Adults with Disabilities Need Better Social Security Representation, Report Says


Each year, millions of Americans with disabilities depend upon their Social Security benefits to help them stay financially afloat. Unfortunately, far too many of them lack assistance from a trusted advisor to help them handle their benefits, according to a new report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.


To complete the report, researchers carefully examined and evaluated the US Social Security Administration’s capability determination process for adult beneficiaries. What they found is that too few beneficiaries have what is known as a representative payee, a third-party responsible for receiving and allocating money on behalf of those unable to independently manage finances. In fact, of the more than 16 million adults receiving Social Security disability benefits, only about 3.5 million have representative payees.


The primary issue, researchers say, is that the SSA lacks standardized procedures both for effectively assessing each individual’s need for assistance and for identifying those at risk of becoming incapable of managing their own financial affairs. Plus, determinations of need often are inconsistent, as evidenced by some individuals who receive both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits having a representative payee for just one of the two programs. Researchers wrapped the report by recommending that the SSA develop and implement new policies to better identify beneficiaries in need of a trusted representative payee and to track claimants who may be capable of managing their finances currently but are at risk of needing assistance in the near future.


“The importance of creating as accurate a process as possible for incapability determinations is underscored by the consequences of incorrectly identifying recipients either as incapable when they can manage their benefits or as capable when they cannot,” wrote Paul Appelbaum, co-author of the study and a professor of psychiatry, medicine and law at New York’s Columbia University. “Needless to say, neither error is desirable.”


If you or someone you love needs help in securing SSDI or SSI benefits, Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell can help. Call 800-251-1111 to speak with a dedicated Social Security disability lawyer today.