§ 404.2011. What happens to your monthly benefits while we are finding a suitable representative payee for you?

(a) We may pay you directly. We will pay current monthly benefits directly to you while finding a suitable representative payee unless we determine that paying you directly would cause substantial harm to you. We determine substantial harm as follows:

(1) If you are receiving disability payments and we have determined that you have a drug addiction or alcoholism condition, or you are legally incompetent, or you are under age 15, we will presume that substantial harm exists. However, we will allow you to rebut this presumption by presenting evidence that direct payment would not cause you substantial harm.

(2) If you do not fit any of these categories, we make findings of substantial harm on a case-by-case basis. We consider all matters that may affect your ability to manage your benefits in your own best interest. We decide that substantial harm exists if both of the following conditions exist:

(i) Directly receiving benefits can be expected to cause you serious physical or mental injury.

(ii) The possible effect of the injury would outweigh the effect of having no income to meet your basic needs.

(b) We may delay or suspend your payments. If we find that direct payment will cause substantial harm to you, we may delay (in the case of initial entitlement to benefits) or suspend (in the case of existing entitlement to benefits) payments for as long as one month while we try to find a suitable representative payee for you. If we do not find a payee within one month, we will pay you directly. If you are receiving disability payments and we have determined that you have a drug addiction and alcoholism condition, or you are legally incompetent, or you are under age 15, we will withhold payment until a representative payee is appointed even if it takes longer than one month. We will, however, as noted in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, allow you to present evidence to rebut the presumption that direct payment would cause you substantial harm. See § 404.2001(b)(3) for our policy on suspending benefits if you are currently receiving benefits directly.

Example 1: Substantial Harm Exists.  We are unable to find a representative payee for Mr. X, a 67 year old retirement beneficiary who is an alcoholic. Based on contacts with the doctor and beneficiary, we determine that Mr. X was hospitalized recently for his drinking. Paying him directly will cause serious injury, so we may delay payment for as long as one month based on substantial harm while we locate a suitable representative payee.

Example 2: Substantial Harm Does Not Exist.  We approve a claim for Mr. Y, a title II claimant who suffers from a combination of mental impairments but who is not legally incompetent. We determine that Mr. Y needs assistance in managing his benefits, but we have not found a representative payee. Although we believe that Mr. Y may not use the money wisely, there is no indication that receiving funds directly would cause him substantial harm (i.e., serious physical or mental injury). We must pay current benefits directly to Mr. Y while we locate a suitable representative payee.

(c) How we pay delayed or suspended benefits. Payment of benefits, which were delayed or suspended pending appointment of a representative payee, can be made to you or your representative payee as a single sum or in installments when we determine that installments are in your best interest.

[69 FR 60232, Oct. 7, 2004]