WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) announced today that the Subcommittees will hold the second of two joint hearings on the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) representative payee program, which helps certain individuals manage their benefits if the SSA determines that they need assistance. The second hearing in the series, entitled “Examining the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program: Who Provides Help,” will take place on Wednesday, March 22, at 10:00 AM in room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building. At the hearing, Members will examine how the SSA selects and monitors the individuals serving as representative payees.
Upon announcing the hearing, Chairman Buchanan said:
“Each year, Social Security only conducts oversight of a small fraction of those serving as representative payees. The sheer number of representative payees serving one of our most vulnerable populations makes oversight of this area absolutely paramount. While I look forward to hearing about the progress SSA has made to better monitor this population, we have seen far too many examples in recent years of representative payees abusing their positions for financial gain, including in my home state of Florida. More robust oversight is needed, and I look forward to working with Chairman Johnson to ensure better protection of all Social Security beneficiaries.”
Chairman Johnson said:
“Social Security is responsible for making sure that the people it selects to be representative payees are up to the job and do not take advantage of those they’re supposed to be helping. In light of some terrible abuses, Social Security has made some changes to how it selects and monitors payees, but there is still more that Social Security needs to do. The millions of children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities who rely on help from representative payees deserve better. I look forward to working with my colleagues and Social Security as we look for ways to improve this important program.”
In cases where Social Security beneficiaries are not capable of managing—or directing the management of—their benefits, the SSA will assign a representative payee to manage the payments on the individual’s behalf. There are two broad categories of representative payees: (1) individual payees, such as family members and friends, and (2) organizational payees, such as social service agencies, non-profit organizations, and institutions.
The SSA is responsible for identifying the appropriate representative payee for a beneficiary, as well as conducting oversight of representative payees. Today, the SSA oversees approximately 6.5 million representative payees, making the monitoring of payees a challenge. The SSA monitors representative payees to ensure that they continue to meet the SSA’s qualifications and appropriately spend benefits on behalf of beneficiaries. To do so, the SSA relies on two primary methods of oversight: (1) annually filed accounting reports outlining the use of beneficiaries’ funds and (2) various onsite reviews.
The Government Accountability Office, the SSA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the Social Security Advisory Board, and others have repeatedly raised concerns about the long-term challenges that the SSA faces in selecting and monitoring representative payees. These organizations have raised questions about whether the SSA is adequately screening those selected to serve as payees and is preparing for the projected increase in demand for payees over the coming decades. The OIG continues to find cases of representative payees taking advantage of beneficiaries and using benefits for their own gain. Unless the SSA improves its management of the representative payee program, these problems will only worsen as the population ages and the number of individuals who need representative payees increases.