Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Adult OASDI Beneficiaries and SSI Recipients Who Need Representative Payees: Projections for 2025 and 2035

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Adult OASDI Beneficiaries and SSI Recipients Who Need Representative Payees: Projections for 2025 and 2035

Article excerpt


The Social Security Administration (SSA) sends monthly cash payments to people who qualify for benefits under the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program and to those who qualify for payments under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Some people who qualify for monthly payments under these programs have a health condition that prevents them from managing their benefit payments. When a program participant is deemed incapable of managing his or her own monthly benefit, SSA sends the payment to a representative payee--a person or organization designated by SSA to act on the beneficiary's behalf.

Over the next two decades, the number of people receiving benefits from the OASDI and SSI programs will increase because of demographic factors such as the aging of the baby boom generation. The increase in the number of program participants will most likely lead to an increase in the need for representative payees. Although many beneficiaries will have a family member who can serve as a payee, others will not, and SSA will need to find suitable representative payees for them. Expressing concern that SSA has not adequately planned for the increasing numbers of program participants who will need a representative payee, the Government Accountability Office (GAO, 2013) recommended that SSA estimate the long-term increase in the number of individuals who will need a payee, their demographic characteristics, and the resources that will be needed to meet the increased demand. We address that recommendation by projecting the number and demographic characteristics of beneficiaries who will need a payee. These findings provide the foundation for a strategic plan to administer the representative payee program effectively in the future.

We use administrative data from SSA and program participation projections from Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) to estimate the increase in the number of adult OASDI beneficiaries and SSI recipients who will need a representative payee.

We study beneficiaries aged 18 or older who are not receiving benefits as disabled adult children or as students aged 18-19. We focus on this group because minor children, disabled adult children, and students aged 18-19 generally have a parent or other family member serving as their payee. To develop our projections, we disaggregate program participants into groups categorized by beneficiary type and age. For each disaggregated group, we compute the proportion of participants with a representative payee and the distribution by type of payee. We then apply the group proportions and the distributions by payee type to the MINT program participation projections for 2025 and 2035. The disaggregated numbers allow us to account for changing distributions by age and type of beneficiary over time, and the results allow SSA to develop plans to target outreach efforts.

We estimate that the number of adult OASDI and SSI program participants who meet our study criteria and need a representative payee will increase from 2,941,037 as of December 2013 to 3,265,577 in 2025 and 3,558,915 in 2035. For beneficiaries whose representative payee is not a family member, we project an increase from 887,086 as of December 2013 to 1,008,175 in 2025 and 1,123,394 in 2035. The model projects that the increases between 2013 and 2025 are due primarily to greater numbers of retired-worker beneficiaries, and that the increases between 2025 and 2035 are due primarily to greater proportions of retired-worker beneficiaries who will be aged 85 or older. The projected growth in payee demand is relatively modest for disabled-worker beneficiaries. By 2035, the gap between the numbers of retired-worker beneficiaries and disabled-worker beneficiaries who need payees is projected to close. We conclude that SSA may need to (1) increase the number of payees to serve the growing demand from retired-worker beneficiaries; (2) bolster monitoring efforts to ensure that payees do not misuse benefits; and (3) provide training to payees to reduce the incidence of elder abuse and financial exploitation. …

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