SSR 66-42: SECTION 205(j). -- REPRESENTATIVE PAYEE -- USE OF BENEFITS TO EFFECT BENEFICIARY'S RELEASE FROM INSTITUTION

20 CFR 404.1603

SSR 66-42

Representative payee for a social security beneficiary who had been committed to a State mental institution used $500 of the accrued benefits for legal expenses in a court action to secure the beneficiary's release from the institution where the beneficiary believed he was being illegally detained. Held, such an expenditure was proper as it was for the "use and benefit" of the beneficiary within the meaning of section 205(j) of the Social Security Act whether or not the court action was successful.

S, who had been committed to a State mental institution, became entitled to a disability insurance benefit in May 1964 on the basis of a mental impairment which began in 1960. His father, M, was named representative payee for S, and in late 1964 received the accrued benefits due S.

In 1965 M initiated court action to secure S's release from the institution on the basis that his continued detention was illegal, using $500 of the accrued benefits to pay court and attorney fees in this proceeding.

The question at issue is whether the use of accrued social security benefits for this specified purpose would be "for the use and benefit" of the beneficiary within the meaning of the Social Security Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.

Section 205(j) of the Social Security Act provides that when the interest of an entitled individual would be served thereby, the Secretary may pay the benefits to a relative or some other person for the individual's use and benefit as representative payee. Regulations No. 4 ยง 404.1603 further discusses the responsibility of the representative payee as follows:

A relative or other person to whom certification of payment is made on behalf of a beneficiary as representative payee shall, subject to review by the Administration and to such requirements as it may from time to time prescribe, apply the payments certified to him on behalf of a beneficiary only for the use and benefit of such beneficiary in the manner and for the purposes determined by him to be in the beneficiary's best interest.

As indicated above, an individual who has been selected to serve as representative payee for a beneficiary must expend the funds entrusted to him for the "use and benefit" of the entitled individual. This means that the funds so used must have a specific and reasonable relationship to the personal benefit of the beneficiary and be reasonably related to his other needs. There can be little question that a beneficiary's interest and benefit would be served by the provision of legal counsel to enable him to test the correctness of his commitment to the mental institution, if he believed he was being illegally detained, even if the court action were unsuccessful.

Therefore, it is held that the expenditure of accrued benefits by the representative payee to engage an attorney and to defray court costs incident to an action to secure S's release from the institution on the ground that he is being illegally detained, is proper regardless of the outcome of such action.


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