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)

Hi there,

Hi there,
Yes, you may be able to use your child's disability benefits to do so. I would contact your local SSA office for the full details about how to use your child's disability benefits or back pay for this.

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 14:13 Permalink
Mary (not verified)

I am disabled, my daughter

I am disabled, my daughter receives SSI from my disability. She lives with her Father and is currently 17,however will be 18 in 1 months time. Her father is getting my daughter's benefit money deposited into his account and spending it as his own money. Meanwhile my daughter's needs are not being met such as clothing,food,school supplies... or a bed for that matter. What rights does my daughter have? She is starting college this month and had to ask another family member to help her buy what she needs bc her father wouldn't give her money and she is still in need of shoes which he is refusing to buy for her and told her to get them herself. ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT he has told her she needs a job and to pay HIM more money for living with him. Please help me understand what rights my daughter has. My disability is lining his pockets and my daughter is going without.

Mon, 08/22/2016 - 21:45 Permalink

In reply to by Mary (not verified)

Hi Mary,

Hi Mary,
You may want to contact the SSA and have them change your daughter's representative payee, so that the money may not be mismanaged.

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 10:13 Permalink
Maria (not verified)

I have a question my daughter

I have a question my daughter passed away leaving 3 girls one who just turned 18 and two other 12 & 13, they lived with me, their biological father came and took them and rushes before we even buried my daughter to the SS office and filed as payee --- he told the 18 year since she was an adult can live where eer she wants , she is with me -- but the other 2 are with him and he stopped the 600 child support in a flash and now recieves 1478.00 monthly for the Other two --- he and his wife yel at the girls and tell them that that money is for the whole house hold --they have 3 other kids in that house- and they were late in registering the girls in school and did not buy them any new clothes for school--- how can I be sure that that money goes to the girls health and well being --

Tue, 08/23/2016 - 17:21 Permalink

In reply to by Maria (not verified)

Hi Maria,

Hi Maria,
I'm sorry to hear about that. I cannot imagine what you must be going through.
it may be a good idea to contact the SSA and have them change the children's representative payee to someone that you would trust with the money. While it's usually the custodial parent, the SSA can change it if they believe that someone else would be better suited to being the payee.

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 09:31 Permalink
david (not verified)

hi i have just started to

hi i have just started to receive benefits. my 2 children are also eligible. i have a representative payee for my self but was told that my kids who have different mothers have to have there mothers be there payee. i have joint custody and keep my children every other week. i would prefer not to have there mothers a the payees and to have the person doing mine do theres. is this possible.

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 13:56 Permalink

In reply to by david (not verified)

Hi David,

Hi David,
You can absolutely have a third party be the representative payee for your children. You can let the SSA know you'd like to have your children's representative payee changed to another person, all you would need to do is contact your local SSA office or call 1-800-772-1213

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 16:53 Permalink
jackson (not verified)

My sister gets ss for her 2

My sister gets ss for her 2 boys..they were placed in dhs custody last month and she spent this months benefits although they are not with her. Also can she get their back pay to use for her bills even though they were placed out of the home?

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 14:16 Permalink

In reply to by jackson (not verified)

Hi Jackson,

Hi Jackson,
I would call the SSA and have them change the chilldren's payee, they can assign someone that would use the benefits for the children. Also, the representative payee is not able to use the child's benefit for their own uses.

Thu, 08/25/2016 - 16:41 Permalink
Johanna (not verified)


I'm super new to this and very confused on what I can spend my son's disability money on. He's eligible for being a preemie, he's 3 months now I get I can spend on his health needs, diapers, and wipes, etc. but would I be able to put it towards the crib and monitor i bought for him before he was receiving benefits if i paid on my cc for them? Also seeing as we're on Section 8 for the time being since he was approved it may make us ineligible or raise our portion of the rent, would I be allowed to pay the difference with his benefits?

Fri, 08/26/2016 - 19:30 Permalink

In reply to by Johanna (not verified)

Hi Johanna,

Hi Johanna,
Generally you can pay for your child's housing, care and medical costs using SSI. However, it may be a good idea to contact your caseworker if you're unclear as to what you can buy, and to also get confirmation as to what you would be able to reimburse yourself for.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 09:26 Permalink
Keisha Austin (not verified)

My daughter was just approved

My daughter was just approved for SSI, but she will be staying with a cousin due to behavioral issues, I am the payee but have opened up an account for her and they have the debit card is that ok? She will only be there temporarily and they only have POA, nothing was done through the courts. The decision was made before we knew she had been approved for SSI.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 09:00 Permalink

In reply to by Keisha Austin (not verified)

Hi Keisha,

Hi Keisha,
You may not need to have the child in your care to be the child's payee, as long as the funds being paid by SSI are used for the child.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 09:27 Permalink
Kindall (not verified)

My daughter has just been

My daughter has just been approved and we are expecting her back pay check anytime now. I've been reading where y'all are saying you can only spend the money on basically medical things but what if she doesn't have any medical expenses right now? She has Medicaid and everything she has needed has been covered so far. So what do I do with the money if she doesn't need it spent on medical expenses?

