Can I spend my Child SSI Payment as I see fit?
A parent can spend the money in many ways, assuming that they are the representative payee of that child.
Meals, Housing, and Clothing
If the child has a representative payee, the payee must spend the monthly SSI payment on the child's "health, maintenance, and support," which means things such as meals, housing, clothes, medical treatment and other personal needs.
It is also okay for a payee to use a child's SSI benefit to pay for certain expenses for the whole family, such as rent and utilities. Social Security recognizes that the well being of the child is of utmost importance. So having a habitable home with water and electricity is fine.
Children who are receiving SSI also receive Medicaid. Although Medicaid pays for the majority of medical treatment, there may still be additional medical expenses. If the child has medical care not covered by Medicaid, the SSI money can be spent on copays for things like medication, any special equipment Medicaid doesn't cover, and any services that Medicaid won't cover like counseling.
The payee can also spend money on recreational expenses for the child, such as sports, tutoring, movies, camps, etc.
Savings for the Child
A payee can also save that money for the child. However, the amount saved has a limit. In the past, if a parent or payee is over resourced, that could eliminate the ability of the child to receive SSI benefits. However, today, a payee or parent can put the child's money into what's called an 'ABLE savings account'. Money in this Able account does not count as an asset or resource for the purpose of SSI eligibility.
A payee is allowed to pay off debts such as unpaid rent or past due utility bills, ONLY IF its in the best interest of the child.
SSI recipients may receive a lump sum back payment or back award when they are finally approved for SSI benefits. The lump sum typically goes back to the date of filing up to the date you were approved. If the child's back award is for more than 6 months of benefits, Social Security says the payee must set up a separate dedicated account, in the child's name, and deposit the back award payment into that account. Keep in mind that funds in this dedicated account to not count towards the $2,000 resource limit.
There are important rules when spending money in a dedicated account. Social Security has strict rules when it comes to spending money from the dedicated account. The funds in the dedicated account cant be used for basic needs like meals, housing or clothes, except maybe in a dire need situation. Social security says that the money in a dedicated account can only be spent on the following:
home modification costs such as a shower handle, or
certain types of home child care
Even if the child turns age 18, the same rules will apply with regards to to the dedicated account.
When a Child Receives Money Directly From Social Security
For children who are paid their SSI monthly payments directly, without a payee, there are no restrictions on what they can spend the money on. This doesnt happen in many circumstances but its possible for children between ages 15 and 17. Social Security can pay a child between this age group directly if:
The child is older than 17 years and 4 months.
The child has demonstrated the ability to handle their own finances, and no qualified payee is available.
The child is living by themselves and self-supporting.
The child is on active duty.
The child is a parent themselves and filed for their own benefits and has experience handling their own finances.
The child is entitled to their own disability benefits based on their own earnings.