TN 51 (03-19)

GN 00502.113 Interviewing the Payee Applicant

A. Purpose of the payee applicant interview

The representative payee (payee) applicant interview is the first opportunity the field office (FO) has to assess the individual or organization’s suitability to serve as payee. Use the interview to determine the applicant's qualifications and reason for filing to be payee and to assess the applicant’s ability to carry out the payee’s responsibilities. For individual payee applicants, gather, document, and address information about the nature of any:

  • self-reported criminal convictions;

  • relevant criminal history found on the Background Check Results screen in the Electronic Representative Payee System (eRPS);

  • fugitive felony history or periods of incarceration recorded on the Prisoner Update Processing System (PUPS) record;

  • beginning and ending dates of confinement; and

  • type of conviction (felony or misdemeanor), type of crime (e.g., robbery, forgery) and any pending civil or criminal charges.

During the payee interview, you must explain and ensure the organizational or individual payee applicant understands the payee’s responsibilities and duties described in GN 00502.114. You must also use the initial interview to explain to the payee applicant that, in completing the application, he or she:

  • agrees to receive benefits on behalf of the beneficiary and use or conserve them in the beneficiary's best interest;

  • understands the payee’s duties and the liability of non-compliance with reporting requirements;

  • is willing to carry out the responsibilities of a payee;

  • understands the liability for any overpayment for which the payee may be at fault; and

  • understands serving as a payee is voluntary and he or she may not charge a fee for providing payee services except as provided in GN 00506.001.

Refer all applicants to our website at “When People Need Help Managing Their Money” (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/) for more information on a payee’s duties and responsibilities. You may also provide individual payee applicants with a copy of the pamphlet, Pub. No. 05-10076 (A Guide for Representative Payees) at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10076.pdf. If the applicant is an organization, refer them to the “Guide for Organizational Payees” at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/NewGuide/toc.htm.

NOTE: If the individual or organizational payee applicant has any form of creditor relationship with the beneficiary, pay close attention to the creditor relationship during the interview so that you are able to make a sound selection determination. Refer to information on when the payee applicant is a creditor of the beneficiary in GN 00502.135.

B. Policy for interviewing payee applicants

Interview each payee applicant, including parents with custody who are completing an application for Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income for a child, in a face-to-face setting unless:

  • doing so would cause undue hardship;

  • the payee applicant previously had a face-to-face interview and is currently serving as a payee and is qualified to do so; or

  • the application is being processed in a centralized processing unit and the applicant is a parent with custody of the beneficiary who is his or her minor child or a spouse with custody of the beneficiary who is his or her spouse.

IMPORTANT: If the applicant meets one of the above exceptions to a face-to-face interview, you must conduct a telephone or Video Service Delivery interview.

Do not select an individual or organization that applies to serve as a payee on behalf of another individual or organization. You must conduct the payee application interview with the individual or organization that intends to serve as payee. For example: If a third-party organization comes into the field office (FO) to apply on behalf of the State foster care agency, you must non-select the application if the intended payee is the State foster care agency. For information on taking applications from foster care agencies, see GN 00502.159.

NOTE: Faxed, mailed, or dropped-off Form SSA-11-BKs (Request to be Selected as Payee) are items that require FO action. You must follow up with a face-to-face interview, unless they meet the exceptions above.

1. What is undue hardship?

Decide undue hardship on a case-by-case basis. Common examples of undue hardship include:

  • an applicant lives too far from the FO and a field visit is not possible;

  • work prevents the applicant from visiting the FO during regular business hours; or

  • an applicant comes into the local FO, but due to workload in the FO that day, the applicant would have an unacceptably long wait for a face-to-face interview.

2. When is a subsequent face-to-face interview required?

You always have the discretion to require a subsequent face-to-face interview whenever you determine such an interview is necessary to protect the beneficiary’s interests (e.g., there is a question about the payee’s past performance or compliance with reporting requirements).

