By: Barbara Duckett

During the holiday season, we surround ourselves with family and friends, some of whom may rely on us for a number of reasons. An aging parent might need help clearing snow. A sibling may require help after a surgery. And as we get older, our family members may need help managing their finances. In fact, more than eight million people who get monthly Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits need help managing their money.

If you have a loved one who cannot manage their finances, you may be able to become a representative payee. We thoroughly investigate people who apply to be representative payees to protect the interests of Social Security beneficiaries, because a representative payee receives the beneficiary’s payments and is given the authority to use them on the beneficiary’s behalf.

Social Security appoints a representative payee to manage Social Security and SSI funds only. A payee has no legal authority to manage non-Social Security income or medical matters.

As a representative payee, you must know what the beneficiary’s needs are so you can decide the best use of benefits for their care and well-being. This is especially important if the beneficiary doesn’t live with you. Each year, Social Security may ask you to complete a form to account for the benefits you’ve received. You can either fill out the form and return it to Social Security or go online at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee to file the report.

Due to a recent change in the law, we no longer require the following payees to complete an annual Representative Payee Report:

o   Natural or adoptive parents of a minor child beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the child;

o   Legal guardians of a minor child beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household as the child;

o   Natural or adoptive parents of a disabled adult beneficiary who primarily reside in the same household with the beneficiary; and

o   Spouse of a beneficiary.

Taking care of family is something we do all year long, not just during this holiday season. Becoming a representative payee is a selfless act of kindness. You can read more about becoming a representative payee at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10076.pdf.