Bill to modernize social securities’ representative payee program signed into law

Legislation designed to better protect social security beneficiaries who are unable to manage their own benefits was signed into law last week by President Donald Trump.

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The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 (H.R. 4547), introduced by Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and John Larson (D-CT), takes several steps to modernize the representative payee program.

In 1939, Congress 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. However, it has been 14 years since the last overhaul of the representative payee program, and concerns have been raised about the SSA’s management of this program.

Specifically, the bill will strengthen oversight by increasing the number of performance reviews of payees, requiring additional types of reviews, and improving the effectiveness of reviews. Further, it will eliminate the requirement to file the annual accounting form for representative payees who are parents living with their children or who are spouses.

Also, it will improve information-sharing by the Social Security Administration (SSA), allow 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. Also, it will limit overpayment liability for children in the child welfare system. In addition, the measure will ensure that no beneficiary has a barred payee by codifying the policy that bans individuals with certain criminal convictions from serving as payees.

“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,” Johnson, who serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. “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.”

Larson, ranking member of the Ways and means Committee, said the bill will ensure that the representative payee program fulfills its charge to protect the most vulnerable social security recipients.

“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,” Larson said.