Representative Payee

If an individual age 18 and over is receiving Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and is unable to manage their money due to mental or physical impairments, a Representative Payee can be appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage only the Social Security, SSI or SSDI payments.  A physician may be required to complete Form SSA-787 to certify the individual’s mental or physical impairment(s).

The SSA looks to family, friends or an organization to help manage only benefits received from SSA. SSA appoints suitable payees to manage the payment on behalf of the Social Security beneficiary. Generally, SSA looks for family or friends to serve as payees. When family or friends are not able to serve as payees, SSA looks for qualified organizations.

A payee’s main duties are to use the SSA benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the Social Security/SSDI beneficiary or SSI recipient, and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs. A payee must also keep records of expenses. SSA will contact payees to complete Representative Payee Annual Report. Family or friends can call 1-800-772-1213 to request an appointment with SSA to discuss concerns about their loved one’s ability to manage their Social Security benefit. The individual must usually appear in person for a capability determination.

Advance Designation of a payee is possible. Advance Designation is the act of naming individuals in advance as potential representative payees for SSA consideration should the need arise in the future. It is not an appointment of a payee. Advance designation is voluntary and can be changed by the beneficiary at any time. Advance designation is not a power of attorney either. If you become incapable of managing your payments, SSA will first look to your advance designees for a suitable payee before others.

You must apply for or be receiving Social Security, SSDI, or SSI to advance designate. You can complete an Advance Designation of a Representative Payee online during a new benefit application, or if you are receiving benefits in your mySocialSecurity account, or by using mailing form SSA-4547 to your SSA field office. This form is available as a hand out at your SSA office or by mail when you call SSA.

You may appoint up to three advance designees. SSA collects the following information for each advance designee:

  • Name of the advance designee
  • Telephone number of the advance designee
  • Relationship to the advance designee (optional)

If and when a payee is needed, SSA has the name(s) and way to contact the individuals named in the Advance Designation form. SSA then begins the process to select a payee. In order to be selected the advance designee must be able and willing to serve, and must satisfy the investigation requirement and prohibitions. SSA considers the advance designees, one at a time, in the order listed by the beneficiary. SSA selects the first advance designee from the beneficiary’s list who meets the criteria for payee selection. If the first advance designee is able, willing, and suitable, SSA will select that person to serve as payee. There is no need to develop the second or third advance designees.

If the first designee is not able, willing, or suitable, SSA will develop the second, and then the third if necessary. If none of the advance designees meet the selection criteria, SSA will then consider other individuals or organizations following their normal payee order of preference.

Common Terms for Payees

Beneficiary: A beneficiary is a person who is entitled to Social Security benefits, including retirement, survivor, and disability benefits, including dependent benefits based on their own or another person's work.

Recipient: A recipient is a person who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments due to age or disability. SSI payments are based on income and resources and may be be paid in addition to Social Security benefits. A SSI recipient may also be a Social Security beneficiary.

Representative Payee: A representative payee (payee) manages ONLY Social Security benefits and/or SSI payments for beneficiaries/recipients who are incapable of managing their Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Social Security law and regulations require payees to use the payments they receive for the current needs of the individual and in their best interests. Payees should go beyond just managing payments and be actively involved in the individual’s life. 

How to Become Representative Payee

The family member or friend looking to become the payee needs to contact SSA to start the process.

Call 1-800-772-1213 for an appointment or walk-in to the individual's local Social Security office with the individual.

SSA must make their own capability determination, even if a doctor may have recommended the person should have a payee, unless a court has already determined the individual is incapable.

If a doctor or other medical professional believes the beneficiary/recipient needs a payee, they can call SSA and request a form SSA-787 to submit to SSA.

Form SSA-787 (Physician’s/Medical Officer’s Statement of Patient’s Capability to Manage Benefits) is used to document any medical opinions about the claimant's physical or mental ability to manage or direct payments.

Complete a face-to-face interview with SSA to complete form SSA-11.

Form SSA-11 (Request to be Selected as Payee) is completed in person with a SSA representative.

You must provide your Social Security number or employer identification number.

SSA will determine if the beneficiary/recipient needs a payee, and if so will select one and issue all future payments to the payee.

SSA will notify all payee applicants of their decision, if they are selected or not.

Individuals are presumed capable, and have the right to refute any request to have a payee appointed, unless a court has declared the individual incapable.


How to Advance Designate a Representative Payee

SSA is currently only accepting advance designations from individuals who are applying for, or already receiving Social Security, SSDI, and/or SSI.

You will need the following information about each designee:

Full name

Telephone number

Relationship to you

In your mySocialSecurity account if you are already receiving Social Security, SSDI or SSI

In an online application for Social Security, SSDI, and SSI

Complete a form SSA-4547 and return it in person or by mail to a Social Security office.

Change your advance designees at any time online through your mySocialSecurity account, by phone, in person, or mail.

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