Can you report misuse of Social Security funds for children?

Q. My son and his wife divorced and he has since passed away. My two grandchildren have lived with me for three years. I have them every two weeks, which was the arrangement since the divorce began, and the mother has them every two weeks. The divorce was finalized a year ago with joint custody and no child support from the father. I advised the mother to contact Social Security for benefits. Social Security says it asks the mother to verify benefits every year. Who verifies that it gives truthful information? Who has the right to ask whether the funds are well used? In this specific case, the mother was never able to manage the money responsibly, and I fear that the children’s money will be used for her activities and expenses.

– Grand parent

A. We are sorry to hear of the loss of your son.

Each year, more than $2 billion is distributed to more than 4 million children, according to Social Security.

Payments are often made payable to a “representative beneficiary,” like your former daughter-in-law, said Matheu Nunn, co-chair of family/marital practice at Einhorn Barabito in Denville.

However, due to a change in the law, Social Security no longer requires certain representative beneficiaries to file an annual report, he said.

“Among these exempt beneficiaries is a biological parent — your stepdaughter, for example — of a child, if that parent resides in the same household as the beneficiary child,” Nunn said. “That said, although SSA does not require an annual report for certain categories of representative beneficiaries, beneficiaries must always keep financial records of any expenditures/savings on behalf of the child, as SSA has the right to request these records even though the annual report may not be required.

Technically speaking, anyone can “question” the representative beneficiary’s conduct or use of money, Nunn said.

“The question is whether the ‘question’, or more accurately, the ‘statement’ of the representative beneficiary has an impact,” Nunn said.

“Of course, the person with the greatest right is the beneficiary – in this case, the children,” he said. “The broader question is whether a third party can report the conduct of the beneficiary representative.”

The answer is yes. This can be done on social security Office of Inspector General website.

Nunn said the website has several data fields, including a narrative section, where a person can report suspected fraud or misconduct by a representative beneficiary. He said the website provides a 4,000 character limit for reporting fraud or abuse and requires biological information about the reporter, representative beneficiary and “victim,” which in this case would be your grandchildren.

“Like almost all fraud or misconduct issues, the investigation relies on evidence and the credibility of the evidence,” he said. “For example, if children do not have adequate clothing or appear malnourished, that information is the type that the SSA would like to know. At the other end of the spectrum, conclusions based purely on guesswork are unlikely to result in action.

Send your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboos column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. To find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Register for NJMoneyHelp.comit is weekly e-newsletter.

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