October 17, 2019

What is Disabled Child’s Recourse if Parent/Representative Payee Misuses Disability Funds

argumentMost of the comments and questions I get on this blog come from parents who are trying to get child support or who have child support obligations but no source of income to pay.  This email comes from a teenager who was approved for disability and who contends that her parents are misusing funds that are supposed to be used for her care and welfare:

hi i am 17 i have been on disability since i was twelve i have a few questions. 1 my parents give me no money from it, nor do they allow me to do extra curricular activites with the money, archery, tae kon do art sculpting etc, is this legal of them? 2 they frequently use the money for the truck payement on a truck that is not neccasary nor running, they dont keep track of the money nor do they keep recepts. is that legal? 3 they wont let me work because it cancels the disability yet they give me no money from it, am i entitled to some money also can i turn them in or set up a confrence or court date to stop the ssi income since i am capable of working desire work and get no benefit from the check??? please i ask for your time soon cause i have to pay for damages and court costtts and cannot accuire work nor income fromm ssi to do so and i will be in comptemt thank you very much

Here are my thoughts: Generally when a benefits are awarded to a minor child, those payments are sent to the that child’s parents or legal guardians who serve as the “representative payee” for that minor child.  The funds should be used for the health, education and welfare of the child.

Social Security rules provide that the representative payee may only use the child’s SSI benefits for the following purposes:

  • medical treatment
  • education or job skills training

The following expenses may also be paid from the child’s SSI account if they benefit the child and are related to the child’s impairment:

  • personal needs or assistance (i.e. in-home nursing care)
  • special equipment
  • housing modification
  • therapy or rehabilitation
  • other items that are approved in advance by the local Social Security office

Social Security requires the representative payee to complete an annual report detailing how and where the child’s money was spent.   Based on what my reader writes, payments on a parent’s truck would not be an appropriate expense.

If my reader or anyone who is receiving SSI or Social Security disability benefits through a representative payee and the disabled person suspects that the payee is misusing funds, the claimant should contact his or her local Social Security office and ask that an investigation be commenced.  You can also call Social Security’s national toll-free number of 800-772-1213 for assistance.

Let me stress that reporting suspected misuse of funds by a representative payee is a very serious charge and can lead to fines or even criminal charges if the allegations are correct.  For this reason, payees should keep detailed and accurate records and claimants who have a payee should not make frivolous allegations against their payees.

The accusations set out by my reader are serious and, if true, would likely result in action by SSA against her parents.


Jonathan Ginsberg practices Social Security disability law in Atlanta, Georgia.  He represents clients in claims before the Social Security Administration.


  1. rebekah ward says

    my ex rep payee totaly misused my funds my name was never on the account after it was all gone he had a nise kitchen door a car and druged it up i had to leave i had many problems he wouldnt help me with then he kicked me out i went to ss and i was like she didnt hear what can t do

  2. I love the reader’s question. Very nice response, as usual…

  3. i need some more info. about this misuse of disability funds.

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