Even when the federal government is not in a financial shut-down, dealing with the Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) can require extreme patience. A frequent question from clients is how to deal with the SSA on behalf of another individual or loved one. Family members often use Durable Powers of Attorney to manage loved one’s finances. For Social Security purposes, however, a Durable Power of Attorney is not acceptable. The SSA offers two options to deal with benefits on behalf of a loved one.
First, the SSA permits an attorney or other qualified individual to be appointed as the Authorized Representative (“AR”) to represent the claimant. There may be more than one AR appointed for a claimant. The appointment for an AR must be in writing and must be filed with the SSA. The claimant and AR must complete Form SSA-1696. The AR cannot charge or collect a fee for services without written approval from the SSA, even if the claim is denied.
The AR can represent the claimant on all matters including old-age and survivors benefits, SSDI, SSI, and Medicare. The SSA will work directly with the AR unless instructed otherwise. The AR may obtain information from any claim file; designate others to receive information from the SSA (partners, clerks, copying services, etc.); attend interviews, conferences, or hearings with or without the claimant; request reconsideration on determinations, hearings, or Appeals Council reviews; and assist claimants to prepare for a hearings. The SSA will continue to work with an AR until the SSA is notified in writing that he or she no longer represents the claimant, or the AR notifies the SSA that he or she is withdrawing or indicates that his or her services have ended.
Secondly, a Representative Payee (“RP”) can be appointed. The RP is an individual or organization appointed by the SSA to receive Social Security and/or SSI payments for someone who is not able to manage his or her money. The RP must use the benefits to pay for any current and foreseeable needs of the beneficiary, and save any benefits that exceed current needs. The RP is responsible for maintaining records of expenses, and must provide the SSA with an accounting of how benefits were used or saved upon request. Generally, the SSA looks to appoint family or friends to serve as RP; however, if friends or family are not able to serve, a qualified organization may serve.
The RP cannot collect a fee for acting on behalf of claimant unless the RP is a qualified organization who has received written approval from the SSA. The law requires that all minor children and all incompetent adults have a RP. The proposed RP will need to complete Form SSA-11, and may need to complete a face-to-face interview.