You must conduct a face-to-face interview if the:

  • payee applicant has a history of misuse or has been convicted of any crime listed in GN 00502.133A.4., or

  • the applicant is residing in the United States, but does not have a Social Security number (SSN). For information on verifying the SSN, see GN 00502.117A.1.

NOTE: Any payee applicant, who previously satisfied the face-to-face interview requirement during a prior payee application, need not appear for another face-to-face interview if the applicant does not meet any of the limitations above.

3. When can I conduct a telephone interview?

Conduct a telephone interview for an individual payee applicant, if a face-to-face interview is not required or an undue hardship exists and if you can verify the applicant’s identity over the phone by confirming information on his or her NUMIDENT. For information on exceptions to the face-to-face interview, see GN 00502.113B.

Use the process on establishing identity outlined in GN 00203.020A.2. In the eRPS, enter “by phone” on the SSA-11 Application-Introduction screen (MS 07409.002) and “ID verified via NUMI” in the Type of Applicant ID field on the Proof of Applicant's Identity screen (MS 07409.011) in the application path.

For an organizational payee applicant, if a face-to-face interview is not required, conduct a telephone interview if you can verify the applicant’s identity over the phone:

  • Ask the employee of the organization for his or her name and job title.

  • Use the Rep Payee Applicant “Note Type” on the Make Note screen (MS 07415.002) to document this information in eRPS;

  • Verify the name of the organization;

  • Verify the organization’s address; and

  • Verify the organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN).

4. When can I conduct an interview by Video Service Delivery (VSD)?

You may conduct an interview via VSD for an individual payee applicant, if a face-to-face interview is not required or an undue hardship exists and if you can verify the applicant’s identity by confirming information on his or her NUMIDENT. For information on exceptions to the face-to-face interview, see GN 00502.113B.

Use the process on establishing identity outlined in GN 00203.020A.2. Enter “By video” on the SSA-11 Application-Introduction screen (MS 07409.002), “ID verified via NUMI” in the Type of Applicant ID field on the Proof of Applicant's Identity screen (MS 07409.011) in the eRPS application path.

For an organizational payee applicant, if a face-to-face interview is not required, conduct a VSD interview if you can verify the applicant’s identity:

  • Ask the employee of the organization for his or her name and job title. Document this information on the Make Note screen in eRPS;

  • Verify the name of the organization;

  • Verify the organization’s address; and

  • Verify the organization’s EIN, see GN 00502.118.

C. Procedure prior to interviewing individual payee applicants

Before interviewing an individual payee applicant, use available SSA queries (e.g. NUMI, SEQY, MBR, SSR) to gather information about the payee applicant that you'll need to make your determination. Review eRPS, the PUPS and Fugitive Felon records to determine if the applicant has a history of imprisonment or a fugitive felon history. Do not perform the criminal background check before the Permission for the Background Check screen (MS 07409.014).

NOTE: If the payee applicant has a representative payee, do not collect additional information and process the application to non-select him or her as a representative payee. There are no exceptions.

D. Procedure for interviewing payee applicants

Before you begin your interview, it is important to remember that all legally competent adult beneficiaries are presumed capable of managing or directing the management of benefits, unless there is evidence to the contrary. On the SSA-11 Application-Introduction screen (MS 07409.002), there is a reminder to consider lay evidence gathered in the face-to-face interview before determining an adult is incapable. For more information about lay evidence, see GN 00502.030.

NOTE: You should observe the beneficiary's behavior, reasoning ability, interaction with others, and how effectively he or she pursues the claim.

Before you discuss the application you must:

  1. 1. 

    Verify the identity of the person or organizational payee applicant following instructions in GN 00502.117. Verify the organizational payee applicant’s identity by following instructions in GN 00502.117, and

  2. 2. 

    Process the application following established procedures in the eRPS. For more information on processing applications in the eRPS, see GN 00502.110.

1. Payee applicant does not self-disclose a barred crime or have a PUPS or Fugitive Felon record

If the applicant does not self-disclose a barred crime or have a PUPS or Fugitive Felon record, ask him or her for permission to conduct a criminal background check when you are on the Permission for Background Check screen (MS 07409.014) in eRPS.

