Read this before you visit the Houston Social Security Office (map here).
Don’t show up at the local Social Security office with your elderly parent’s power of attorney form and expect to to talk about his or her Social Security check. Having a power of attorney for an elderly relative may help in handling some financial matters, but is useless when it comes to handing Social Security matters.
If presented with a power of attorney form, a Social Security worker must answer, “I’m sorry, that’s not a form we recognize.” Having power of attorney or having a joint bank account with the beneficiary gives no authority for managing Social Security and/or SSI benefits. In order to handle Social Security matters for an elderly person, one must take steps with the local Social Security office to become a “representative payee.” .
So, just what is a representative payee? As a representative payee someone else, for example, a friend or relative, accepts responsibility for managing Social Security funds for a person no longer able to handle his own finances. The Social Security Administration appoints the payee to receive those benefits for the current or foreseeable needs of the elderly person. A representative payee must save benefits unused to meet current needs and must keep records of expenses. At the request of the Social Security Administration, a payee must provide an accounting of how the benefits have been used or saved.
How does someone become a representative payee? One must take steps with the local Social Security office. Becoming a representative payee requires a face-to-face interview with a Social Security representative for you. The process also requires a physician’s evaluation of your parent’s ability to manage his own benefits. If more than one person applies to be the representative payee, Social Security personnel will talk to third parties—often, family members–about who is best able to take care of the elderly person’s financial affairs.
There’s another option for those who can handle their own benefits, but for whom assistance from a caregiver would be helpful. Seniors wanting some assistance from a designated family member can give formal consent by speaking by phone with or making a visit to their local Social Security office. The beneficiary can also request that a consent form be mailed to him or can upload the form from the Social Security website.
For further information, check out the Social Security website http://www.socialsecurity.gov or call toll-free (800) 772-1213.
Sourced in part from “Programs Offer Tips for Caregivers” by Ellyn Couvillion, THE ADVOCATE, JULY 20, 2009