Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a Social Security Beneficiary?
- A beneficiary is a person who receives Social Security and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Social Security and SSI are two different programs and both are administered by SSA.
What is a Representative Payee?
- A representative payee is an individual or organization appointed by SSA to receive Social Security and/or SSI benefits for someone who cannot manage or direct someone else to manage his or her money. The main responsibilities of a payee are to use the benefits to pay for the current and foreseeable needs of the beneficiary and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs. A payee must also keep records of expenses. When SSA requests a report, a payee must provide an accounting to SSA of how benefits were used or saved.
- NOTE: Having power of attorney, being an authorized representative, or having a joint bank account with the beneficiary is not the same thing as being a payee. These arrangements do not give legal authority to negotiate and manage a beneficiary's Social Security and/or SSI payments. In order to be a payee, a person or organization must apply for and be appointed by SSA.
Who Needs a Representative Payee?
- The law requires most minor children and all legally incompetent adults to have payees. In all other situations, adult beneficiaries are presumed to be capable of managing benefits. If there is evidence to the contrary, however, SSA may gather evidence and determine there is a need to appoint a representative payee.
What are the Duties of a Representative Payee?
- A payee acts on behalf of the beneficiary. A payee is responsible for everything related to benefits that a capable beneficiary would do for himself or herself. SSA encourages payees to go beyond just managing finances and to be actively involved in the beneficiary's life. The following lists the required duties of a payee.
• Determine the beneficiary's needs and use his or her payments to meet those needs.
• Save any money left after meeting the beneficiary's current needs in an interest-bearing account or savings bonds for the beneficiary's future needs.
• Report any changes or events which could affect the beneficiary's eligibility for benefits or payment amount.
• Keep records of all payments received and how they are spent and/or saved.
• Provide benefit information to social service agencies or medical facilities that serve the beneficiary.
• Notify SSA of any changes in the payee’s circumstances that would affect their performance or ability to continue as payee.
• Complete written reports accounting for the use of funds.
• Return any payments to which the beneficiary is not entitled to SSA.
What Does a Representative Payee Do for Me?
- Your payee receives your payments for you and must use the money to pay for your current needs. After your payee pays those expenses for you, your payee can use the rest of the money to pay any past-due bills you may have, provide entertainment for you, or save the money for your future use.
What happens if the client’s expenses exceed the client’s income?
- Lighthouse Associates budget priorities start with food and shelter. Additional bills are paid based on the level of priority until all funds are exhausted. Lighthouse has no reserved funds to assist clients with bills once client funds are depleted.
What happens to client funds when Lighthouse Associates is no longer their Representative Payee?
- Upon receipt of a letter from the Social Security Administration appointing a new Representative Payee, Lighthouse Associates will return any conserved funds to the Social Security Administration unless other arrangements have been made. The Social Security Administration will then forward the funds to the newly appointed representative payee. A final report will be submitted to the Social Security Administration.
What is a Guardian?
- A Guardian is an individual or agency that has been court-appointed to have legal authority and corresponding duty to care for the personal and property interests of another individual. There are typically three types of Guardianships: Guardianship for a minor, Guardianship for an incapacitated senior, or Guardianship for a developmentally disabled adult. Guardianships may include authority over residential, educational, medical, legal, vocational, financial, and/or long-term care facility placement.
Does a Guardian assist in finding housing, arranging transportation, or applying for services on behalf of the client?
- Because clients are encouraged to be self-sufficient, Lighthouse Associates will make referrals and then encourage clients to apply for needed services when they are able to do so. If the client is unable to arrange for needed services, Lighthouse will arrange for services on behalf of the client as necessary.
If Lighthouse Associates is appointed as Guardian, will the client be removed from their home and placed in a nursing facility?
- Each case is assessed individually with the goal of ensuring that a client is in the least restrictive setting possible. If there are no safety concerns or if safety concerns can be reasonably resolved in the home setting, Lighthouse Associates will continue to keep clients in their home environment for as long as possible. However, if remaining in the home setting is no longer appropriate, Lighthouse will seek a placement outside of the home in the least restrictive setting possible. While nursing facilities are on avenue of placement, others include assisted living, family care providers, or relative placement if appropriate. Paid caregivers providing 24-hour care in the home are another option to consider, but often prove to be more expensive than alternative options.
What happens to client funds when Lighthouse Associates is no longer their Guardian/Conservator?
- Upon receipt of the order of the court appointing a new Guardian or Conservator, Lighthouse Associates will turn over all assets to the newly-appointed individual or agency. A final report detailing transactions from the last periodic settlement until the funds were released is then submitted to the District Court for approval.