Learn About Our Programs: The Representative Payee Program!

Program News
January 25, 2024

Since 2018, Disability Rights DC (DRDC) has been working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to monitor the representative payees of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries in DC. Some Social Security or SSI beneficiaries need help with managing their benefits. For this reason, SSA assigns some beneficiaries a representative payee (payee). These are people or institutions that manage beneficiaries' Social Security or SSI payments. For example, payees include family members, nursing facilities, and social service organizations. DRDC reviews payees on behalf of SSA to make sure that they are following SSA policy. In this feature, we take a moment to highlight the important work that DRDC has been able to do under this program!

The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 kickstarted the program. This was an effort by Congress to increase independent oversight of SSA's Representative Payee Program. The Act requires SSA to award grants to Protection and Advocacy (P&A) programs in each state to monitor payees. DRDC, as DC's P&A, uses this funding to review selected payees and make sure that they are fulfilling their responsibilities. These responsibilities include meeting with beneficiaries, spending beneficiaries' funds to meet their basic needs, saving any remaining funds for their future use, and keeping detailed records of their funds and expenditures. DRDC receives technical support from and collaborates with the National Disability Rights Network in this work.

Payees are selected for review based on a number of factors. Some, for example, are subject to mandatory review every 3 to 4 years under federal law. DRDC can also refer payees for review, pending SSA approval, when we receive information of payees with potential problems. The overall review process includes three parts. First, DRDC interviews the payee to determine whether they are following SSA policies. In this step, DRDC also counsels the payee on their responsibilities according to SSA guidelines. Second, DRDC reviews payees' financial records for a sample of the beneficiaries that they serve. Third, DRDC conducts separate interviews and home visits with each selected beneficiary. These meetings allow DRDC to learn about beneficiaries' experience with the payee and identify any unmet needs. If needed, DRDC provides payees with corrective action plans to address any issues identified during the review.

Since 2018, DRDC has completed 27 reviews of payees and continues to work on ongoing reviews. DRDC has worked with payees to improve their financial recordkeeping, complete their annual accounting reports, and ensure correct bank account ownership and titling. We have also made sure that beneficiaries in institutional settings receive their personal needs allowance. Additionally, this program has helped DRDC work on our overarching mission. As DC's P&A, DRDC is responsible for protecting the rights of people with disabilities and monitoring the institutions that serve them. This program allows us to meet clients who might otherwise not have known about our services. Our work with payees also allows us to address concerning practices in institutions that we may otherwise not have access to.

Look out for updates on this work in our upcoming newsletter!

This newsletter piece is funded through a Social Security grant agreement. Although Social Security reviewed this document for accuracy, it does not constitute an official Social Security communication.

We developed this newsletter at U.S. taxpayer expense.

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