother due to the mom not being able to take care of them well she is still receiving the social security check and hasn't helped out once not with daycare or anything my grandmother is doing it on her own but the mother claims thats her money what can i do to get it stopped ? and will she face any charges she has received 7 months over 8,000.00 dollars that was supposed to be for her kids but it was used for nails, gas, cigs, clothes, tattoos.

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 11:09 Permalink

In reply to by Ashley (not verified)

Hi Ashley, that may be fraud, I would definitely report it to the SSA. You can call them at 1-800-772-1213. You can also ask them to have their representative payee changed because the one they have now is not using those benefits for the children's benefit.

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 12:25 Permalink
Jaen (not verified)


My son is currently pending SSI due to a brain injury and complications while in the NICU (he was born at 28 weeks and spent almost 5 months in the hospital). I applied for SSI on the advice of a hospital case worker. I was denied based on income/assets. I was told by the hospital case worker that because my son was not yet at home, my income should not have counted. My financial situation has changed and I applied for SSI for my son again and the person who interviewed me brought up my previous application. She admitted that the person processing my previous paperwork made an error because it was documented that my son was in the home when in fact he was still in the NICU and would have been for about 3 months. While the payments would have only been $50 according to the rep I spoke with, had we been approved for SSI the first time around (which we should have been), my son would have also been approved for Medicaid for a year which would have saved us thousands in medical expenses. Is this worth pursuing?

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 04:13 Permalink

In reply to by Jaen (not verified)

Hi Jaen,
I'm not sure that hospitalization would be a factor in eligibility for benefits in this case, as the benefits are still calculated under the parent(s) income and assets, regardless of where the child is. I would contact the SSA to find out your options, you can contact them at 1-800-772-1213.

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 11:03 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I have primary custody of my children. Their father may soon be on disability because of dialysis and renal failure. Do my children automatically receive benefits? He refuses to pay child support and so far has gotten away with it (despite having a high paying job and a side business), and I'm afraid he would keep his children from receiving benefits they are entitled to out of spite.

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 04:19 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,
The children may be automatically be eligible for benefits if they were included on the initial application. Since that may not be the case, you can also apply for those auxiliary benefits yourself if your ex husband did not add them to his application.

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 11:08 Permalink
KC (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan


I receive SSI check every month due to my disability. Can I use it to buy clothes and shoes for myself?

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 15:44 Permalink

In reply to by KC (not verified)

Hi KC,
Clothes and shoes are something that you may be able to buy with your benefit checks. If you're unsure if you can buy something with your benefits, it's best to contact your local SSA office and check with them first.

Fri, 05/27/2016 - 09:44 Permalink
Tina (not verified)

I don't understand the rules of spending the back pay one websites says one thing and another one sta something else also I asked social security office and one person said one thing and another one says something different I really don't understand and am very confused on what to do. My son has adhd and he is on the spectrum for autism. He has broken so many things in my house such as bed, couch , walls all from jumping and throwing things can I use the money to replace them? I have to fix his room my landlord is gonna want me to pay to fix everything can I use the money for that?

Sun, 06/05/2016 - 14:27 Permalink

In reply to by Tina (not verified)

Hi Tina,
There are definitely some complex rules about spending back pay, but yes, you may be able to use that money to make improvements to your child's living situation, such as buying new clothes, furniture, ect.

Mon, 06/06/2016 - 10:05 Permalink
Juanita (not verified)

I am a grandparent who has legal visitation for my grandchild because her deceased dad was my son. My court ordered visitation allows me the same rights as my son would have if he were living. Am I entitled to any part of the grandchild's survivor benefits during our 6 week summer visits?

Sun, 06/05/2016 - 22:51 Permalink

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