September 5, 2012

What Happens To The Money In Children’s SSI Cases?

I represent many families with children who have disabilities at the hearings level in Indiana.  I believe I handle more children’s cases than many of my counterparts.  In fact, some attorneys tell me they simply will not take children’s disability claims at all.  Children’s disabilities can vary greatly, and the mental and physical problems caused by these health condition(s) can be devastating.  I often sit at the hearing and wonder, “When my client is awarded benefits, who is going to manage the money, and how will the money be used?”

In children’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases it is important to first understand Social Security’s income and resource restrictions.  If a family makes too much money, or if the family’s assets such as its vehicles, house, or bank accounts are worth too much, that family probably will not qualify for SSI benefits.  A family that does qualify for SSI is most likely struggling quite a bit to pay for for medical expenses, rent, food, and clothing.  Once a child is awarded SSI benefits, the family is eager to find out what types of expenses can be paid with SSI benefits, and who will be responsible for spending the money.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) has guidelines as to how those monies should be spent and who will do the spending.

First, most minor children are required to have a representative payee who will manage their SSI payments.  The representative payee is required to:

  • Use the payments to meet the needs of the beneficiary (i.e., the child)
  • Save any money left over
  • Report any changes
  • Keep good records
  • Help the beneficiary get medical treatment
  • Notify SSA of changes in payee’s circumstances
  • Complete accounting reports regarding the use of funds
  • Return any monies beneficiary is not entitled to

Now the big question – what can SSI payments be used for?  The Social Security Administration states that the uses for these payments should be:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Utilities
  • Dental and medical care
  • Personal comfort items
  • Reasonably foreseeable needs

The representative payee is required to use the funds in the best interest of the beneficiary.  I have heard from some parents of the children I have represented that the SSA has been keeping a closer eye on how the child’s benefits are being spent.  Although representative payees have some discretion in managing a child’s payments, I always hope the representative payees are dong the right thing and spending the money on the needs of the child in a responsible way.

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