Do not conduct a criminal background check or ask for permission to conduct a background check for the following representative payee applicants:

  • Custodial parent of the minor child for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial spouse of the beneficiary for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial grandparent of the minor child for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial parent of an adult beneficiary who has a disability which began before the beneficiary attained age 22, for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial court-appointed guardian of the beneficiary for whom the individual applies to serve; or

  • A parent who was previously payee for his or her minor child and the child turned age 18 and continues to be eligible for benefits.

NOTE: If the payee applicant self-discloses, or we find out through our systems (eRPS or fugitive felon), that the payee applicant was convicted of any of the 12 felony crimes listed in GN 00502.133A.4 do not conduct a criminal background check on him or her. If the applicant self-discloses a felony that is not a barred crime, you must still run a background check. PUPS information is important for knowing how long the applicant was confined, but it does not give the specific crime committed.

If the payee applicant gives permission to conduct a criminal background check, take the following actions:

  1. 1. 

    Use eRPS, following the procedures in GN 00502.113D.3, to obtain criminal background information.

  2. 2. 

    After conducting the criminal background check through the eRPS:

    • If the individual does not have a criminal history, use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen on the Make Note screen (MS 07415.002) to document there is no criminal history.

    • If the individual does have a criminal history, follow the procedures in GN 00502.113D.3 in this section.

For more information on processing applications in the eRPS, see GN 00502.110.

If a payee applicant refuses to give permission to conduct a criminal background check, we are unable to determine if we would bar him or her from serving as payee; therefore, take the following actions in the order below:

  1. 1. 

    Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document that the "applicant did not give permission to conduct a criminal background check";

  2. 2. 

    Process the application in eRPS ; and

  3. 3. 

    Use “Other” as the non-select reason and document “applicant did not give permission to conduct a criminal background check”.

If the applicant leaves before attesting to the application, take the following actions in the order below:

  • Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document the circumstances of the interview and your findings regarding criminal history; and

  • Use “Incomplete” as the non-select reason.

2. Payee applicant has a PUPS or fugitive felon record

If the applicant has a PUPS record on the Prisoner Information screen (MS 07410.004) or fugitive felon record on the Fugitive felon information screen (MS 07410.003) in the eRPS:

  1. a. 

    You must discuss and document the PUPS/Fugitive Felon information with the payee applicant; and

  2. b. 

    Explain to the applicant that our records indicate he or she was incarcerated on (fill in the date), or that we have information showing he or she has an unsatisfied felony warrant.

Below is a list of sample questions that may help elicit additional information about any criminal history necessary to make a sound suitability determination:

  • What crime were you convicted of?

  • Was anyone injured because of the offense?

  • What was your sentence?

  • Did you serve any jail time?

  • Were you released from prison early due to “good behavior?”

  • Were you placed on probation or parole?

  • Were you ordered to pay restitution to anyone because of the offense?

  • Have you been arrested since this conviction? If so, when was the arrest and what was it for?

  • Has your current case been resolved? If not, are you awaiting a trial date?

If a payee applicant refuses to answer questions regarding his or her PUPS or fugitive felon history, we are unable to determine if we would bar him or her from serving as payee; therefore, take the following actions in the order below:

  1. 1. 

    Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document that the “applicant refuses to respond to questions about his criminal history”;

  2. 2. 

    Process the application in eRPS;

  3. 3. 

    Use “Other” as the non-select reason and document “applicant refuses to discuss criminal history.”

If a payee applicant denies ever being incarcerated, follow the instructions outlined in GN 02607.710D for applicants who receive T2 or T16 benefits and have a PUPS record.

If an applicant is not receiving T2 or T16 benefits, follow the instructions in GN 02607.890C for deletion of a PUPS skeleton record (GN 02607.520).

After discussing the PUPS or Fugitive Felon information with the payee applicant, answer the Permission for Background check question in eRPS (For more information on the Permission for Background Check screen, see MS 07409.014.

