The Representative Payee Process with SSA

sscardIn May, I visited the Social Security Administration (SSA) and applied to be the “representative payee” for my parents. I was gleeful with the ease and simplicity of the process.  I met with staff, made some sworn statements, signed a paper confirming my relationship and duties as well as supplied my Durable Power of Attorney. I was told I should get all the information in the mail in 4 – 6 weeks.

When nothing arrived, I called several times but kept getting routed to the call center and no one there could assist me. While I had the contact name of the woman I met, the number she provided rolls over to the call center and I was never able to reach her after my initial visit.

In August, three months after my visit, I received a letter telling me my Dad’s check was withheld due to an address problem. The letter allowed me to follow-up with a specific contact and in trying to resolve this, I ask is they can find out what happened to my Mom’s papers. I am told they can’t speak to me because her paperwork never got processed. But I did them both on the same day and with the same woman. How can this be?

The nice man on the other end of the phone from the Social Security Administration (SSA) tells me that at this point, I need to get back into the office to clean up the issues. When I ask to schedule an appointment, which was so easy the first time, I’m told that the first available appointment is two months away. He is sympathetic and explains that the local offices have been given additional responsibilities and they are really busy these days. I hang up thinking I need to find a day to spend back at Social Security.

That afternoon someone from SSA called and wants to talk with me. She asks me a few questions and says they are going to try to clear this issue up without me having to go into the local office. I’m pleasantly surprised. Within a few weeks, I receive my Mom’s paperwork and my Dad’s account is updated.

Kudos to the SSA staff — once I got the letter and followed up to the assigned contact — he listened to me and worked to resolve this for me.

However, the process took over four months from beginning to end and I had to manage the checking account and bill payments without this money for two of those months because my Dad’s payments were frozen.

Two months later, my father passed away. and to process the transition of his military retirement pay, I need a copy of my Mom’s social security card. We have searched high and low, and there is not one to be found. Looks like I’m headed back to the Social Security office. Warned.


– Ask for an appointment to avoid REALLY long lines at the local office

– Show up with Social Security Numbers, a valid driver’s license ( or other accepted photo ID) and your Durable Power of Attorney

– Expect this process will take several months

– Be prepared to manage without pay if something goes wrong during the processing

– Request that they send you a Social Security card (don’t know if they will, but recommend you ask)

5 thoughts on “The Representative Payee Process with SSA

  1. Kay, getting a replacement social security card for your mom should be much easier. I had to get another one for Mama after I too searched high and low and couldn’t find the card I’d seen just a few months earlier. She was still able to sign for the card then, so we went down with her driver’s license and Medicare card (I did have all the POA and trust information in case I needed to sign) and had a new card within an hour. So, wishing you and Mom the best and fastest of luck in expediting this.

    1. Thanks – it’s the office wait I’m dreading! The line is out the door and takes hours unless u have appt. I can’t wait two months. I know my mom can’t stand in line and has no patience for waiting rooms so I hope it goes smoothly. Thanks!

  2. I sometimes wonder if the SSA does this on purpose so that they can wear people down to the point that they will give up and go away, or if like Alice in Wonderland, once you go “down the rabbit hole,” you are at the mercy of people who talk in riddles and can only do the “one thing” they are assigned — nothing less, nothing more and certainly nothing proactive. And, until you stubble upon that one mystical, magical person who is responsible for handling the one specific problem you are having, nothing gets resolved and you are left running back to the beginning which of course is not where you left it.

    And you know what bothers me the most? We (folks like us) are sophisticated people who through our careers have developed an appropriate skill-set that enables us to navigate the “oobleck” of processes that appear to be straightforward but truly aren’t. What happens to those people who are barely literate or lack the real-world abilities to deal with the vast array of confusion that defines the SSA, the VA, the IRS and HHS — just to name a few. How many people never get a positive resolution because they didn’t know to be persistent or that one response left blank on a form can get their request denied? What happens to the people who have enough struggles as it is — the elderly, the uneducated, the disadvantaged, the disabled — the ones who can’t fight or figure things out on their own and don’t have someone who can advocate on their behalf?

    I don’t know. But the American playing field is not level by any stretch of the imagination.

    1. I have been amazed at how uneven things seem to go. One step forward, a harsh shove backward and I’m sitting on my bum.

      Have found a whole new well of reserves to keep moving forward… And eventually upward.

      It should not be so hard to navigate.

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