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 10:13 Permalink

In reply to by Kindall (not verified)

Hi Kindall,

Hi Kindall,
You can also spend that money on things other than medical costs, you may want to contact the SSA caseworker that you're working with, they can go over all the types of things that you can use the money for.

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 10:15 Permalink
Delia (not verified)

Hi k my ex was my sons payee

Hi k my ex was my sons payee since my son was 10 yrs I tryed 2 change payees couse he started keeping the money así didn't let me so he didn't even pay the rent we got evicted from 2 houses we were sleeping in my van wich we bought from back pay we were homless for 3 years up tell my son got killed from a drunk driver at age 21 his payee was his step dad supposedly a Christian man

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 12:39 Permalink

In reply to by Delia (not verified)

Hi Delia,

Hi Delia,
I'm sorry to hear that!
You may want to contact the SSA about this, as keeping payments intended for someone else may be considered fraud.

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 10:05 Permalink
Anna (not verified)

I get SSI for my daughter and

I get SSI for my daughter and I am a single mother with 3 kids i use her check for bills to keep a roof over her head as well as ours. My check goes to bills also and both of our checks get food in the house weekly and I pay her cell phone bill with it to. I also lose a lot of hrs at work cause she acts out at school and I have to leave to pick her up. Or take her to the Drs. When she does good i award her with money cause that is what she wants. Am I doing everything right or doing something wrong the only proof I have to turn in is bills I have to pay.

Tue, 08/30/2016 - 18:59 Permalink

In reply to by Anna (not verified)

Hi Anna,

Hi Anna,
That seems like you're doing fine, however you may want to check in with an SSA representative if you're unsure about your purchases, they can give you detailed information as to what you're allowed to spend the money on.

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 10:07 Permalink
holly (not verified)

I know a couple who has a

I know a couple who has a seventeen month old child who was born with CDH. Anyway the child gets SSI Disability checks monthly of over 800. And I know they pay their rent but other bills I'm not quite sure if they pay all or partial. But my concern is that they are both drug addicts with pain pills and weed, (I'm not sure if the father smokes the methanphatamy or not) but they are always driving around in the hot heat with the child in tow looking to score their next buzz even if it means waking the child up just to go get. What can I do? Ive already toughly four months ago reported fraud on line to ssi but nothing and also the mother is almost ready to have another baby within two and half months , she is more concwebed about the father than rhe little boy, don't get me wrong she loves that child but I believe they are abusing both the child and his benefits

Wed, 08/31/2016 - 19:02 Permalink

In reply to by holly (not verified)

Hi Holly,

Hi Holly,
In this case it may be more appropriate to call the local authorities rather than the SSA as those children are being endangered.

Thu, 09/01/2016 - 09:44 Permalink
Stephanie (not verified)

My son was approved for

My son was approved for disability. Can i use the monthly payment to pay for a portion of my car payment? I use this vehicle to transport him to his doctor appointments and therapy. I'm risking falling behind, and only want to contribute a small amount to pay about 1/4 of the payment. Would this be justified?

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 12:25 Permalink

In reply to by Stephanie (not verified)

Hi Stephanie,

Hi Stephanie,
you may be able to use those benefits for a car payment, under certain circumstances.
It may be a good idea to contact the caseworker that you've been working with, as they can give you detailed information about the limits on using SSI benefits.
You can also find some more detailed info in this pamphlet:

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 13:03 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

My daughter receives said for

My daughter receives said for my grandson. She uses the whole check for rent. She hasn't bought him no clothes and she got put out of her apartment and has a cps case. My grandson has been living with me for a while. I asked her to give me some money to get clothes and she said she is saving it for another place.

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 17:24 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
You can contact the SSA and let them know that the child's benefits are not being used properly, they can re-assign a payee for the child.

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 12:49 Permalink
Renee (not verified)

Ok firsthe I can say we are

Ok firsthe I can say we are grateful for the help but I live in housing and now the rent went up 400.00 so can I use my daughers ssi for rent like 30% of it? Can I use it to pay 10% of car payment. I don't want to get in teouble. Also back pay do I have to spend it all or save it? She want a laptop and somethings to help with her learning. A standing desk for school. Do these count

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 19:13 Permalink
Anny (not verified)

My sister will be getting ssi

My sister will be getting ssi until she is 18, can we save half of her income and put in a different bank account with her name on it?? Will SS ask for it back when she's 18?

Sat, 09/03/2016 - 06:08 Permalink

In reply to by Anny (not verified)

Hi Anny,

Hi Anny,
The SSA may only ask for their money back if they overpaid, and yes, it can be saved, however it may count against the child's income and resource limits for SSI.

