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In April 2018, the President signed into law bipartisan Congressional legislation updating the Representative Payee program.

Since 1939, the Act has allowed for Representative Payees for Social Security beneficiaries who have not been able to manage their own funds. That program has not been updated in many years until recent passage of this legislation.

The ‘Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017’ was supported by both political parties and got wide-spread support, including from the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR).

Among other changes the law eliminates the need for annual accounting by representative payees who are parents of a minor or disabled child who lives in the same household. The spouse of a disabled person who is living with the beneficiary is also excluded from annual reporting.

The bill addresses ongoing concerns with representative payees of foster children. The Act requires SSA to conduct a study of foster children with representative payees and to determine the appropriateness of the payee and whether their conduct has been in the best interest of the child.

Another provision will allow beneficiaries who expect that they will need representative payees to make the designation at any time, even if the application for disability has not been approved. Often we see claimants who finally obtain approval of their benefits but then face several months of delays after they find that a representative payee is required and they need to identify an appropriate individual or agency. This “pre-designation” will save much time when benefits are being processed. However, this helpful provision will not go into effect until April 2020.

Selection of the best representative payee can often be challenging. The Act clarifies that almost anyone convicted of a felony, or convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony, is barred from being a representative payee.

In addition, another often farcical loophole has been closed in that someone who has a representative payee to manage their benefits can not serve as representative payee for another person.

Other provisions In the bill
require Social Security to expand its audits of representative payees, and to conduct studies of the roles of representative payees with the foster care system. SSA will be required to supply grants to each state’s protection and advocacy system for the expanded audit system. Social Security is required to report annually to Congress on its supervision of the representative payee system.

These are generally good ideas to help protect the most disabled beneficiaries. The hope is that now that Congress has passed the legislation, and it has been signed into law by the President, that there is funding given to the agency to meet its new obligations.

Do YOU have questions?

Many community groups help people with disabilities file for Social Security Disability benefits and act as representative payees. If you or your colleagues would like us to come to your offices or meetings to conduct an in-service or training on Social Security Disability issues,