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Financial Independence: What you can expect from Payeeships

What is a Representative Payee?

A representative payee is someone assigned by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help a person who receives Social Security or SSI manage their money. This happens when a person with a mental or physical disability is determined to be incapable of handling their money in their best interests.

Who can be a payee?

A payee can be a social service agency, a relative, or another person who is approved by SSA. Under the Wisconsin patients’ rights law, an agency or facility can act as a payee only under certain circumstances: when the consumer or their guardian gives written informed consent for this service or when another suitable payee cannot be found.

Is a payee the same thing as a guardian?

No. Payees are only responsible for helping you manage your SSI and Social Security payments. Their first responsibility is to use those funds to meet your basic and personal needs. They have no authority over your personal decisions orover other property you own.

Who decided that I need a payee?

People who are found to be legally incompetent or who have a diagnosis of a substance abuse disorder are required to have payees. Otherwise, someone must have approached SSA with concerns regarding your ability to manage your money. A form must be completed, and a signed statement of a medical professional (most often a doctor) who has treated you in the last year is usually required. SSA will then investigate to decide whether you need a payee. They may take into account: medical and court records (especially findings of incompetence), statements from your doctor and other people who know you, the kind of disability you have, and the likelihood of recovery. SSA will send a notice if they plan to appoint a payee for you.

What if I don’t agree with their decision?

If you find out that you are going to be assigned a payee and you don’t believe you need a payee, you should call SSA right away and tell them you plan to appeal. You should also send them a certified letter telling them that you plan to appeal. The letter needs to be received within 10 days of the date on the notice that they sent If you want to continue receiving your benefits while yourself while SSA is reconsidering their decision. Otherwise, you have sixty days to file your appeal. SSA will reconsider their decision, and gather additional information from you and others. If you are still not satisfied with their decision, you can appeal to an administrative law judge.

What if I’m dissatisfied and want a different payee?

You have a right to ask for and receive records showing you how your money has been used, and how much money you currently have. You can also apply to have a new payee, of your choosing, through SSA. If you feel like your payee is not using your money properly, you should definitely report it to SSA. If your payee misused your money and they were not properly investigated or monitored by SSA, you may be able to receive restitution.

How can I become my own payee?

Call or write SSA and let them know you want to become your own payee. SSA will make a determination after talking to you, your current payee, your doctor, and other people who know about your ability to manage money. You should be prepared to submit information to help your case: a letter from your doctor stating that you are capable of managing your own money, copies of court orders which demonstrate your competency, and letters from other professionals, relatives, and friends.

Can an agency who is also my payee charge me for managing my money?

Yes, agencies are authorized by SSA to collect fees, under certain conditions -up to 10% of your combined Social Security benefits or $35 per month, whichever Is less. Many agencies do not charge a fee for payee services.