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 12:53 Permalink
Charlotte (not verified)

Okay, so my mom and I went to

Okay, so my mom and I went to the ssi office, i don't know if that's what it's really called, but we got a lump sum in back pay. She's the representative payee and I guess the money was for me at the time. Well, I really hate and wish I hadn't done this, but I spent some of the money behind her back to get me a new lap top for college since my old one was broken. It was a $1000 purchase. I wish I could take that action back. I need to know if this would count as okay to use, since it was for college, and if not, can I pay it back, so my mom doesn't get penalized for this? I have a job now and I can definitely pay every penny back. I'm starting to get regular anxiety and panic attacks about it and I want to make it right.

Mon, 09/05/2016 - 06:11 Permalink
Patricia I … (not verified)

Hi I'm my daughters

Hi I'm my daughters payee my daughter is 9 with autism and I have been her payee for two years now I am using it for her well being like a new home school clothes shoes etc. but her father is threatening to take that away from me cuz he has no job what do I do we have 50/50 custody but I have been the one taking her to her doc appointment and more what do I do

Mon, 09/05/2016 - 16:40 Permalink

In reply to by Patricia I … (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
Generally, the only people who can decide eligibility and then also take away those benefits is the SSA. It may be a good idea to contact your caseworker if the father is contacting you regarding this.

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 12:57 Permalink
Janet (not verified)

I do not need all of my child

I do not need all of my child's benefit. Can I have it reduced?

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 14:39 Permalink

In reply to by Janet (not verified)

Hi Janet,

Hi Janet,
It may be a better idea to save those benefits if they are not needed, such as in a trust. You can find some more information on saving benefits here:

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 14:44 Permalink
Lauren (not verified)

My child is perm. disabled.

My child is perm. disabled. She is now receiving money. I see the money can be spent on shelter. Can this money be spent on 1/4th of the monthly mortgage since there are four people that live here. Also is this the same for gas,water, and electric?

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 14:54 Permalink

In reply to by Lauren (not verified)

Hi Lauren,

Hi Lauren,
While all these items may be fine to spend disability benefits on, you may want to confirm that they are with your SSA caseworker. They can give you the most detailed information regarding the things that you can spend your child's benefits on.

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 15:13 Permalink
Lauren (not verified)

In reply to by Bryan

Is there a number I can call?

Is there a number I can call? That can give me the details on this process or is it not broken down to this degree. My local casework could not help me!

Tue, 09/06/2016 - 15:42 Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If my son condition cause him

If my son condition cause him to use the restroom on his self and he have peed in the beds and on my couch can I use the backpay for new beds carpet couches and bed wetting equipment.

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 22:53 Permalink

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi there,

Hi there,
Yes, you may be able to. It may be a good idea to contact your local SSA office with any questions about what you can spend your child's benefits on, they can give you the most up-to-date information about that.

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 10:55 Permalink
Kayla (not verified)



Sat, 09/10/2016 - 14:22 Permalink

In reply to by Kayla (not verified)

Hi Kayla,

Hi Kayla,
Yes, the SSA may send you paperwork to account for your child's SSI benefits, they generally do this periodically.

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 09:49 Permalink
Shellie (not verified)

My step children are autistic

My step children are autistic and their mother wants to use their SSI benefits solely to pay for private school. She found this Autistic Academy, they are thriving with A/B's in regular school in seclusion ESE. And she wants to put the remaining funds in a savings account to pay for college? Can she do this? Even though we all know neither of them will probably go to college.

Sat, 09/10/2016 - 18:19 Permalink

In reply to by Shellie (not verified)

Hi Shellie,

Hi Shellie,
While there are many things that you can use SSI benefits for, it may be a good idea to contact the SSA if you have any doubts regarding using that money.

Tue, 09/13/2016 - 09:51 Permalink
Deborah Lagadinos (not verified)

I inherited money and now my

I inherited money and now my social security disability payment has been reduced plus my extra help in paying my Medicare part B plus paying all my medication was take away. I did not work or anything to mess this up. Who can I turn to to help

Sun, 09/11/2016 - 14:42 Permalink
Brittnay (not verified)

Can you use a child's

Can you use a child's whole social security check on rent?

Wed, 09/14/2016 - 18:27 Permalink
Madrede3 (not verified)

My son jus recently got

My son jus recently got approved for ssi check...what all can i use the $ he is approved for it is a fair amount and if i dont use all of his $ in that allotted mth what happens does he get to keep it or does it get tooken back. I was thinkin of gettin a washer and dryer for him to have constant clean clothes cause still has accidents cause is autistic also can it be used to buy diapers and wipes ...... like said am ver new to this and not tryin to have him get his benefits tooken away...thank you

Fri, 09/16/2016 - 14:30 Permalink

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