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Dealing with Social Security during a Disability

John T. Midgett

People who have executed a durable general power of attorney think that “anything I can do, my agent can do as well”. While that may be true of bank accounts and deeds, it is not the case when dealing with your social security benefits. According to Bob Carlson, a Senior Contributor to Forbes Magazine (April 17, 2020) the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not recognize a power of attorney (POA). Instead you must contact the SSA and designate a “representative payee”. Only a representative payee is permitted to receive and manage your Social Security benefits when you are unable to manage money.

The SSA provides that you can designate up to three people as your representative payee and you may even rank them in the priority in which you wish them to serve. Then, should you be unable to deal with the SSA yourself, the SSA will reach out to your designated representative payees. If the first person cannot respond, then down the line they go.

There are several methods by which you can name your designated payee:

You can use your “My Social Security” account on the SSA website (

You can call the SSA at (800-772-1213);

You can go to the local field office of the SSA; or

You can request and complete Form SSA-4547 and mail it to the SSA.

There are several methods by which you can name your designated payee:

If you do not designate a representative payee during your lifetime, the SSA can name one for you when the SSA decides you need help managing money. Your spouse, family members, or friends can apply to be your representative, but the SSA can choose among them or name someone else.

Powers of Attorney are absolutely essential to handle a variety of financial matters when you cannot do so yourself, but cannot override the Social Security procedures and regulations.

For your own peace of mind, combine a durable power of attorney along with a designation of a representative payee for your Social Security benefits. For more details or to discuss how to protect your financial assets in the event of disability, contact Midgett Preti Olansen at 757-687-8888.

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Written By John T. Midgett


John T. Midgett is a Shareholder in the Law Firm of Midgett Preti Olansen. His practice is concentrated in the related areas of estate planning, administration and taxation, estate and trust litigation, and family business planning.

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