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Beneficiaries Over Age 18 Who Require A Representative Payee


If you are over age 18, Social Security may require that Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits be paid to a Representative Payee if you:

  • Are judged legally incompetent
  • Are mentally incapable of managing the benefit payments; or
  • Are physically incapable of managing or directing the management of the benefit payments.

People with a history of substance abuse are almost always required to have a Representative Payee.

Legally Incompetent

  • Social Security will assume that a beneficiary cannot manage funds if:
    • A recent court finding of incompetence is in effect; or
    • The appointment of a legal guardian was the result of a court finding of legal incompetence. As used here, a "legal guardian" means a person who has been appointed or authorized by a court, or by law, to assume control of and responsibility for the beneficiary.
  • If the legal finding of incompetence is more than one year old, court certification that the order is still in effect must be obtained.
  • To Restore A Beneficiary's Rights: A court order restoring the beneficiary's rights is required in order for the beneficiary to again take over receipt of benefits directly.

Physically Or Mentally Incompetent

  • For a beneficiary age 18 or older to be determined incapable, there must be convincing evidence of his or her lack of ability to manage or direct the management of benefit payments before a Representative Payee can be selected.  
  • The evidence may consist of:
    • Medical or legal findings; or
    • Lay evidence, such as statements of relatives, friends, and other people in a position to know and observe the beneficiary.
  • Medical evidence of a person's inability to handle benefit payments depends on the situation, as follows:
    • If the beneficiary is not in an institution: A signed statement from a physician who examined the beneficiary within the past year and knows of the beneficiary's present condition;
    • If the beneficiary is or was recently in an institution which has a medical staff or medical officer (physician) in attendance: A signed statement by the medical officer of the institution; or
    • If the beneficiary is in an institution that does not have a physician in attendance: A statement completed by a physician called in to examine the beneficiary.
  • The physician's statement must give:
    • A medical diagnosis;
    • Prognosis; and
    • An opinion of the beneficiary's capability to manage or direct the management of benefit payments.
    • Special forms for this purpose are available from Social Security offices. 

To Restore A Beneficiary's Rights:

  • If a court order declared the beneficiary to be incompetent: A court order restoring the beneficiary's rights is required in order for the beneficiary to again take over receipt of benefits directly.
  • If there is no court order declaring an individual to be incompetent, then no court order is needed to change an individual to direct payment. However, as noted, evidence needs to be submitted to show that the individual is now capable of handling his or her own affairs. 

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