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Chairman Johnson Opening Statement at Second Joint Oversight and Social Security Hearing on Social Security’s Representative Payee Program

March 22, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a joint hearing of the Oversight and Social Security Subcommittees entitled “Examining the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program: Who Provides Help.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and welcome to the second of two joint Social Security and Oversight hearings on Social Security’s representative payee program.  

“While the first hearing focused on how Social Security decides who needs help managing their benefits, today’s hearing will focus on how Social Security selects and oversees those who provide this help. 

“Generally, a person’s representative payee is a family member, such as a parent or a spouse. However, friends or a qualified organization, such as a social service agency, can also be payees. 

“Today, there are about 6.5 million representative payees managing benefits for about 8 million Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients. The number of representative payees is expected to increase as the population ages and more people need help managing their Social Security benefits. According to a 2015 study from Social Security, the number of adults who need a representative payee will increase by more than 20 percent over the next two decades. Furthermore, the number of people receiving help from someone other than a family member will increase by more than a quarter.

“Who Social Security selects as a representative payee is a really important decision, since it is their job to make sure that benefits are used for the individual’s basic needs. Folks who need a representative payee deserve to know that the person serving as their payee is up to the job. And while Social Security has some rules in place to help, those rules aren’t always followed.

“Commonsense would say that someone who relies on a representative payee themselves shouldn’t be the representative payee for someone else. How can you manage someone else’s benefits when you can’t manage your own? Yet, in 2016 the IG found that Social Security had people serving as representative payees even though Social Security knew that these folks had representative payees of their own.   

“The IG has even found people serving as representative payees that Social Security has no record of selecting.

“Worse, for nearly 20 years, the IG has repeatedly found that Social Security continued to pay payees that they knew were dead.  

“And the list goes on. This is simply unacceptable.  

“You can have all the rules in place that say all the right things, but if these rules aren’t followed, what good are they? There has to be a better way.   

“At our first hearing in this series, Social Security said that the greatest challenge they face is monitoring representative payee behavior. Although Social Security has increased its monitoring of payees, the IG and others continue to find cases of representative payee fraud. Chairman Buchanan provided an example of why it’s so important that Social Security get this right.  

“As we’ll hear today, some states, like Texas, are taking steps to get a better handle on managing their guardianship programs. While representative payees and guardianship are not the same, there are things we can learn from what the states are doing.

“As I said at the previous hearing, the Congress has not made changes to the representative payee program since 2004 and now it’s time to take a fresh look. I look forward to working with Social Security, stakeholders, and all of my colleagues to make sure this very important program is working like it should. The American people deserve no less.  

“I thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing their testimony.”