Review and Reassessment of the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Representative Payee Selection and Replacement Policies, 64422-64423 [2018-27051]


[Federal Register Volume 83, Number 240 (Friday, December 14, 2018)]
[Pages 64422-64423]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office []
[FR Doc No: 2018-27051]



[Docket No. SSA-2018-0048]

Review and Reassessment of the Social Security Administration's 
(SSA) Representative Payee Selection and Replacement Policies

AGENCY: Social Security Administration.

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We are requesting information on the appropriateness of our 
order of preference lists for selecting representative payees (payees) 
and the effectiveness of our policy and operational procedures in 
determining when to change a payee. We are seeking this information to 
determine whether and how we should make any changes to our 
representative payee program to help ensure that we select suitable 
payees for our beneficiaries.

DATES: To ensure that your comments are considered, we must receive 
them no later than January 28, 2019.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any one of three methods--
internet, fax, or mail. Do not submit the same comments multiple times 
or by more than one method. Regardless of which method you choose, 
please state that your comments refer to Docket No. SSA-2018-0048 so 
that we may associate your comments with the correct document.
    Caution: You should be careful to include in your comments only 
information that you wish to make publicly available. We strongly urge 
you not to include in your comments any personal information, such as 
Social Security numbers or medical information.
    1. Internet: We strongly recommend that you submit your comments 
via the internet. Please visit the Federal eRulemaking portal at Use the Search function to find docket number 
SSA-2018-0048. The system will issue you a tracking number to confirm 
your submission. You will not be able to view your comment immediately 
because we must post each comment manually. It may take up to a week 
for your comment to be viewable.
    2. Fax: Fax comments to (410) 966-2830.
    3. Mail: Address your comments to the Office of Regulations and 
Reports Clearance, Social Security Administration, 3100 West High Rise 
Building, 6401 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21235-6401.
    Comments are available for public viewing on the Federal 
eRulemaking portal at or in person, during 
regular business hours, by arranging with the contact person identified 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Erinn Demers, Office of Income 
Security Programs, Social Security Administration, 6401 Security 
Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21235-6401, (877) 405-3671 x23810. For 
information on eligibility or filing for benefits, call our national 
toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778, or visit our 
internet site, Social Security Online, at



    On April 13, 2018, Congress passed the Strengthening Protections 
for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018, Public Law 115-165. 
Section 204 of that law requires the Commissioner to conduct a review 
and reassessment, with opportunity for public comment, of the 
appropriateness of the order of preference for selecting representative 
payees (payees) and the effectiveness of our policy and operations for 
changing payees. We will submit a report on the results of the review 
and reassessment to Congress within 18 months of enactment.
    A person who receives benefits from us may be unable to manage 
those benefits for reasons such as his or her young age or mental or 
physical impairment. In these cases, we select a payee if we believe 
that representative payment, rather than direct payment of benefits, 
will better serve the beneficiary's interest. Generally, we select a 
payee if we determine that the beneficiary is not able to manage or 
direct the management of benefit payments in his or her interest. The 
payee may be an organization or a person, such as a parent, relative, 
or friend of the beneficiary.
    We review and evaluate each representative payee application 
individually to determine the best representative payee. We carefully 
screen and consider all applicants, before we make a selection, to 
ensure the beneficiary's best interest is served. In determining the 
best payee choice, we consider all factors, including the applicant's 
relationship to the beneficiary, the applicant's concern for the 
beneficiary's well-being, whether

[[Page 64423]]

there is a financial relationship (creditor) between the applicant and 
the beneficiary, and whether or not the applicant has custody of the 
    Sections 205(j) and 1631(a)(2) of the Social Security Act (Act), 
our regulations at 20 CFR 404.2021 and 20 CFR 416.621, and our Program 
Operations Manual System (POMS) instructions at GN 00502.105 \1\ 
provide guidelines for payee preference that we use as a developmental 
guide in selecting a representative payee. The payee preference lists 
do not negate our responsibility to investigate whether we should 
select a payee applicant to serve a beneficiary. Our primary concern is 
to select the payee who will best serve the beneficiary's interest. 
Generally, the applicants on the payee preference lists are the 
preferred candidates shown in the preferred order of selection. For 
example, for beneficiaries 18 years or older (except those who are 
disabled and also have a drug addiction or alcoholism condition) the 
regulations indicate that a legal guardian, spouse, or other relative 
who has custody of the beneficiary or who demonstrates strong concern 
for the beneficiary generally has a higher preference than an 
organization. For disabled beneficiaries 18 years or older with a drug 
addiction or alcohol condition, the regulations reflect the statutory 
preference for certain agencies and organizations over a family member. 
For beneficiaries under age 18, the regulations indicate that a natural 
or adoptive parent with custody of the beneficiary, or a guardian 
generally has a higher preference than a relative who does not have 

