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

esther (not verified)

Can a parent.. Spend there childs benefits.. For the entire family.. Also including a new baby thats on the way..

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 06:49 Permalink

In reply to by esther (not verified)

You must make sure the beneficiary’s day-to-day needs for food, shelter, medical, dental care, clothing and recreation are met. If there is money left after you pay for the beneficiary’s needs, you may spend the money to improve the beneficiary’s daily living conditions or for better medical care. BUT remember if you misuse the benefits, you must repay the misused funds. Hope this helps!

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:10 Permalink
esther (not verified)

In reply to by vmw

Ok.. Im asking cuz my son father and gf dont work.. Just depends on my sons benefits every month... So to me my son should be taken care of... And what ever is left.. Can his dad and gf use it for there own bills.. Meaning cell phones and stuff and buying. A crib and other things for there new baby..

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 21:14 Permalink

In reply to by esther (not verified)

Hi Esther,
I would contact the SSA, they can assign someone else to distribute funds for the child if you feel the were not used appropriately.

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 11:47 Permalink

In reply to by John D.. (not verified)

Hi John. Thank you for your question. I would call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to report fraud as your niece's benefits should be spent on HER needs.

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 11:49 Permalink
Lisa (not verified)

Hi I was wondering if I could pay my auto insurance with my daughter's SSI since I need the car to get her to appointments and school and to work.

Fri, 07/15/2016 - 14:30 Permalink

In reply to by Lisa (not verified)

Hi Lisa,
You may be able to cover transportation costs with your daughter's SSI, but I would contact an SSA representative to make sure that that is an allowed purchase.

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 11:42 Permalink
Keisha (not verified)

I currently receive ssdi for myself and my child receive part of my benefits. Do I still have to fill out the representative payee form for the child?

Sat, 07/16/2016 - 17:37 Permalink
John (not verified)

First, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

My 3 boys were approved auxiliary benefits (with back pay) because my wife's disability claim was approved. We used to live in a 2 bedroom apartment and we now live in a 4 bedroom house.

1. Would SSA be ok with us claiming that part of their monthly payment is used for the mortgage because it improves their quality of life?

2. We didn't save any receipts for purchases, what can we do?

3. Would SSA frown upon us making a deposit into their accounts if they don't approve of how their funds were being used?

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 09:41 Permalink

In reply to by John (not verified)

Hi John,
1) Their benefits may be used for housing, but I would contact a SSA representative to confirm that it is an approved purchase.
2) The SSA may follow up regarding any purchases that you claimed to have made, or that they require more documentation on.
3) I would make sure that the benefit money and any other earnings/savings you have are separate so that you can more easily account for both of them.

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 11:45 Permalink
Mrobbins (not verified)

Hello, do you only advise on child ssi, or do you cover adult disability as well? I want to see if I qualify, as I am an insulin dependent diabetic and have neuropathy and other health issues from it....Even have a letter from a Hospital stating I can no longer work... please let me know if I have a chance, thanks

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 09:07 Permalink

In reply to by Mrobbins (not verified)

Hi there,

We advise on all aspects of Social Security Disability benefits. You may qualify; I would answer the free disability evaluation we have so you can talk to an attorney who can help you determine if you qualify or not.

You can also call the SSA directly at 1-800-772-1213 for more information/help. Hope this helps!

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 12:11 Permalink
dakota (not verified)

Me and my wife have a disabled son that is four years old and he receives a ssi payment. Can we us this payment for house payment

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 13:28 Permalink

In reply to by dakota (not verified)

Hi Dakota,
You can, but keep in mind that you cannot have two homes at once, so this can be a little tricky. I'd talk to your SSA rep to discuss this!

