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)

Where Government Services Crush U.S. Financial Services Firms

ssaMy visit to the local Social Security office was incredibly prompt, professional and courteous. In order to best serve my parents needs, who are both in Assisted Living at a retirement community, and suffer from varied but moderate stages of dementia, I reached out to the Social Security Administration (SSA). My initial request was to change the address on their MEDICARE statement. It turns out that is based on the information stored with SSA, so I was referred to that agency.  The woman from SSA on the phone suggest I set an appointment. She finds and makes me one 9:04 a.m. and that is within one week of my initial phone call.

I’m told to show up with the power of attorney and the name, number and address of a doctor than can confirm why a personal representative is needed for my parents.

When I arrive at the local office today, which opened at 9:00 a.m., there is a line of people out the door. I check to see if they have appointments, and am told they are in line to get an appointment. They point me inside and I walk up to an empty window to check-in for my 9:04 a.m. appointment. I am told to take a seat and I will be called. Within a minute, I’m called. When I reach the window, the woman is friendly and I explain why I requested the appointment.

She explains that I will be asked several questions and under penalty of perjury if I provide false responses. I’m okay with that … most people know I have a truth problem … not a lying problem! She asks me several questions to confirm that there is no conservator or guardianship process in place, requests that I explain why I’m qualified to be the “personal representative” for my parents, and takes me through a battery of questions that are pre-printed on the request form I must sign to initiate this process.

Most of my initial discussions with U.S. Financial Services firms have involved them refusing to accept my parent’s power of attorney and insisting that I download their version and get it executed. When I push back, I have gotten a variety of responses that will be covered in future blogs … and that will illustrate how simple the SSA made it to deal with this growing issue for American citizens.

The woman from SSA gives me her contact information, explains how the process works and shared that I should receive a note within 2 – 3 weeks confirming how to change the address and modify the account. I walk out of my local SSA office in under 30 minutes! They have just set the benchmark on which I will be judging the other institutions who are on my list. Impressed.