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Managing Your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income Benefit

Introduction

Many older Texans receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) every month. You may be in a nursing home or elsewhere and have trouble handling your benefit. But that does not mean you need a guardian. Instead, you or someone else can ask the Social Security Administration to appoint someone to help you handle your benefit. That person is called a Representative Payee. Your benefit can be sent to the Representative Payee, who will use it to pay your bills.Having a Representative Payee is a good choice for some adults whose only income is from Social Security or SSI. It is not a good solution for people with more complicated financial situations.

Do I have to be legally incompetent to get a Representative Payee?

No. But you must explain why it is difficult to handle your Social Security or SSI benefit.  

How do I ask for a Representative Payee?

You, or a relative, friend, or guardian can ask. You do not need to go to court. But you will have to fill out Social Security Form SSA-11-BK. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.  The TTY number is 1-800-325-0778.  You will also have to give Social Security information from the past year that shows you are having trouble handling your affairs, like:

  • Court documents (saying you are incompetent)
  • A report from your doctor
  • Statements from you, your family or other people who know you

Not all of those documents will be needed in every case.  For instance, a court order is not needed in many instances.  But if there is a court order stating that a Social Security or SSI recipient is incompetent, that will be important as Social Security decides whether to appoint a representative payee.  If Social Security decides that you need a Representative Payee, they will appoint a one.  

Who can be my Representative Payee?

Your Representative Payee can be a person or an organization. Social Security will try to pick what is best for you. They give preference to certain people, starting with:

  • Your guardian, spouse or other relative
  • A friend
  • A public or non-profit agency
  • A private institution
  • Anyone else who is qualified and willing to serve 

What if I am not happy with Social Security’s decision?

If you disagree with Social Security’s decision to appoint a Representative Payee for you, or you are not happy with the person appointed, you can appeal, by requesting “reconsideration.”  

What will my Representative Payee do?

Your Representative Payee will receive your benefit each month and use it to:

  • Pay for your needs like housing, clothes, food, medical care, nursing home or other needs
  • Provide for your spouse, child and/or parent
  • Pay your debts
  • Make investments and savings for you

Your Representative must also:

  • Keep careful records of how your money was spent
  • File a written report with Social Security each year about your financial situation
  • Tell Social Security about any changes in your situation that would affect your benefits
  • Let Social Security know about any changes in his/her situation 

Can I get a new Representative Payee?

Yes, if your present Representative has:

  • Used your money improperly,
  • Not filed a report or cooperated with Social Security,
  • Died, or
  • Said he/she does not want to be your Representative anymore.

What if I do not want a Representative Payee any more?

You must show Social Security you are able to handle your checks again. You must provide evidence like:

  • A statement from your doctor
  • Certified copy of a court order that says you are no longer incompetent
  • Other evidence that says you can manage your affairs

What if I receive benefits from other agencies?

Many other federal agencies, like Veterans Affairs, can also appoint a Representative Payee. Contact the agency where your benefit is from to find out more. 

Where can I get more information or help?

Your Texas Area Agency on Aging, by calling   (800) 252-9240

Texas Law Help has useful information on many areas of the law. Go to www.texaslawhelp.org.

Legal Hotline for Texans: (800) 622-2520 or (512) 477-3950

Call our attorney-staffed legal hotline. Advice is free for Texans 60 and over or for anyone eligible
for Medicare.