Social Security benefits aid in the basic care of beneficiaries. Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) used benefits toward this end until Keffeler v. Department of Social and Health Services. In Keffeler, the Supreme Court of Washington ruled that DSHS, even when acting as representative payee, could not use a foster child's Social Security benefits to pay for his or her current maintenance. The court held that DSHS's use of Social Security benefits to pay for the current maintenance of foster children violated 42 U.S.C. § 407 of the Social Security Act, which protects Social Security beneficiaries from the claims of creditors. The Supreme Court of Washington reasoned that because state law required DSHS to provide foster care, it could not reimburse itself for the costs of that care without becoming a creditor, in violation of § 407(a). Section 405G) of the Social Security Act states that benefits must be used in the best interests of the beneficiary. The court stated that because DSHS was already required to provide for the current maintenance of foster children, using Social Security benefits for maintenance was not in the children's best interests. This Note argues that federal law and Social Security regulations permit DSHS when acting as representative payee-to use Social Security benefits for the current maintenance costs of foster children. States may act as representative payees, and use benefits to pay for the current maintenance of beneficiaries under 42 U.S.C § 4050(j), which pronounces that such a use is considered to be in the best interests of a beneficiary.
Tobias J. Kammer,
Notes and Comments,
Keffeler v. Department of Social and Health Services: How the Supreme Court of Washington Mistook Caring for Children as Robbing Them Blind,
77 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol77/iss3/8