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Why Congress Needs to Pass the Representative Payee Bill

February 05, 2018

Today, the House is set to consider H.R. 4547, The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 – bipartisan legislation to strengthen and improve the representative payee program for the first time in 14 years.

Congress first authorized in 1939 the Social Security Administration (SSA) to make benefit payments to another person or organization – called a representative payee – in cases where a beneficiary was not capable of managing their own benefits. Today, the representative payee program helps millions of Social Security beneficiaries, including children and people who are not able to handle their own benefits.

The representative payee program was last overhauled in 2004 and organizations including the Government Accountability Office, the SSA Office of the Inspector General, the National Academy of Sciences, the Social Security Advisory Board, and beneficiary advocate groups have raised significant concerns regarding SSA’s current administration of the program, such as:

Introduced by Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT), H.R. 4547 strengthens the representative payee program by taking necessary steps to ensure that beneficiaries receive the benefits and protections they need.

The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 takes action to improve the representative payee program by:

  • Strengthening oversight of representative payees by requiring additional types of onsite reviews of payee performance;
  • Reducing the burden on families by eliminating the requirement to file the annual accounting form for representative payees who are parents who are living with their child or adult children who have a disability or who are spouses;
  • Protecting the most vulnerable beneficiaries through improved information-sharing by requiring the SSA to identify whether a beneficiary is in foster care and reassess whether the payee is appropriate;
  • Improving payee selection by allowing beneficiaries to make a designation in advance of their preferred payee and requiring the SSA to assess the appropriateness of the order-of-preference list it uses to select payees; and
  • Ensuring that no beneficiary has a barred payee by codifying the policy that bans individuals with certain criminal convictions from serving as payees (including individuals currently serving as payees) and prohibiting individuals who have payees from serving as a payee for others.

Over 45 advocacy groups have written in support of this legislation because of the positive effects it will have on the millions of beneficiaries who rely on a representative payee. Here are a few examples of what these groups are saying:


“We commend your leadership on this important issue of improving protections for the 5.5 million Social Security beneficiaries who rely on a representative payee to properly and timely administer their monthly benefits. Representative payees play a critical role in serving the interests of vulnerable Social Security beneficiaries.”

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare:

“We thank you for your leadership in developing and introducing this important legislation which, if enacted, would provide significant new protections for those vulnerable seniors whose Social Security benefits are paid through a representative payee.”

National Council of Social Security Management Associations:

“We firmly believe this legislation will better protect those individuals who most need our assistance while relieving the administrative burden both for families and SSA, ensuring that resources are focused on programs, policies and workloads that make sense.”

Equip for Equality:

“This bipartisan legislation proposes the changes necessary to streamline the representative payee program and, more importantly, increase independent oversight of the program…” 

Kansas Developmental Disabilities Coalition:

“H.R. 4547 is a bipartisan solution to a very real, yet solvable, problem.  This legislation creates meaningful and much needed changes.”

CLICK HERE to read the bill.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Committee’s bipartisan work on the representative payee program.

CLICK HERE to read the Social Security Advisory Board’s report, Improving Social Security’s Representative Payee Program.