We have had a young man living with us since the death of his father. We are friends, not legal guardians. His father died when he was 16. He is now 18 and has asked his mother for his survivor benefits. She had never told him what his monthly payment was, but after he turned 18, he received his first check on his own for $986. When he asked his mother for the rest of his money, she claimed that there was only $3,000 of the roughly $24,000 that he should have had. She has not provided his support while he has been in our home for these 2 years, nor has he used or known he was using this money. Does he have any recourse?
Possibly. It sounds like this young man should report to Social Security that his mother misused his benefits. Social Security should then conduct an investigation to see if misuse occurred, in which case the young man's mother could be required to repay any benefits that are determined to have been misused (https://www.ssa.gov/payee/faqbene.htm).
Representative payees who receive benefits on behalf of minor children or incapable adults are required to use benefits for the beneficiary's current needs, or else save the benefits for future needs. It doesn't sound like that happened in this case.