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Charts on the Social Security Representative Payee Program


The following chart collection features data on Social Security’s representative payee program. The Social Security Administration (SSA) assigns a representative payee when it determines that a beneficiary is unable to manager his or her own funds. SSA considers legal evidence, medical evidence, and/or statements from relatives, friends, and other people familiar with the beneficiary to make the determination that a representative payee is needed. Payees are most commonly assigned to manage benefits for children and beneficiaries with disabilities (both from the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs). For more background on the program, see the Board's past work on the topic.

For simplicity, beneficiaries of the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program and recipients of the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) will be collectively referred to as "Social Security beneficiaries."

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Nearly 8 million Social Security beneficiaries have a representative payee

The majority of beneficiaries with a payee (4.78 million) come from the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. This includes primary workers, but also spouses and children who may receive benefits when a primary worker retires, becomes disabled, or dies. About 2.5 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients have a payee, as do about 630,000 recipients of both SSI and OASDI benefits. Use the selector in the chart below to toggle between adult and child beneficiaries.

Representative payees are most common in the SSI program

While OASDI beneficiaries make up the largest number of participants with a payee, payees are much more common in the SSI program. SSI is a means-tested cash transfer program serving the blind, disabled, and elderly. About 45% of the 8.3 million SSI recipients have a payee, compared to just 8.4% of OASDI beneficiaries. Among adults, 30% of SSI recipients have a payee, compared to 3.3% of OASDI beneficiaries. Use the selector in the chart below to toggle between adult and child beneficiaries.

Among OASDI adult beneficiaries, those with disabilities are most likely to have a payee

Retired workers have relatively low rates of payee assignment at just 1.3%. Just over 10% of workers with disabilities have a payee, while nearly 75% of adult children with disabilities have a payee.

Payee assignment rates are highest among children, much lower among the elderly

Nearly every child receiving some sort of Social Security program benefit (SSI, OASDI, or both) has a payee. While rates of payee assignment tend to decrease with age, the number of beneficiaries with a payee does not, as adults are more likely to join the Social Security programs with age.

65% of beneficiaries with a payee are children or elderly

When considering the age distribution beneficiaries with a payee, it becomes clearer that beneficiaries aged 65 or older do indeed collectively have a large need for payees. While the rate of elderly beneficiaries with a payee is low, they do make up the second largest age category in terms of number of payees representing them, since there many more elderly Social Security beneficiaries compared to younger adults.

Most representative payees are related to the beneficiary

Institutional payees are relatively uncommon among beneficiaries with a payee. Most adult recipients deemed in need have a parent, child, spouse, or other relative serving as their payee. Among children, parents are by far the most common type of payee.