Helping your Loved Ones with Their Social Security Benefits

Family members who have been appointed as the agent of their loved one’s Power of Attorney are often surprised to learn that this document does not enable them to act on that loved one’s behalf with the Social Security Administration. If that person wants to help that loved one manage his or her Social Security benefits, he or she may want to consider applying to be a representative payee.

A representative payee is someone who receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments on behalf of a person not capable of managing the funds on his or her own. A representative payee makes sure an individual’s basic needs are met by using the money to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the person and saving any money left over in an interest-bearing account or via savings bonds for the beneficiary’s future needs. This may be the same person who is the agent on the Power of Attorney, or the Fiduciary for purposes of receiving VA benefits, but it does not need to be.

According to the Social Security Administration, a representative payee must know the person’s needs so he or she can decide the best way to meet those needs with the benefits provided, and her or she will be responsible for letting Social Security know about any changes that may affect the person’s eligibility for benefits or the payment amount.  Finally, that representative payee must complete a yearly report of how the funds were spent. (It is now possible to do this online).

The Social Security Administration Publication, A Guide For Representative Payees, can be found at  You may also want to visit the webpage, “When People Need Help Managing Their Money,” at

It can be very frustrating for family members, who thought that all of the planning tools were in place, to learn that there are additional steps to follow in order to assist with everything that may need to be done for their loved one.  However, when it seems like we are reading about a new breach of our personal data every time we open the newspaper, it can be reassuring to know that the Social Security Administration is taking extra precautions with this major source of our loved ones’ income.


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