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 14:16 Permalink
Michelle (not verified)

My 4 year old was approved for benefits on Jan 6. Here we are now going into August and still no backpay. They sent it in once but the case worker put it in the monthly payment account instead of the dedicated account "which was not our fault we set up both like we were supposed too" but it the payment was returned. This happened on June 20 and as of July 1st her caseworkers said she was sending it in that day. July 6th come nothing so I call the 1800# and they send her a email Now here it was July 13 still nothing so I call the 1800# again and was told she had not did anything so they sent a email a week later still nothing. So now I call again the 1800# gives me the direct line because as of July 25 she still has done nothing. What is the best thing to do she just is not doing her job?

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 10:09 Permalink

In reply to by Michelle (not verified)

Hi Michelle,
That is VERY strange. I would have expected you to receive back pay by April or so. I am so sorry, but I'm not sure there is much else you can do at this point! You have been doing everything correctly by calling the SSA. They do not have a lot of control over back pay, so hopefully it'll be released soon.

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 14:18 Permalink
Amy (not verified)

My son will be receiving a large amount of back pay. Currently we live in an older mobile home (1980s) that needs a lot of repair. However would it be ok to have the old home moved out and use some of the money as a down payment to furnish a cleaner and updated home for our family?

Fri, 07/29/2016 - 20:06 Permalink

In reply to by Amy (not verified)

Hi Amy,
It's possible, but you will absolutely need to clear this with your SSA rep first. Back pay is primarily to be used for the child's medical needs.

Tue, 08/02/2016 - 10:24 Permalink
Bre (not verified)

Whats the difference btwn an ssi and ssdi? My daughter has a speech problem is that ssdi? But her check says ssi how do i spend her money is there more or,less restictions with that?

Sun, 07/31/2016 - 12:55 Permalink
Brenda Wilson (not verified)

Every month I have a problem with my son. He thinks I should give him every dime to blow. While I'm tring to pay his rent cloths good exc. He is getting very violent and abusive about this matter.. what can I do about this matter? ? please help me

Tue, 08/02/2016 - 20:18 Permalink

In reply to by Brenda Wilson (not verified)

Hi Brenda,
You are not obligated to give him money as his payee, you are only obligated to ensure it is used for his benefit. You may want to look into some sort of behavioral/mental help for the violent and abusive tendencies.

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 13:55 Permalink
Beth (not verified)

Can you legally pay bills like gas and electric or rent... for the home that the dependent child resides with his / her ssi dependent bennifits

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 05:52 Permalink

In reply to by Beth (not verified)

Hi Beth,
Yes, benefits may be used for housing costs. However, I would contact your caseworker to confirm exactly what would be allowed for purchase with his benefits.

Wed, 08/03/2016 - 13:56 Permalink
just me (not verified)

My friend is receiving benefit for her two kids from their father, she is spending the money for her kids personal needs, to their school and their clothes but she doesn't have anything to show to ss now that her daughter is 18...

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 00:35 Permalink

In reply to by just me (not verified)

Hi there,
The cutoff age for SSDI benefits is 18, and so the SSA may automatically cease sending benefit payments for that child.

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 11:23 Permalink
Audrey (not verified)

My son (who is 16) is getting benefits because his father is considered disabled. He wants to purchase a car but I told him he cannot because what he gets monthly needs to be used towards his needs. Is it okay for him to purchase a car and make monthly payments? I'm his representative and don't want to get in trouble for purchases he wants that I do not consider a necessity.

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 16:07 Permalink

In reply to by Audrey (not verified)

Hi Audrey,
Your child is getting Auxiliary benefits based off of his father's work record, rather than SSI benefits. There are less restrictions for the type of benefit that he receives, and it may be possible for him to purchase a car with his benefit money.

Thu, 08/04/2016 - 16:56 Permalink
Tash (not verified)

My son receives ssi for mild autism. He doesn't require any extra medical attention. Could I spend his backpay on a room addition for our house that would serve as a classroom since he is homeschooled?

Sat, 08/06/2016 - 03:36 Permalink

In reply to by Tash (not verified)

Hi Tash,
It may be a good idea to contact an SSA caseworker, they may be a bit better able to advise you regarding this purchase.

