Bipartisan bill would create new program to protect people with disabilities from financial exploitation #AdvocacyMatters
December 8, 2017 / #AdvocacyMatters
Representative payees help people manage their benefit money (like Social Security or retirement) if they can't do it by themselves because of a physical or mental disability. Rep payees are required to make sure the person receiving these benefits has what they need, including food, shelter, clothing, personal care and utilities, like heating, water and electricity. The money is only to be spent on the person receiving benefits (also known as the beneficiary).
To ensure that rep payees are properly using the money they have agreed to manage, the Social Security Administration has in the past contracted with organizations to do random audits and investigate fraud allegations. Recently, however, there have been reports in the news and through the Office of the Inspector General and Government Accountability Office about problems with this important oversight program.
In response, Congressional Republican Sam Johnson of Texas and Democrat John B. Larson of Connecticut have introduced House Resolution 4547, the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017. The act would create a new program, run by the Protection & Advocacy (P&A) system in each state, that would oversee these audits and investigations, help individuals with representative payees navigate the system and advocate to ensure they are receiving the full benefits promised to them. As Ohio's P&A, DRO has done this work in the past, and this new grant would give us the opportunity to provide more robust services to people with disabilities who are most at risk of being financially exploited.
H.R. 4547 recognizes the important oversight work of the P&A network and DRO, and it proposes to address concerns in the representative payee program in four productive and beneficial ways:
- Strengthening oversight of representative payees - This bill requires additional performance reviews, types of reviews, and improves the overall effectiveness of these reviews by requiring P&A's (including DRO) to conduct these reviews.
- Reducing the burden on families - H.R. 4547 eliminates the requirement to file annual accounting forms for representative payees who are parents or spouses living with their child who has a disability.
- Enhancing protections for beneficiaries - This essential legislation improves information-sharing to help identify those who are in need of a representative payee, oversees performance, help improves coordination between agencies.
- Improving the representative payee selection - H.R. 4547 allows beneficiaries to make advanced designations of who they prefer to be their payee, allowing for a more person-centered approach to the program.
DRO is eager to take on this critical work that would expand our protection and advocacy efforts on behalf of people with disabilities in Ohio. Congress is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. Today, we're asking you to contact your legislators in Congress and ask them to support this bipartisan effort.
Find your elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov/representatives/find
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown have offices throughout Ohio and in Washington, D.C.:
- 513-684-3265 Cincinnati
- 216-522-7095 Cleveland
- 614-469-6774 Columbus
- 419-259-3895 Toledo
- 202-224-3353 Washington, D.C.
- 513-684-1021 Cincinnati
- 216-522-7272 Cleveland
- 614-469-2083 Columbus
- 440-242-4100 Lorain
- 202-224-2315 Washington, D.C.
Learn more about the rights of people with rep payees in these DRO publications: Your Rights If Your Representative Payee is Misusing Your Money and Take Charge of Your Life: Know about Guardianship.