Social Security and You – New Advance Designation for Representative Payee

Social Security Benefits Application Form.

Finally, a column that is not related to the Coronavirus. Enjoy!

For years, decades, even centuries, you have been able to designate in advance your agent to handle a multitude of different matters:  your will, your finances, your medical decisions, even your funeral. What you have not been able to do is designate a person to handle your social security. 

Until now, that is. Ta-da! On April 6, 2020, with relatively little fanfare, your friendly Social Security Administration announced that a new option to make an Advance Designation that names a recipient’s preference for the person to serve as his or her representative payee.  

All kidding aside, this is big deal.  Under existing law, anybody and his brother could apply to be your rep payee.  A rep payee receives your social security payment and then is supposed to use it to pay your expenses.  Can you imagine the mischief that could be wrought by a bad actor serving as your rep payee?  

Now you can actually have a voice in who is chosen, but you need to do it while you have capacity.  The Advance Designation feature is available only to “capable” adults and emancipated minors who are applying for or receiving Social Security Benefits, SSI or Special Veterans Benefits. 

You can designate up to 3 people who could serve as a representative payee for you should the need arise, and you can withdraw your choices, put them in a different order, and name new choices at any time. And, lest you forget who you designated, the SSA has promised to send you a notice each year listing your advance designees for your review.

What happens after you make your designation?  When the SSA thinks you need help managing your benefits, the SSA will contact your advance designees.  The SSA reserves the right, of course, to toss out any and all of your advance designees and make its own appointment.  

How do you do make the designation?  The best idea is by submission on the SSA website, since telephone, in person and in writing may be unavailable or back-logged during these troubled times. Use this link to get to the mysocialsecurity website:  https://secure.ssa.gov/adrp/adrp-internet/. After logging in, you will find a box titled “Advance Designation of Representative Payee” toward the bottom of the page. You need the following information for each of your designated reps: name, phone number and relationship to you.  

Who should you name?  Like three wishes from a genie, you don’t want to waste any of your 3 names. Your choices should each be someone the SSA will find acceptable. (Hint: they prefer family members, friends or qualified organizations.)  Each of your choices should be honest, organized, financially independent, and have no prior felonies. He or she must be able to maintain good records and receipts and be responsive to SSA requests for an audit or in-person visit.  

When should you make this designation? Now. This is one choice you don’t want to leave up to your government. If you need help making the proper designations, don’t hesitate to contact the attorneys at Hammerle Finley Law Firm.

Virginia Hammerle is a Texas attorney who authors the weekly LegalTalk Texas column.  Find her columns and other writings on her blog at www.hammerle.com, at Timeless In Texas www.dallasnews.com/timeless-in-texas and her newsletter legaltalktexas@hammerle.com.