Advocacy Factsheets

Advance Directives in Iowa
Becoming An Effective Advocate For Your Child
Effective Letter Writing
Reasonable Accommodation
Tips on Choosing Care for Children with Disabilities

Tip #1: What are the Traits of a Good Guardian?

If you have a guardian, this means a court has said you need help making decisions to ensure you get the food, shelter, clothing, and medical care you need to live. However, even if you have a guardian, you still have rights. DRI can review your situation and help you enforce these rights if you feel your guardian is not doing his or her job correctly. Some things good guardians should do are:

  • Communicate with you and your other service providers.
  • Make sure you know how to contact them if you need help.
  • Listen to your goals and help you plan what you can do to achieve them.
  • Help you work toward being more independent.
  • Act in your best interest, but take your wishes into account when making decisions.
  • Not threaten you just to get you to comply with their decisions.

These are just a few traits of a good guardian. Guardianship does not have to last a lifetime. If you still need help making decisions but can do it with less restrictive assistance, like a Power of Attorney or help from other service providers, you may be able to terminate your guardianship.

If you need assistance in pursuing alternatives to an overly restrictive guardianship, please contact DRI’s intake specialist at 1-800-779-2502 x12 between 9:00 am and 12:30 pm Monday through Friday.

Tip #2: What Are the Responsibilities of My Representative Payee?

A representative payee is an individual or organization appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage the social security or SSI benefits of another person. A representative payee must use the funds they manage for the use and benefit, and in the best interest of, the beneficiary. This means your representative payee must use your benefits to pay for your needs. These could include payment for food, shelter, clothes, medical care and personal comfort items. The following lists the required duties of a payee:

  • Determine the beneficiary’s needs and use his or her payments to meet those needs;
  • Save any money left after meeting the beneficiary’s current needs in an interest bearing account or savings bonds for the beneficiary’s future needs;
  • Report any changes or events which could affect the beneficiary’s eligibility for benefits or payment amount;
  • Keep records of all payments received and how they are spent and/or saved;
  • Provide benefit information to social service agencies or medical facilities that serve the beneficiary;
  • Help the beneficiary get medical treatment when necessary;
  • Notify SSA of any changes that would affect the payee’s performance or ability to continue as payee;
  • Complete written reports accounting for the use of funds; and
  • Return any payments to which the beneficiary is not entitled to SSA.

If you have problems or questions about your representative payee, you may call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local SSA office. Many questions can be answered by visiting the SSA website at  You may also contact DRI’s intake specialist at 1-800-779-2502 x12 between 9:00 am and 12:30 pm Monday through Friday.