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 10:41 Permalink
Stephanie (not verified)

Can a full sized bed be purchased for my child out of back pay. He is currently in a twin and its just getting to be too small for him. Would this be considered ok? Or need to be approved.

Thank you

Mon, 08/08/2016 - 19:30 Permalink

In reply to by Stephanie (not verified)

Hi Stephanie,
You may be able to purchase that from monthly benefits, but it may be best to contact your local SSA office to confirm that you're able to do that out of back pay.

Tue, 08/09/2016 - 09:36 Permalink

In reply to by Stephanie (not verified)

Hi Stephanie,
You may be able to purchase that from monthly benefits, but it may be best to contact your local SSA office to confirm that you're able to do that out of back pay.

Tue, 08/09/2016 - 09:37 Permalink
Lisa (not verified)

My niece gets a disability check because my brother n law passed away. The mother recently gave my niece to the maternal grandmother because she is on drugs. She was arrested last week on felony drug charges. The grandmother has been raising my niece for over a year. We believe the mother is still getting my niece's social security. How can we have this looked into to make sure this money isnt going to the mother to be spent on drugs vs. the maternal grandmother who is raising my niece?

Tue, 08/09/2016 - 14:10 Permalink

In reply to by Lisa (not verified)

Hi Lisa,
I would call the SSA and ask them to assign a new payee for the child, as they can help ensure the money goes to the child.

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 13:37 Permalink
Camila (not verified)

Hello, can there be two representative payees when a child is receiving survivors benefits? The child is my sister and lives with me and my father and brother. But my aunt is the representative payee for my sister, I'm scared she's using her money to pay her bills and she could just tell SS that my sister is living with her

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 05:47 Permalink

In reply to by Camila (not verified)

Hi Camilla,
It may be a good idea to contact the SSA if you feel that your aunt would not be a good representative payee for your sister.

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 10:55 Permalink
Kathie (not verified)

My adult son lives in an HCS (group home) in Texas. He currently receives SSI and Medicaid. He has caused damage to the house and the provider has used his money for repairs without conferring with me or receiving my written and/or verbal consent. I am my sons' legal guardian. Is she legally allowed to spend his money this way?

Mon, 08/15/2016 - 21:28 Permalink
Jessica (not verified)

My situation is an odd one I was a ward of the state of Florida I had no idea I was getting ssi at that time and some how they say I had over 2k in resources but at that time I wasn't even allowed to leave the program that DCF (at the time it was called) so I could not work and to the best of my knowledge I had no land or other properties I own more even a bank account is it legal that ssi makes me pay the over payment or is my payee responsible for this?

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 12:54 Permalink

In reply to by Jessica (not verified)

Hi Jessica,
You may be considered the person to whom the overpayment was made. It may be a good idea to contact the state of Florida to obtain all the information about your case.

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 14:50 Permalink
tara dobbs (not verified)

My brother is oddtistic and recieves ssi i am his care provider and payee we are moving to a house with more room, can he pay for some of his utilites and rent ? I help assist him in purchasing,clothes,food,hyguiene,activites , with his own income. But what about him as a tenet too? How does this woork? thankyou

Wed, 08/17/2016 - 17:32 Permalink

In reply to by tara dobbs (not verified)

Hi Tara,
An SSI recipient can certainly use a portion of his payments for rent. This should not disqualify him for disability, assuming he's over age 18.

Thu, 08/18/2016 - 14:52 Permalink
Destiny (not verified)

Hello! Im currently trying to get SSI for my son, and Im trying to get as much information as I can before actually getting it. Ive read everything I could and have learned a lot. BUT
I do have one question!
When I do get my son's SSI, would I be able to use it to get him a therapy/emotion support dog?

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 09:15 Permalink

In reply to by Destiny (not verified)

Hi Destiny,
I'm happy you've found us useful! However, I really couldn't say if Medicaid covers therapy dogs as medical coverage while on SSI varies by state, so I would get in touch with the office that administers Medicaid in your state to find out.

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 09:26 Permalink

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