A representative payee, or substitute payee, is a person who acts as the receiver of United States Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income for a person who is not fully capable of managing their own benefits, i.e. cannot be their own payee. The need for the service is generally due to some form of mental disability, such as schizophrenia or a developmental disability. The mental disability will generally be just severe enough to impair judgement, but not so much as to require permanent hospitalization. As a result the representative payee does not act as a legal guardian or conservator, but is expected to assist the person with money management, along with providing protection from financial abuse and victimization.
As with other examples of disability fraud, since the disabled person has presumed poor judgement, they are at risk of choosing, or letting others choose for them, a payee who takes advantage of them by using the benefits for themselves, either partially or entirely, leaving the disabled person deprived of adequate clothing, food, or shelter. Cases of such fraud or abuse are typically referred to Adult Protective Services (Child Protective Services in the case of minors), in addition to law enforcement. Notable cases of this include the 2011 Philadelphia basement kidnapping.
Some US states and counties have set up representative, or substitute, payee programs, to allow psychiatric case workers and other professional care providers to manage their clients finances with more extensive oversight.
- "Conservator" FAQ at the San Diego Superior Court website
- substitute payee guidelines at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services website
- Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions, Joseph L. Matthews, Joseph Matthews, Dorothy Matthews Berman, Nolo Press, 2011, p. 166, (at Google Books)
- representative payee information at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website
- representative payee information at the San Joaquin County Health Care Services website