If the payee applicant gives permission to conduct a criminal background check take the following actions:

  1. 1. 

    Use eRPS to obtain criminal background information following the procedures in GN 00502.113D.3 in this section; and

  2. 2. 

    After conducting the criminal background check through the eRPS :

    • If the individual does not have a criminal history, document this information on the Make Note screen in eRPS.

    • If the individual does have a criminal history, follow the procedures in GN 00502.113D.3 in this section.

If a payee applicant refuses to give permission to conduct a criminal background check, we are unable to determine if we would bar him or her from serving as payee; therefore, take the following actions in the order below:

  1. 1. 

    Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document that the “applicant did not give permission to conduct a criminal background check”;

  2. 2. 

    Process the application; and

  3. 3. 

    Use “Other” as the non-select reason and document “applicant did not give permission to conduct a criminal background check.

If the applicant leaves before attesting to the application, take the following actions in the order below:

  • Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document the circumstances of the interview and your findings regarding criminal history; and

  • Use “Incomplete” as the non-select reason.

3. Conducting a criminal background check through eRPS

Do not conduct a criminal background check on a payee applicant if the applicant self-discloses a barred crime, or we find out through our systems (eRPS or fugitive felon) that the payee applicant was convicted of:

  • one of the 12 felony crimes listed in GN 00502.133A.4; or

  • attempt or conspiracy in connection with one of the 12 felony crimes listed in GN 00502.133A.4.

Do not conduct a criminal background check on the following payee applicants:

  • Custodial parent of the minor child for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial spouse of the beneficiary for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial parent of an adult beneficiary who has a disability which began before the beneficiary attained age 22, for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial grandparent of the minor child for whom the individual applies to serve;

  • Custodial court appointed guardian of a beneficiary for whom the individual applies to serve; or

  • A parent who was previously payee for his or her minor child, who has since turned age 18, and continues to be eligible for benefits.

To conduct a background check on for all other individual payee applicants take the following actions in the order below:

  1. 1. 

    Ask the payee applicant the permission to conduct a criminal background check question on the Permission for Background Check screen in eRPS;

  2. 2. 

    Select the Background Check tab on the Background Check Results screen;

  3. 3. 

    Discuss and verify the criminal information relevant to the suitability determination on the Background Check Results screen with the payee applicant. Use the eRPS User Guide to locate the felony information on the Background Check Results screen;

  4. 4. 

    Follow the policy in GN 00502.132A.2 to select a qualified payee when the applicant has past criminal history;

  5. 5. 

    If the applicant was convicted of any of the twelve crimes, as described in GN 00502.133A.4, take the following steps to “non-select” the payee applicant in the order below:

    a. Complete the payee application process (taking the application, printing the application and, having the applicant attest);

    b. Non-select the applicant on the Rep Payee Selection-Decision screen;

    c. Select “Criminal Policy” as the non-selection reason; and

    d. Document the applicant’s criminal history on the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen.

The questions outlined in GN 00502.113D.2 in this section may help elicit additional information from the applicant.

If you need further documentation about the applicant’s criminal history, follow instructions in GN 00502.117B.3.

If the applicant has a criminal history based on the information obtained from the Background Check Results screen, and you are unsure whether the crime is a barred crime, you must review the barred crimes state digest in GN 00502.301. This digest breaks down the barred crimes based on the state or territory where the crime was committed.

If the Background Check Results screen indicates an applicant was arrested for a crime, but the applicant does not provide any conviction information, you must ask if he or she has been convicted of the crime:

  • If the applicant says “yes,” use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document the applicant’s answers about his or her conviction;;

  • If the applicant says “no,” follow procedures in GN 00502.117B.3.a. to verify the status of the arrest and any conviction;

  • If you need additional time to analyze the criminal background information before you discuss the information with the applicant, continue with the payee application and inform the applicant that you will contact him or her later to discuss the results of the criminal information from the Background Check Results screen.

NOTE: If the applicant indicates the arrest information is erroneous, follow the procedures in GN 00502.117B.3.c.

