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SSI: the duties of a Social Security representative payee

An individual or organization in New Jersey may receive Supplemental Security Income on behalf of recipient who cannot handle their own funds and business affairs because they are a minor or have an incapacity. A representative payee (rep payee) must undergo an interview and approval process.

A rep payee is not the same as a person holding a power of attorney. A person acting under a power of attorney must act in the best interests of the person who granted the power and spend funds for that person's benefit. In fact, the Social Security Administration does not recognize a power of attorney.

A rep payee must determine the beneficiary's needs and use SSI benefits to meet those needs. Records on benefits and their use or savings must be maintained. A rep payee should also prepare written reports on the funds use.

Any excess SSI funds should be placed in an interest bearing or similar account for the future needs of the beneficiary such as food, clothing, housing and health care. If the beneficiary is receiving funds for which they are not entitled, the representative payee must return them to the SSA.

A rep payee is obligated to report anything that could affect the beneficiary's eligibility for benefits or a change in the amount that is received. They also should notify the SSA if they are unable to serve as a representative payee.

They should also give information on the SSI benefits to Social Security agencies or health care facilities that provide benefits to the beneficiary. A rep payee must obtain necessary health care for the beneficiary.

If Medicaid is involved, the certified institution may become a rep payee and coordinate benefits with the currently serving rep payee. When a beneficiary is not covered by Medicaid or in its certified facility, the rep payee should place payment priority on the beneficiary's current maintenance and institutional charges and other items that will assist with recovery or release from the institution.

A rep payee cannot use SSI benefits for their services or personal expenses even though they may be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses if records are kept. These benefits may not be commingled in a rep payee's personal account.

A lawyer may assist a beneficiary with seeking SSI benefits. They can help with setting up their personal accounts to provide for the beneficiary's needs.

Source: Daily Local News, "Collliton: The ins and outs of being a Social Security representative payee," Janet M. Colliton, March 20, 2017

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