    \1\ Available at:

    We are seeking comment about whether our existing order of payee 
preference is appropriate, particularly with respect to the selection 
of public or non-profit agencies or institutions and for-profit 
institutions or creditors of the beneficiary as representative payees. 
Our POMS at GN 00501.013 \2\ define different organizations as follows. 
State and local institutions are institutions funded and operated by a 
State or local government. Typical examples are State psychiatric 
institutions, county developmental centers for individuals with 
intellectual disabilities and State hospitals. A private or for-profit 
is an institution operated by an individual or corporation to make a 
profit. Privately owned nursing homes, board and care homes, and 
extended care facilities are examples of these institutions. A non-
profit institution is a not-for-profit, non-governmental institution, 
such as a home operated by a religious organization or charity. A 
financial organization is an organization with the primary purpose of 
handling money, such as a bank, credit union, or savings and loan 
association. A ``social agency'' is a non-custodial entity that 
provides social service assistance to the community, such as State or 
county Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services, 
Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and United Way agencies. 
An official is an agent of a State or other governmental entity who 
performs duties as a job function rather than as an individual in the 
community. Officials are typically public guardians and officers of the 
court. Our POMS at GN 00502.135 \3\ defines a creditor as an individual 
or organization who provides the beneficiary with goods or services for 
monetary consideration. Under the Act, we will generally not appoint a 
creditor of a beneficiary to serve as the beneficiary's representative 
payee. However, there are exceptions, such as when the creditor is a 
relative living in the same household, a legal guardian, or a facility 
that is licensed or certified as a care facility under the laws of a 
State or political subdivision.\4\ The order of preference list does 
not incorporate creditor status.

    \2\ Available at:
    \3\ Available at:
    \4\ Sections 205(j)(2)(C)(i)(III) and (iii) and 
1631(a)(2)(B)(iii)(III) and (v) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. 
405(j)(2)(C)(i)(III) and (iii), and 1383(a)(2)(B)(iii)(III) and (v).

    We are also seeking comment about whether our policies and controls 
are sufficient to prevent an inappropriate change of payee. Under 
existing policies and procedures, if we need to change a payee, we 
identify a new payee using the order of preference list and our other 
policies in our POMS at GN 00502.100 through GN 00502.181.\5\ We are 
also attentive to any indication that an adult beneficiary no longer 
needs a representative payee. If we are considering making the payee 
change, we generally contact the current payee for his or her input, 
unless it would be inappropriate to do so. During our contact with the 
current payee, we discuss issues such as:

    \5\ Available at:!openview&restricttocategory=02005.

     The payee's knowledge of the beneficiary's whereabouts and 
living arrangements;
     His/her reasons for wanting or not wanting to continue as 
payee; and
     Any information pertinent to the beneficiary's capability.
    We evaluate the results obtained from the contact with the current 
payee and exercise judgment when determining if we should appoint 
another payee.

Request for Comments

    We ask for your comments about the appropriateness of our order of 
preference lists for selecting payees and the effectiveness of our 
policy and operational procedures in determining when to change a 
representative payee. We ask that, in preparing comments, you address 
questions such as:
    (1) Is the current order of preference list appropriate when 
selecting or changing a representative payee?
    (2) If you believe that the order of preference list is not 
appropriate, what would you change about the order of preference list?
    (3) Should we change how we consider public and non-profit agencies 
or institutions and private, for-profit institutions in our order of 
preference list?
    (4) Since there are statutory provisions that generally prevent a 
creditor from serving as a representative payee, should we consider 
creditor status in our order of preference list? If so, how should we 
consider creditor status in light of the statute?
    (5) Are our policy and operational procedures effective in properly 
determining whether to change a representative payee?
    (6) Do we effectively determine when to change from a payee that 
has a higher order of preference (such as a family member) to a payee 
that has a lower order of preference (such as a creditor)?
    (7) When a request to change a payee arises from someone other than 
the beneficiary, do we effectively determine the need to change the 
    (8) What would you change about our policies and procedures to help 
us determine when to change a payee?
    (9) Is there any evidence of difficulty in finding suitable payees, 
over time and in various circumstances? If so, how should this evidence 
influence our order of preference list and our policies for changing 
    Please see the information under ADDRESSES earlier in this document 
for methods to give us your comments. We will not respond to your 
comments, but we will consider them as we review our policies and 
instructions to determine if we should revise or update them.

Nancy A. Berryhill,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security.
[FR Doc. 2018-27051 Filed 12-13-18; 8:45 am]