4. Explain the use of benefits

a. Proper use of benefits

You must explain to the payee applicant that benefits are for the beneficiary's current needs for:

  • food,

  • clothing,

  • shelter,

  • medical needs,

  • personal comfort items, and

  • reasonably foreseeable needs.

The payee must conserve or invest funds on behalf of the beneficiary that he or she does not use for these purposes. If the applicant has questions about using benefits or conserving funds, he or she should contact the FO or call SSA through the national 800 number.

NOTE: Inform the applicant that SSA considers conserved funds a resource and may affect SSI eligibility in Title XVI cases.

b. Record keeping for money received

Explain to the payee applicant that a payee must:

  • keep a detailed record (e.g., receipts, checking and savings accounts, canceled checks, bills) of the money received and how he or she spends the money; and

  • complete an accounting report annually, which we will mail to the payee.

Once the payee registers, he or she may complete the annual accounting report on our website at “Internet Representative Payee Accounting Report” (http://www.ssa.gov/payee/form/index.htm). The website at “When People Need Help Managing Their Money” (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/payee) has useful information to help a payee keep track of benefits and expenses.

5. Direct deposit and direct express

You must explain to the payee applicant that:

  • representative payees must receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income payments via direct deposit or direct express card. For exceptions to direct deposit, see GN 02402.001. For more information on direct deposit for title II and title XVI, see GN 02402.002.

  • benefits deposited directly into a bank account must reflect the beneficiary’s ownership of the funds and the payee’s fiduciary relationship. For more information on direct deposit for representative payee cases, see GN 02402.055.

NOTE: The preferred account title for someone who is the payee is (Name of Beneficiary) by (Name of Payee), Representative Payee. For other examples, see the information on conserving benefits in a savings or checking account in GN 00603.010. For information on foreign savings accounts legends, see GN 00603.015. For additional information see, Account titles GN 02402.050 and Direct Deposit for Representative Payee Cases GN 02402.055

E. Documenting a face-to-face, telephone, or VSD interview

1. Face-to-face interview

Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document the following information (MS 07415.002):

  • the date of the interview;

  • your judgments about the payee applicant’s qualifications and suitability;

  • a statement that you explained the payee’s responsibilities; and

  • a statement that you explained the proper use of benefits.

2. Telephone interview or VSD interview

Use the Rep Payee Applicant "Note Type" on the Make Note screen to document the following information (MS 07415.002):

  • why a telephone or VSD interview was conducted (i.e., circumstances of the undue hardship or how the interview met the criteria of the other exceptions listed in GN 00502.113B in this section);

  • the date of the interview;

  • your judgments about the payee applicant’s qualifications and suitability;

  • a statement that you explained the payee’s responsibilities; and

  • a statement that you explained the proper use of benefits.

NOTE: If no eRPS record has been established (e.g., a case where the applicant is an undocumented alien parent payee without an SSN), document a Form SSA-5002 (Report of Contact). Scan the SSA-5002 into the Non-Disability Repository for Evidentiary Document (NDRED).

F. References

  • GN 00506.001 Fee for Service – Overview

  • GN 00502.110 Taking Applications in the eRPS

  • GN 00502.135 Payee Applicant is a Creditor

  • GN 00502.117 Verifying Information Provided by Payee Applicants

  • GN 00203.020 Identity of Claimants

  • GN 02607.710 Selecting the Correct PUPS Report for Case Processing

  • GN 02607.890 Requests for Corrections to the Prisoner Update Processing Systems (PUPS) of Records

  • GN 02402.055 Direct Deposit for Representative Payee Cases

  • GN 00603.010 Conserving Benefits in a Savings or Checking Account

  • GN 00603.015 Foreign Bank Accounts Legends

  • GN 00502.159 Additional Considerations When Foster Care Agency is Involved

  • MS 07409.014 Permission for Background Check

  • MS 07409.024 Background Check Results


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0200502113
GN 00502.113 - Interviewing the Payee Applicant - 04/15/2016
Batch run: 03/28/2019
Rev:04/15/2016