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New Law Provides Added Protection to Social Security Beneficiaries

Representative payees will face tougher scrutiny.

In April 2018,  the H.R. 4547 amended titles II, VIII and XVI of the Social Security Act to improve and strengthen Social Security’s oversight into the Representative Payee Program for beneficiaries who are incapable of managing their Social Security or SSI payments.

What’s a Representative Payee?

Representative payees can be either individuals or organizations who receive the Social Security benefits for individuals who can’t manage or direct the management of their own benefits. Serving as a representative payee is an important responsibility. Representative payees must use the benefits to pay for the current and future needs of the beneficiary and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs. Additionally, representative payees must preserve expense receipts and prepare statements to account to the Social Security Administration. You can find more information regarding the duties of a representative payee on SSA’s website.

What Does the New Act Change?

Under the new law, states must conduct periodic onsite reviews of individual and organizational payees. The law prohibits individuals who’ve been convicted of a felony, or of an attempt or a conspiracy to commit a felony, from serving as representative payees. Beginning in January 2019, the SSA may revoke certification of payment of benefits to any individual serving as a representative payee who fails to grant permission to conduct background checks. Additionally, the law bars an individual who has a representative payee himself from serving as a representative payee for another.

The law also allows for beneficiary autonomy. The law provides for advance designation of representative payees, whereby the beneficiary may choose his representative payee. The beneficiary can choose a relative, friend or other interested party to serve as the representative payee. Under the new law, if a parent who resides in the same household as the beneficiary or is a spouse of the beneficiary serves as the representative payee, they don’t have to account annually. The purpose of this change is in recognition that parents and spouses typically know the beneficiary’s needs and have their best interest in mind. As such, to encourage parents and spouses to take on this responsibility, the law reduces the burden of annual accounting.

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