A new report suggests that many adults with disabilities receiving Social Security benefits need someone else to assist them in handling their money, but oftentimes are left on their own.

Too few beneficiaries have what’s known as a representative payee – a third-party responsible for receiving and allocating money on behalf of those who can’t manage finances independently – according to the report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Currently, about 3.5 million of the 16 million adults receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration have a representative payee to ensure that funds are used appropriately.

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However, the study found that the agency lacks standardized procedures for assessing each individual’s need for such assistance and does not have a good way to identify those at risk of becoming incapable of managing their affairs.

Determinations are also inconsistent, the report found. In some cases, individuals receiving benefits from both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance have a representative for one program, but not the other.

“The importance of creating as accurate a process as possible for incapability determinations is underscored by the consequences of incorrectly identifying recipients either as incapable when they can manage their benefits or as capable when they cannot,” wrote Paul Appelbaum, chair of the Institute of Medicine committee that produced the report, which was conducted for Social Security. “Needless to say, neither error is desirable.”

The report recommends that Social Security institute new policies to identify beneficiaries in need of a representative payee and to track those at risk of needing added assistance.

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