TN 31 (08-23)

GN 00504.100 Determining the Need for a Successor Payee

A. Policy

1. General

When circumstances change or suggest a payee may no longer be suitable, determine whether a new payee should be appointed: To protect our beneficiaries, SSA will identify some of these changes by matching prisoner and fugitive felon data against SSA records. Be alert to those changes that suggests reevaluating beneficiary's capability (see GN 00502.055.). An individual who files an application to serve as payee for a beneficiary who already has a payee must show that their appointment will be in the beneficiary's best interest.

2. When to Consider the Need for a Successor Payee

Development is required if the current payee:

  • Dies;

  • Becomes incapable of handling funds;

  • No longer wishes to serve as payee;

  • Fails to use or account for benefits properly;

  • Ceases to be responsible for the care or welfare of the beneficiary (see GN 00504.220 when a child beneficiary is adopted);

  • Fails to cooperate, (i.e., does not report events affecting payments or furnish requested evidence);

  • Files a clearly disadvantageous request to terminate the recipient's title XVI benefits;

  • Becomes geographically separated from the beneficiary by a considerable distance;

  • Is identified as being incarcerated by the PUPS/eRPS match process or is identified as having an unsatisfied felony warrant (or equivalent – See GN 00504.102);

  • No longer has custody of the beneficiary;

  • Is a beneficiary who has a payee; or

  • Is otherwise no longer suitable to act as a payee.

    Also, you must consider the need for a successor payee whenever someone else files to be payee (for a beneficiary that already has a payee) or if the beneficiary files for direct payment. The receipt of a new payee application may not contain any indication that the current payee is unsuitable. If you are changing payees because the current payee is unsuitable or because the current payee has died, query the eRPS (MS INTRANETERPS 001.001) to determine whether that payee serves other beneficiaries. In most cases, a change of payee would be appropriate for these beneficiaries, too. In addition, capability development will be needed if the beneficiary requests direct payment.

    These are some of the situations that require FO development but should not be regarded as reasons to suspend benefits. Refer to the guidelines in GN 00504.110 which describe when benefits can be suspended.

B. Procedure

1. Field Office (FO) Development

If a successor payee is needed, develop for a new payee using guides in GN 00502.085 through GN 00502.181. Be alert to any indication that an adult beneficiary is now capable.

Continue payment to a qualified payee, pending the appointment of a successor payee. If this is inappropriate, pay the beneficiary directly pending resolution of the issue unless direct payment is prohibited per GN 00504.105A.2.

If a beneficiary with a payee files a request to receive direct payment or a new payee application is received on behalf of someone who already has a payee and you are considering making that payee change, contact the current payee for their views, unless it would be inappropriate to do so. This will provide an opportunity to confirm allegations made by the payee applicant and put the current payee on notice that a payee change is being considered.


Determine if the current payee has conserved funds, and ensure that the conserved funds are returned to SSA in accordance with GN 00603.055. The contact may be made by phone or in person. If unable to reach the payee after reasonable attempts, including a letter asking them to call or come in, adjudicate the application based on evidence in file. Document the attempts to reach the current payee on the Report of Contact Details screen (MS INTRANETERPS 016.002) in the eRPS.


If the current payee does not reside in your service area and you are sending a come-in letter, advise the payee to go to their local office. Inform the resident office of the reason for the contact with the current payee to help the resident office in obtaining the payee's views on the proposed payee change

When talking with the current payee, discuss such issues as the following:

  • The payee's knowledge of the beneficiary's whereabouts and living arrangements;

  • Their reasons for wanting or not wanting to continue as payee; and

  • Any information pertinent to the beneficiary's capability.

    Do not furnish the name of the successor payee under disclosure policy, unless it is being released to a legal guardians or parents of a minor child (see GN 03316.120A.).

    Advise the current payee of the expected date of the change when contacting them. (This will let the payee know not to expect the check.) This contact must be made in addition to ensuring that the notice in NL 00703.821 is sent.

2. Example

An individual has been serving satisfactorily as payee for a beneficiary for 2 years when the beneficiary decides that they want someone else to be payee. Another applicant files to be a successor payee. Prior to adjudicating the new application, the FO contacts the current payee to inform them that a new payee application has been filed, but the FO does not furnish the name of the new payee applicant to the current payee. The FO documents the current payee's views about the proposed payee change and other issues as outlined above, adjudicates the application and if the decision is to change payees, the FO advises the current payee of the expected date of the payee change and to return conserved funds.


Evaluate the results obtained from the contact with the current payee and exercise judgment when determining if a successor payee should be appointed.

3. FO Documentation

Document your contact(s) on the Report of Contact Details screen in the eRPS (MS INTRANETERPS 016.002) or on an RC. Document your decision on the Make Note screen. Include in your documentation:

  • The issues involved;

  • The development undertaken;

  • The basis of the determination to continue or replace the present payee; and

  • Any other information which will help explain your determination as to the method of payment. (For title XVI cases, see SI 02305.022 to determine if an unscheduled redetermination is needed from the former payee.)


    Use the Report of Contact Details screen also to document change of payee actions initiated because of non-response to requests for an annual accounting (see GN 00605.090).

4. Processing Center (PC) Receives Information Which Raises a Payee Question

Forward the case to a Claims Authorizer (CA) for preparation of an FO development request if information is received which indicates that the current payee may need to be replaced. (This includes cases where someone other than the payee has signed an SSA form that was sent to the payee for completion.) (See GN 00605.069 for instructions on signature discrepancies on accounting forms.) Prior to initiating contact with the FO, query the eRPS to determine if a payee application is pending.

5. Change of Address

Develop, as appropriate, when a change of address separates the payee and beneficiary by a considerable geographic distance. (This may affect the payee's ability to respond to the beneficiary's needs and to know about deduction and suspension or termination events) (See SI 02305.021 for title XVI cases.) Update the eRPS to reflect current address data.

6. Shift in Custody

  1. a. 

    If there is a shift in custody, determine whether a change of payee is in the beneficiary's best interests. If not, input the correct address and custody code on eRPS and the MBR/SSR.

  2. b. 

    If the shift is from a parent-payee to an institution or social agency, exercise special care in determining a change of payee. Continue payment to the parent (absent any question of misuse) when the investigation reveals that the parent retains an active and continuing interest in the child. (See GN 00502.159 and GN 00502.160.)

    If the parent requests that the institution or agency be made payee, process the change if the institution or agency:

    • is willing to serve as payee;

    • is otherwise suitable as payee; and

    • files an SSA-11.(see GN 00502.115 for information on how to handle an SSA-11-BK submitted as a request to be selection as a payee)


    Throughout this subchapter, “SSA-11” refers to either a paper SSA-11-BK or an SG-SSA-11 from eRPS.

  3. c. 

    Correct the custody code on the eRPS and MBR/SSR if appropriate.

C. References

Disclosure Policy, GN 03316.120

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GN 00504.100 - Determining the Need for a Successor Payee - 08/08/2023
Batch run: 08/08/2023