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FORUM ARCHIVE: Joining Forces to Improve the Representative Payee Program

March 27, 2017

March 27, 2017, 8:00am-4:30 pm

20 F Street NW Conference Center

With remarks from the Honorable Sam Johnson, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, Social Security Subcommittee

Summary: The Social Security Advisory Board hosted a public forum to discuss the Social Security Administration’s representative payee program. More than six million payees manage $80 billion in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 3.5 million adults and 4 million children determined to be incapable of managing their benefits. Projections indicate that the number of people needing assistance will increase dramatically in the coming decades as the population ages. The day’s discussion included the process of determining capacity, best practices, collaborative efforts and new approaches from the front lines, necessary oversight, program evaluation and preparing for the future.


Bios and Presentations

Forum 2017 Charts

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.”

In the charts below, hover the mouse over the content to view individual data points. The charts may take several seconds to load.

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.

SSAB Reports

For Representative Payee Reports, click here.




Readings Relevant to Forum Panels

Panel 1: Sounding the Alarm

Weathers, Anguelov, and Ravida: “Adult OASDI Beneficiaries and SSI Recipients Who Need Representative Payees: Projections for 2025 and 2035” (May 2015)

Han and Lachs: “Age-Associated Financial Vulnerability: An Emerging Public Health Issue” (October 2015)

Social Security Advisory Board: “Representative Payees: A Call to Action” (March 2016)

Panel 2: Identifying Who Needs a Representative Payee

Sanzenbacher and Belbase: “Cognitive Impairment and Social Security’s Representative Payee Program” (November 2016)

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: “Informing Social Security’s Process for Financial Capability Determination (March 2016)


Panel 3: Perspectives from the Front Lines (Payee Websites)


National Association of Organizational Representative Payees

Bread for the City

SMILE Payee Services


Panel 4: Monitoring Representative Payee Performance

Cate Boyko: “Trust Betrayed: Financial Abuse of Older Americans by Guardians and Others in Power” (November 2016)

Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General: “Protection and Advocacy Agencies’ Reviews of Organizational Representative Payees” (August 2013)

Social Security Administration: “Annual Report on the Results of Periodic Representative Payee Site Reviews and Other Reviews” (January 2017)


Panel 5: The Way Forward

Justice in Aging: “How SSA Can Improve the Representative Payee Program to Protect Vulnerable Seniors” (June 2016)

Administrative Conference of the United States: “SSA Representative Payee: Survey of State Guardianship Laws and Court Practices” (December 2014)


Recent Reports from Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration

Beneficiaries Whose Payments Have Been Suspended for No Child in Care and Who Are Serving as Representative Payees for Children (February 2017)

Individual Representative Payees Who Do Not Have a Social Security Number in the Social Security Administration’s Payment Records (February 2017)

Active Representative Payees Who Are Not in the Social Security Administration’s Electronic Representative Payee System (February 2017)

Disabled Beneficiaries Receiving Direct Payments Who Previously Had a Representative Payee (December 2016)

Benefits Payable to Child Beneficiaries Whose Benefits Were Withheld Pending the Selection of a Representative Payee (September 2016)


Testimony from Congressional Hearing on Representative Payees, February 7, 2017

Marianna LaCanfora, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine & Law, Columbia University

Lindsay Nichols, Senior Attorney, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence/Americans for Responsible Solutions

Gale Stallworth Stone, Acting Inspector General, Social Security Administration

Watch the full hearing.


Government Accountability Office Reports

Elder Justice: More Federal Coordination and Public Awareness Needed (July 2013)

SSA Representative Payee Program: Addressing Long-Term Challenges Requires a More Strategic Approach (May 2013)


Other Readings

Social Security Administration, FY2016 Annual Report on the Results of Periodic Representative Payee Site Reviews and Other Reviews (January 2017)

Justice in Aging, Issue Brief on Improving the Representative Payee Program to Protect Vulnerable Seniors (June 2016)

Administrative Conference of the United States, Survey of State Guardianship Laws and Court Practices (December 2014)

National Research Council, Report on Improving the Social Security Representative Payee Program (2007)