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NOW LAW: Johnson, Larson Bill to Strengthen Social Security’s Representative Payee Program

April 13, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Trump signed into law the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 (H.R. 4547). Introduced by Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT), this bipartisan legislation will modernize the representative payee program so that it will better protect Social Security beneficiaries who are unable to manage their own benefits.

Chairman Johnson said:

“This new law is great news for the millions of Social Security beneficiaries who rely on a representative payee to help them manage their benefits. Not only will it provide much-needed accountability for the representative payee program, but it also puts measures into place that ensure newly selected representative payees are qualified and trustworthy. I thank Congressman Larson for working with me on this important legislation that will ensure Americans – from children, seniors, to individuals with disabilities – will have more peace of mind when it comes to having a representative payee they can trust.”  

Ranking Member Larson said:

“The enactment of this bill would not have happened if not for the efforts of my colleague and friend, Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee and lead sponsor of the bill. It was his leadership that brought this bill across the finish line to the President’s desk, and the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act will be another addition to his enduring legacy. This new law will ensure that the Representative Payee program lives up to its charge to protect the most vulnerable Social Security recipients and will help those who are unable to manage their own benefits because they are children or suffer from a disease like Alzheimer’s. This bipartisan bill, now law, strengthens the selection and monitoring of Representative Payees and reduces some of the administrative burdens that families face when caring for loved ones.”

Specifically, the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 will:

  • Strengthen oversight of representative payees by increasing the number of performance reviews of payees, requiring additional types of reviews, and improving the effectiveness of reviews;
  • Reduce the burden on families by eliminating the requirement to file the annual accounting form for representative payees who are parents living with their children or who are spouses;
  • Protect the most vulnerable beneficiaries through improved information-sharing by requiring the Social Security Administration (SSA) to identify whether a beneficiary is in foster care and reassess whether the payee is appropriate, and by directing the SSA to study how better to coordinate with Adult Protective Services and with state guardianship courts;
  • Enhance personal control by allowing beneficiaries to make a designation of their preferred payee in advance, and improve payee selection by requiring the SSA to assess the appropriateness of the order-of-preference list it uses to select payees;
  • Limit overpayment liability for children in the child welfare system; and
  • Ensure 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.


In 1939, Congress first authorized the SSA to make benefit payments to another person or organization – known as a representative payee – when a beneficiary is not capable of managing his or her own Social Security benefits. Today, this program helps millions of Social Security beneficiaries, including children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.  However, it has been 14 years since the last overhaul of the representative payee program, and many organizations have raised significant concerns about the SSA’s management of this program.

CLICK HERE for the legislative text of the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018.

CLICK HERE to access the full list of letters of support for H.R. 4547 from over 45 advocacy groups, including AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Equip for Equality.