Individuals tasked with handling Social Security payments for people with disabilities will be subject to greater scrutiny under a new law signed by President Donald Trump.
The president signed the measure known as the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018, or H.R. 4547, late last week after it was unanimously approved by Congress.
The legislation will impose greater oversight on representative payees who manage Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for those who need assistance.
Specifically, the law bars people with certain types of criminal convictions from acting as representative payees and prevents individuals who have representative payees themselves from serving in that capacity for others. And, it will give beneficiaries more say in who handles money on their behalf by allowing Social Security recipients to make a list of their preferred payees in order of preference.
Meanwhile, the legislation will require that protection and advocacy groups in each state — federally-mandated organizations that provide legal assistance and advocate for people with disabilities — conduct more reviews of representative payee performance on behalf of the Social Security Administration.
In addition to enhancing oversight, the measure will also eliminate a requirement that parents or spouses living with a person with a disability complete an annual accounting form for representative payees.
“This new law is great news for the millions of Social Security beneficiaries who rely on a representative payee to help them manage their benefits,” said U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who sponsored the legislation. “Not only will it provide much-needed accountability for the representative payee program, but it also puts measures into place that ensure newly selected representative payees are qualified and trustworthy.”
According to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, some 6.2 million individuals or organizations act as representative payees on behalf of about 8 million beneficiaries. Such representatives are assigned if the agency determines that a person’s mental or physical condition prevents them from being able to manage their benefits.
Proponents of the legislation cited concerns from the Government Accountability Office, the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, the National Academy of Sciences and the Social Security Advisory Board about how Social Security officials have administered the representative payee program.
“For too long dishonest representative payees have exploited and abused people with disabilities without fear of being discovered,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, an umbrella group for the nation’s protection and advocacy organizations. “That stops today. We are thrilled to see that Congress has acted to protect the more than 8 million Americans who currently have representative payees.”