I regularly see comments on this blog and receive emails to my Social Security disability law firm from non-custodial parents who are fuming that the mother of their children appears to be misusing either child support payments or auxiliary payments coming from Social Security based on a disability claim by the NCP.
As far as supposed misuse of child support payment is concerned, that is a matter for your state court or state child support enforcement office – Social Security will not get involved in that.
Social Security will get involved if a representative payee (often a custodial parent) misuses auxiliary benefit funds. When benefits are due to a minor child, Social Security will designate a representative payee to receive and disburse those funds for the benefit of the child (called the “beneficiary”).
Social Security has set out a number of rules that govern the conduct and decisions of representative payees. Here is what SSA says about the obligations of a rep payee:
First, you must make sure the beneficiary’s day-to-day needs for food and shelter are met. Then, the money can be used for any of the beneficiary’s medical and dental care that is not covered by health insurance, and for personal needs, such as clothing and recreation. If there is money left after you pay for the beneficiary’s needs, it must be saved, preferably in an interest-bearing account or U.S. Savings Bonds.
Representative payees also have reporting obligations – they must submit an annual worksheet detailing how the auxiliary benefits were used. SSA’s guidelines also contain examples of what constitutes an appropriate larger expenditure such as furniture or a car.
Social Security reports that it disburses $20 billion annually to 4 million beneficiaries through the representative payee program. Misuse is and has been a problem and since 2004, SSA has stepped up enforcement actions against payees.
Anyone can report misuse of funds by a representative payee – you can call 800-772-1213. You cannot, however, use the “misuse of funds” reporting to harass or seek revenge on a former spouse or partner. Reporting abuse is similar to reporting a crime – you need to be certain that the abuse is going on and by filing a report you risk adverse consequences if SSA determines that your report was not legitimate.
Thanks to my colleague Tomasz Stasiuk whose blog post Parent Misusing Social Security Benefits inspired this post.