You were relieved when your relative’s Social Security benefits were approved, but now you are wondering if a denial would have been a blessing in disguise. Your loved one is somehow never able to account for the money he receives every month, and is less and less able to pay his bills on time. Is there a way you can take control of his benefits to make sure he is well-cared for?

What Can Representative Payees Buy With Social Security Disability Checks?

Under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Representative Payment Program, beneficiaries who are unable to manage their money can rely on a responsible party to take control of their benefit payments. In most cases, relatives or friends are be asked to serve as representative payees.

If you have agreed to be a representative payee, you should know that the position comes with a great deal of responsibility. SSA will deposit the benefit amount in an account with the beneficiary’s name, but you will be given access to the money to use on his or her behalf. There are many limitations on what can and cannot be bought for a beneficiary using benefit funds, including:

  • Housing. Your first duty is to ensure that the beneficiary has proper food and shelter. If he or she is in a nursing home, you may use the disability benefits to pay for the institution’s costs of care. However, patients in nursing homes may require additional personal items that aren’t provided by the home, so payees should allow a minimum of $30 per month to pay for the beneficiary’s supplemental needs.
  • Medical care. If the beneficiary has any medical needs that are not covered by health insurance, you may use his disability funds for health-related expenses, such as dental appointments (including dentures), walkers or wheelchairs, physical rehabilitation, therapy sessions, or insurance premiums.
  • Living improvements. If the beneficiary’s medical and housing needs have been met, the benefits may be spent to improve the beneficiary’s daily life. This can include new clothing, better living conditions, furniture, or a move to a better location within an institution.
  • Education. Social Security funds can be used for tuition or educational fees if the beneficiary wants to return to school, take a class, or take a special training course.
  • Recreation. Recreational activities are considered part of a beneficiary’s daily living requirements, so disability benefits may be spent on movies, magazine subscriptions, concerts, or transportation for day trips.

The SSA requires that any money that is left over after you have secured the beneficiary’s needs, must be placed in an interest-bearing savings account for future use. If you have questions, call Cuddigan Law today or order our free guide, 5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Case.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska