To ensure that all beneficiaries can receive their payments and make proper use of funds, Congress has granted the Social Security Administration (SSA) the authority to appoint third parties, known as representative payees, to receive and manage payments when the beneficiary is unable to do so.
A representative payee is an individual or organization appointed by SSA to receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for someone who cannot manage or instruct someone else to manage his or her income. The representative payee program is critical for older adults and people with disabilities who are unable to manage their own finances. A properly trained, qualified representative payee can also play a large role in recognizing and preventing elder financial abuse.
The individual seeking to become a representative payee must file an application with the local field office or online. In choosing a representative payee, SSA will first look to family and friends. Individuals aware of the beneficiary’s daily needs and lifestyle are best suited to serve in this role. If no family or friends are available, SSA may appoint a qualified organization to serve as payee.
Serving as a representative payee is a serious legal duty. SSA encourages payees to take an active role in the beneficiary’s life. However, until recently, SSA has provided little or no training to ensure that payees are qualified to serve the important function of managing vulnerable older adults’ benefits and finances.
To cure the training deficiency in the program, the Social Security Administration recently released a training video series for Representative Payees and others who work with older adults. The video series provides key information for serving as a representative payee, including:
- an overview of programs administered by SSA;
- representative payee program policies;
- roles, duties and responsibilities for representative payees;
- recognizing signs of abuse and financial exploitation;
- how to recognize financial abuse and fraud in banking activities;
- and changes in decisional capacity, including the need to support beneficiaries in decision-making.
The training videos can be accessed on the SSA website, here: Representative Payee Interdisciplinary Training