Capability refers to a beneficiary’s ability to manage or direct the management of
their Social Security benefits. Follow this general principle regarding capability
issues for adult beneficiaries:
Presume that a legally competent adult beneficiary is capable of managing, or directing
someone else to manage, the benefits to which
are entitled, unless there are indicators or evidence to the
For information when there is not a presumption of capability, see GN 00502.001C.
When you suspect a beneficiary may not be capable, you must make a capability determination.
When developing capability, a beneficiary, who exercises direct involvement, control,
and choice in identifying, accessing, and managing services to meet their personal
and other needs, is capable, and you must pay them directly. Make a finding of incapability
only when it is clearly in the best
interest of the beneficiary to do so, based on convincing evidence (legal, lay, and medical), using sound and
The determination that a beneficiary is incapable of managing or directing someone
else to manage their benefits is one of the most important determinations you will
make. This determination may deprive an individual of fiscal independence and self-determination
regarding how benefits are spent.
You must follow the instructions in GN 00502.001 through GN 00502.075 when making capability determinations.
If you determine a beneficiary is incapable, you must identify and appoint a suitable
representative payee. For information on representative payee payment, see GN 00502.001B.
After the initial capability determination, you must remain alert to indications of
a change in the beneficiary’s condition or circumstances that might require a new