What You Should Know (And Do) If Social Security Questions Your Ability To Handle Your Benefits

27 October 2015
 Categories: , Blog


If your application for disability benefits is approved by Social Security and you suffer from any form of mental impairment, including depression, a decision has to be made about your ability to properly handle your own funds. You may be asked to come to an interview specifically for that purpose. This is what you should know and do.

There's doubt about your ability to manage your money.

The decision to assign a representative payee to handle your benefits for you is usually made during the disability determination process, not after. If it isn't, that means that the evidence in your file didn't clearly show whether or not your disability interfered with your ability to make good financial decisions. If you don't want a representative payee, that can work to your advantage. It gives you a chance to talk to someone face-to-face about the issue before a decision is made.

Go to the interview prepared for questions.

The interviewer is going to be asking questions about your finances, so go prepared with answers! You can expect certain specific questions:

  • How much is your rent, mortgage, or room and board?
  • If you pay for utilities, how much are they? If you pay a share of the utility bills, how much is your average share?
  • How much do you spend on food? 
  • Do you normally do your own shopping, or does someone do it for you?
  • Do you have a bank account? 
  • Do you have a history of bounced checks?
  • Do you have any problems with gambling or drugs and alcohol?

The interviewer is trying to determine only one thing: if you're given direct access to the money from your checks, what will you do with it? The best way to convince the interviewer that your mental impairment doesn't stop you from handling your own money is to show that you know what your bills are and can prioritize your spending so that your needs for food, shelter, and clothing are met.

The worst thing that you can do is come to the interview and admit that you don't know how much the household bills are or know what your obligations are toward the rent, utilities, and groceries.

Take someone that you trust with you.

You should consider taking someone that you trust with you to the interview -- someone willing to handle your money for you if the interview doesn't go in your favor. 

This is a purely practical measure, because if the interviewer isn't satisfied with the answers that you give and determines that you need a representative payee, you'll be asked if there is someone you'd prefer to have in that position. If that person is with you, he or she can apply to be your representative payee right then. The interviewer can judge his or her fitness to handle your money for you at the same interview and, if things go well, get your benefits started. 

Because being a representative payee is a lot of responsibility, the ideal person to bring with you is someone who sees you often and knows about your needs. This could be a parent, an adult child, or another close relative. A friend who has been close to you for a long time is also often acceptable. The government wants to make sure that the person selected has your best interests in mind.

If you don't have someone with you who can do this and the interview doesn't go as you hope, your benefits are going to be delayed until a suitable payee is found.  If you aren't happy about the decision that you need a representative payee, wait until your benefits start and you receive the official notice of the decision. Then file an appeal, asking Social Security to reconsider. To find out more, speak with someone like Jim McKown Attorney At Law.