What happens if a claimant is awarded disability but either cannot or does not feel they can manage their Social Security Disability funds properly? Fortunately, a system is in place where Social Security will appoint a representative payee to manage the funds. More often than not, Social Security will recommend this as an option if they find a claimant lacks the mental or physical ability to manage their own funds once the claimant has been awarded. This is usually most common in severe mental health cases or the claimant has a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse.
The role of the representative payee is fairly simply. He or she receives monthly payments on behalf of the claimant and uses the funds to meet the individuals basic needs (i.e. food, clothing, and shelter). The representative payee is required to keep records and ensure that the disability funds are used to care for the beneficiary. Some of our clients who have been recommended to have a representative payee assigned to their benefits have expressed concern that they do not have a person in their life that they can trust to take on such a major responsibility for them. In fact, a surprising 21% of claimants do not have trusted family or friends who can help manage their award. Some of this can be attributed to their severe mental health conditions which often manifests as paranoia and trouble trusting someone in their life; however, the fact still remains that such a trusted person cannot be found in the beneficiary’s life. So what are they to do?
Recently, the SSA released a report in October 2014 stating that the agency has implemented a pro bono pilot in Maryland which allows attorneys to be the representative payee for a Social Security beneficiary. The goal of this pilot is to provide crucial help to a vulnerable population by allowing these attorneys to manage a client’s disability income payments. The benefit of this program is that attorney’s are already held to high ethical standards and are in a position to truly serve the needs of this particular population. At this time, license Maryland attorneys in good standing can volunteer for this project at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/probonopilot.htm.
Acting Commissioner Colvin reinforced that “representative payees play a vital role in serving our beneficiaries and creating a stable living environment for the most vulnerable people in our society. I encourage eligible Maryland attorneys to participate in this pilot.”
The hope is that this program is a huge success and will begin to expand to other states. If it does reach Georgia, The Khaki Law Firm would be honored to help our clients in this capacity. We believe it will provide a great assurance to so many claimants who are not well enough to manage their own money but feel they do not have anyone in their life they can trust to handle such a big responsibility.
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