Larson and Johnson Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Social Security’s Representative Payee Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT) introduced the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017 (H.R. 4547), bipartisan legislation to improve and strengthen the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) representative payee program.
 
The SSA’s representative payee program helps approximately 8 million Social Security beneficiaries manage their benefits, if they are unable to do so themselves because they are children or have a condition that prevents them from handling their own benefits. In light of reports from nonpartisan government watchdogs and stakeholders raising serious concerns about how the SSA administers the program, the Committee held a two-part hearing series to examine the challenges facing the agency and identify solutions to help ensure representative payees are serving the best interests of Social Security beneficiaries.
 
CLICK HERE to watch the hearing entitled “Part I: Examining the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program: Who Needs Help,” and CLICK HERE to watch the hearing entitled “Part II: Examining the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program: Who Provides Help.” 
 
Upon introducing the legislation, Chairman Johnson said:
“The Social Security Administration has a big responsibility to make sure Americans who need help managing their benefits get it. But the program doesn’t always work the way it should. Too often, we hear stories about representative payees who take advantage of those they are supposed to help. Ranking Member Larson and I worked together on this legislation in order to strengthen the representative payee program so that it better protects beneficiaries and reduces burdensome government paperwork that rarely provides any real value for families. Too many Americans are counting on the Social Security Administration to get this right.”
 
Ranking Member Larson added:
“It was once said that the moral test of any government is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens – children, seniors, and those with severe disabilities. This bill is a statement from the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Social Security Subcommittee that Congress is committed to protecting those beneficiaries, such as seniors, children, and disabled adults, who have representative payees. Under the leadership of Chairman Johnson, we have held a series of hearings on the representative payee program this year, bringing in experts to gain better insight over how the program works and where changes are needed. Today, we are proud to introduce this bill that will better safeguard those most in need of protection, including nearly 4 million children, by strengthening the selection and monitoring of payees, while reducing administrative burdens on families caring for loved ones.”
 
Background:
 
The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017:
 

• Strengthens oversight by increasing the number of performance reviews of payees, requiring additional types of reviews, and improving the effectiveness of the reviews by the requiring the Protection and Advocacy system of each state to conduct the reviews, on behalf of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

• Reduces the burden on families by eliminating the requirement to file an annual payee accounting form for parents who live with their children and for spouses.

• Enhances personal control by allowing beneficiaries to designate their preferred payee in advance of actually needing one; and ensures improved selection of payees by requiring the SSA to assess the appropriateness of the preference list used to select payees.

• Improves beneficiary protections by increasing information sharing between the SSA and child welfare agencies, and by directing the SSA to study how better to coordinate with Adult Protective Services agencies and with state guardianship courts.

• Limits overpayment liability for children in the child welfare system.

• Ensures that no beneficiary has a barred payee by codifying the ban on individuals with certain criminal convictions from serving as payees and prohibiting individuals who have payees from serving as payees for others. 

 
CLICK HERE for a fact sheet on the bill.
 
CLICK HERE for text of the bill. 
 
CLICK HERE for a section-by-secton summary of the bill. 
 
CLICK HERE to read about the Committee’s hearing on how the Social Security Administration determines who needs help.
 
CLICK HERE to read about the Committee’s hearing on how the Social Security Administration determines who provides help.
 
CLICK HERE for a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter on the bill. 
 
CLICK HERE for the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General blog post on the legislation. 
 
CLICK HERE for the Transmittal Letter to the Social Security Administration of Committee Explanation of H.R. 4547. 
 
CLICK HERE for the Legislative History and Technical Explanation of H.R. 4547. 
 
Letters of Support:
 
• National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare: LINK
 
• AARP: LINK
 
• Members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities: LINK 
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Association on Health and Disability
- American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)
- Autism Society of America
- Easterseals
- Justice in Aging
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
- National Association of Disability Representatives
- National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
- National Council on Independent Living
- National Disability Rights Network
- National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives (NOSSCR)
- The Arc of the United States
 
• National Alliance on Mental Illness: LINK
 
• American Academy of Pediatrics: LINK
 
• National Association of Disability Representatives: LINK 
 
• National Disability Rights Network: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Arkansas: LINK
 
• Disability Rights California: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Connecticut: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Florida: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Iowa: LINK
 
• Indiana Disability Rights: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Mississippi: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Nebraska: LINK
 
• Disability Rights New Hampshire: LINK
 
• Disability Rights New Jersey: LINK
 
• Disability Rights New Mexico: LINK 
 
• Disability Rights New York: LINK
 
• Disability Rights North Carolina: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Ohio: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Oregon: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Pennsylvania: LINK 
 
• Disability Rights South Dakota: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Tennessee: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Texas: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Vermont: LINK 
 
• Disability Rights Washington State: LINK
 
• Disability Rights of West Virginia: LINK
 
• Disability Rights Wisconsin: LINK
 
• Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program: LINK
 
• Kansas Developmental Disabilities Coalition: LINK
 
• Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. (South Carolina): LINK 
 
• Arizona Center for Disability Law: LINK
 
• Georgia Advocacy for Disability Law: LINK
 
• Disability Law Center (Massachusetts): LINK
 
• Disability Law Center (Utah): LINK
 
• Disability Law Colorado: LINK
 
• Oklahoma Disability Law Center: LINK
 
• National Council of Social Security Management Associations: LINK
 
• National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR): LINK 
 
• Association of Mature American Citizens: LINK
 
• Disabilities Law Program at Community Legal Aid Society in Delaware: LINK
 
• Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service: LINK 
 
• Equip for Equality (Illinois): LINK 
 
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