1. You don’t need to go to a Social Security office to get income verification information: Social Security offices are busy and have less staff than in the past. As a result, they WANT you to have other ways to get the information you need. Here’s the easiest way to get your info: Go to www.ssa.gov and set up an account (look for ‘My Account’ on the front page)! You’ll need your name (as it appears on your social security card), your social security information and the answers to a few questions to verify your identity, but from there you should be able to access information and print out income verification as needed. (Note: It is not okay for anyone to set up an account in your name (including rep-payees) even with your permission.
2. There isa way to keep receiving your full SSI benefit amount while hospitalized: Typically, when someone becomes hospitalized, their benefit amount is automatically reduced to $72.80. This is based on the belief that most of their basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) are being taken care of within that hospital and is an effort to prevent having the government pay for those needs twice. HOWEVER, if a doctor is able to certify to Social Security that the person hospitalized is likely to be discharged within 90 days and they need the full SSI amount to maintain their community living quarters so that they have a place to go when they are released, they are able to keep receiving the full amount. The same goes for public hospitals where the SSI amount would be reduced to $0.
3. Young people who have been in DCF custody can re-apply for Masshealth when they are about to age out of DCF, and—REGARDLESS OF INCOME—they will automatically be eligible for Masshealth until they are 26. Here’s a good resource to learn more about healthcare options and resources: https://www.hcfama.org/
4. If you have a representative payee (someone who manages funds received from social security on your behalf), they are NOT allowed to withhold your funds as punishment or ‘incentive’ to get you to do (or not do) certain things.: In other words, it is not okay for a representative payee to withhold your spending money if you do not take your psychiatric medications. Nor is it okay for them to ‘reward’ you with your own funds if you do all your assigned chores, take your meds, clean your room, etc. (This doesn’t mean that rep-payees can’t limit amounts given for spending money for other reason, such as a belief that you won’t reasonably be able to manage spending it.)
5. Even if you have a representative payee, you are still personally responsible for reporting your own income: Having a Representative Payee means that Social Security has deemed that you need support to use your Social Security funds in a way that is sure to meet your basic needs. However, you still have responsibilities. Even if your Representative Payee fails to report income you make from other sources (a job, etc.), you will still be held responsible.
6. Even if you have a Representative Payee, you still have a right to see all notices from Social Security. Just because someone else is receiving Social Security funds on your behalf, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t required to be kept fully informed. All notices should be getting sent to you (unless you have a guardian) AND the rep-payee.
7. Rep-payeeship ONLY applies to social security funds (SSDI or SSI), NOT to food stamps, work income or any other money or benefit. You are NOT required to turn over your food stamps, money earned at work or any other income to a representative payee. Their only authority is over your Social Security funds.
8. If you are seeking to end a rep-payeeship and be in charge of your own money, a doctor is NOT the only one who can help you make that happen. Often people are told that the only way to end having a representative payee is to get a doctor to write a letter to Social Security stating that you are now able to manage your funds. In truth, letters can come from anyone. While letters that come from people in professional roles will be seen as holding more weight, those people can be social workers, therapists, and so on. Remember, the most important piece is likely to be highlighting what has changed since a rep-payee was assigned.
9. If you have a rep-payee, they MUST keep your funds separate from their own at all times. In other words, a separate bank account should be maintained specifically for your social security funds. Your funds may never be deposited and held in another person’s bank account.
10. The most important thing for you to do is open Social Security notices as you get them and to KEEP everything you receive! Often, notices come with time limits to appeal decisions. Also, if you need to seek help from someone else to understand what’s happened, having all your notices on hand can make ALL the difference!
Check out the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) for all you could ever want to know about Social Security: