The DC Bar Foundation is proud to fund legal services organizations in DC that help residents during times of crisis. Our program partner Quality Trust is an advocacy organization focused on improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families in the District of Columbia and beyond. They work with people and their family members to solve problems, identify opportunities for learning and contribution, and find creative ways to minimize differences and maximize each person’s abilities. In this client impact story, Quality Trust shares how their work has recently helped one of their clients with a representative payee case (disability rights/financial autonomy).
JA is a 47-year-old man with hemiplegia (one-sided paralysis of the body) and a visual impairment. Due to his disabilities, JA receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When JA contacted Quality Trust, his now ex-wife was his representative payee for his SSI benefits, meaning she directly received his benefits and was tasked with managing and distributing them. JA recently divorced his wife and became homeless as a result. While a permanent resident of DC, he temporarily resided with a cousin.
JA contacted Quality Trust seeking assistance to quickly change his representative payee to his cousin to cease his ex-wife’s access to his SSI benefits. Quality Trust’s staff attorney supported JA through the process of immediately changing his representative payee by providing him with legal education and information on the challenging process of making the change. The staff attorney also provided information and insight to JA on how to best self-advocate when dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
After one failed attempt, JA successfully changed his representative payee from his ex-wife to his cousin with the assistance and support of Quality Trust’s staff attorney. However, because of the first failed attempt due to an SSA error, his November 2022 SSI benefits check still went to his ex-wife. JA’s ex-wife did not turn over the funds to him, so Quality Trust’s staff attorney provided him with legal information regarding his rights due to SSA’s error, as reflected in SSA’s Program Operations Manual System.
Being armed with this information allowed JA to advocate for himself to SSA and successfully get the agency to issue a new SSI benefits check for November. Further, the Quality Trust staff attorney provided JA with general information and assistance with filing a formal report of SSA benefits abuse and misuse to the SSA against his ex-wife for her mishandling of his November check. The attorney also informed JA that he could try to revoke his representative payee entirely to receive and manage his SSI benefits directly. The staff attorney let JA know that Quality Trust can assist him with this process if he wants additional support.
JA is getting settled into this new chapter of life post-divorce and will follow up with Quality Trust when and if he is ready to explore the option of revoking his representative payee.