When you consider increases in longevity and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the United States, it’s easy to see why it’s so important to understand the process of being designated to care for someone else’s needs.
More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people struggling with dementia, and more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, that number could reach 16 million. 1*
You may be familiar with the concepts of guardianship, medical directives, and powers of attorney that grant the authority to act on a loved one’s behalf. But when it comes to handling income from Social Security, a power of attorney isn’t enough.
What’s a representative payee?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires a separate designation – representative payee – to handle Social Security income on behalf of someone who is not capable. The SSA says a representative payee’s main duty is to use the money exclusively for the beneficiary’s needs.
The law requires that most minor children (say, a child entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as a result of a disability) and all legally incompetent adults have a representative payee. Individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can fall into this category.
In most cases, you cannot be paid for the work you do on behalf of the incapacitated person. You can reimburse yourself for what the agency calls “reasonable” out-of-pocket expenses, but not for your own overhead such as rent, supplies, or utilities. Individuals caring for an incapacitated loved one with Social Security benefits will need to apply to become a representative payee before they can gain access to their Social Security benefits. These benefits may then help pay for care and services associated with care.
How to apply
Becoming a representative payee will likely require a trip to a Social Security office. You’ll need to fill out a form (SSA-11), usually in person, and submit your own Social Security number while explaining why the beneficiary needs assistance and why you’re the right person for the job.
Have you been a caregiver for someone receiving Social Security benefits? Share any unexpected snags and solutions you encountered.
Neither Transamerica nor its agents or representatives may provide tax, investment, or legal advice. Anyone to whom this material is promoted, marketed, or recommended should consult with and rely on their own independent tax and legal advisors and financial professional regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented herein.
1* Alzheimer’s Association, “2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” 2017