Real Possibilities

March 12-18, 2018

Managing Social Security for another


By Nan Selz
Executive Council, AARP Arkansas

Millions of Americans are managing money or property for family members or friends who are unable to handle their own affairs. One aspect of this task is serving as a representative payee with the Social Security Administration (SSA) for another individual. Representative payee is the term the SSA uses for an individual who handles benefits on behalf of someone else.


New legislation is pending that would make it easier for individuals to file for Social Security benefits on behalf of a family member. In February a bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously that reduces the paperwork required for a person to serve as a representative payee.


The legislation would exempt most representative payees who are family members from having to submit an annual SSA accounting form detailing how the benefits were spent. This legislation defines family member as a beneficiary’s spouse, a parent or legal guardian living with a child who receives benefits, or a parent living with an adult child.


The money saved by eliminating this paperwork would be used to conduct higher-quality monitoring of the payees in order to combat incidents of abuse, fraud and misconduct. For example, the agency might provide grants to states to conduct on-site reviews and educational visits with payees.


In fiscal year 2016, approximately 6 million representative payees managed $70 billion in Social Security benefits. The SSA spends an estimated $95 million per year analyzing these forms which rarely reveals misuse of funds.


The number of retired workers who receive Social Security benefits and need a representative payee is expected to grow 48 percent from 2013 to 2025. The legislation will help prepare the agency for this anticipated increase.


Supporters hope to get a similar measure introduced in the Senate.


For more information about this legislation, go to



  • Nan Selz
    Nan Selz