Government Benefits

Government Benefits as a Foundation for Special Needs Planning

By Barbara Isenhour, Esq. Navigating the acronym-ridden maze of government benefits is tough and misconceptions abound. Families may be unaware of the full range of options available to individuals with I/DD, or they may be confused about eligibility, assuming that they have too much income to consider means-based programs. Most individuals with I/DD can benefit [...]


How to Assess Future Life Needs for a Loved One with a Disability

By Joanne Marcus, MSW, Executive Director, Commonwealth Community Trust The first months, or even years, after receiving the diagnosis are filled with unexpected questions and challenges when you have a loved one with special needs. “Here-and-now” needs like healthcare, therapy, education and other immediate needs can quickly take priority over future planning, which is understandable. [...]


SSDI Is Often a Lifeline

By Rebecca L. Berg, CELA Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program offering monthly cash payments and eventual Medicare coverage to individuals with long-term disabilities that prevent them from holding down a job. While it's a vital lifeline to many, it's often misunderstood. The Census Bureau reports that roughly one in 10 Americans [...]


When People with Disabilities Divorce

By Barbara Hughes, Esq., and Edward V. Wilcenski, Esq. Studies indicate that divorce rates increase with the onset of a disability. While any divorce is likely to be disruptive, when one or both partners have special needs, there are additional complications. Marital laws differ by state, but here are issues to consider. Question of Capacity [...]


Considerations when Initiating or Settling a Personal Injury Action

This issue of The Voice is written by Ken W. Shulman, Esq. who is a partner in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Day Pitney LLP. Ken focuses his practice on estate planning and related issues for families who have children with disabilities and on elder law. He has served as a board member for several human service agencies including the Greater Boston ARC and presently serves as a board member for the Asperger's Association of New England. He also serves on the Combined Jewish Philanthropies Committee on Disabilities and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He is a co-author of Managing a Special Needs Trust, People with Disabilities Press (2012). Ken often serves as a trustee of special needs trusts at his clients' request.


When Parents Can’t Pay

On Paper, Filial Support Laws Hold Adult Children Accountable By Jason Frank, CELA, CAP, Fellow of NAELA It's no secret that long-term care is in crisis. Today, many nursing home bills are paid by Medicaid, but with the aging of baby boomers and increased longevity, that program will face increasing pressure. As states seek budget-balancing [...]


Attorneys Explain Interplay of SNTs and Medicare Set-Asides

Representing SNA at the recent annual conference of the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP), Kristen L. Behrens, of the Begley Law Group, and Shannon A. Laymon-Pecoraro, of the Hook Law Center, discussed how to integrate Medicare set-asides (MSAs) with first party special needs trusts (SNTs) created to hold personal injury settlements. An SNT [...]


Blog Roundup: Home and Community Care/Least Restrictive Environment/”Sole Benefit” SNT Distributions/Hospitals and Family Caregivers

HCBS--A Cost-Effective Method of Providing Care Home and community-based care is less expensive than nursing home care and has the potential to ease states' Medicaid burden. Read on. Does the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) Work for Your Child? An inclusive environment isn't always the best educational solution for a student with special needs. Read [...]


Missing the Mark – Government Housing Programs for People with Special Needs

By Mary O’Byrne, Esq., and Stephen W. Dale, Esq. In the first article of this three-part series, we examined the scope and causes of the crisis in housing for individuals with disabilities. Here, we describe government efforts to address it. The performance of government at all levels has been inconsistent with regard to the housing [...]


The Affordable Care Act and Personal Injury Awards

SNA President Marielle F. Hazen, CELA recently spoke on the "Impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on SNT and Settlement Planning" to an audience of 200 at the 2014 annual meeting of National Structured Settlements Trade Association. After providing a quick overview of the ACA, she focused on its potential effect on personal injury [...]


Understanding VA Disability Benefits

By Cindy S. Alvear, Esq. and Julian E. Gray, CELA Most people are aware, to some extent, that the Veterans Administration (VA) offers benefits for service-related disabilities. Many don't realize, however, that for veterans with war-time service-even if stationed stateside-there may be coverage for certain non-service-related disabilities, as well. Here's an overview: Service Connected Disability [...]


Call to Action! Ask Federal Legislators to Co-Sponsor Bills Benefiting People with Disabilities

The Special Needs Alliance and other prominent advocacy groups have long supported two pieces of legislation that would greatly benefit individuals with disabilities. Now we're asking you to help sign up additional co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act (H.R. 2123/S.1672) This bipartisan legislation was introduced in [...]


Blog Roundup: PI Settlements/College Supports/Eldercare/Employment/SNTs & SSI

SNA attorneys have daily involvement with a wide array of issues facing individuals with disabilities, their families and the professionals who serve them. Below is a sampling of recent posts from member blogs: High Expectations of PI Attorneys When Advising Clients During Settlement A recent client suit against personal injury attorneys illustrates the care with [...]


Working With the Social Security Administration: Some Thoughts for the Perplexed

By Michael J. Astrue, Former Commissioner, Social Security Administration I moved back to the Boston area last year after my six-year term as Commissioner ended. It has mostly been a joyous transition for me, but one small but recurring annoyance is that one of my radio stations keeps playing advertisements for a financial advisor who [...]


The Affordable Care Act and Its Impact on Individuals with Special Needs

This issue of the Voice was written by SNA member Shirley B. Whitenack, Esq. of Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP and an associate at her firm, Crystal West Edwards. Shirley's practice focuses on elder and special needs law and estate and trust litigation, planning and administration. She is a Fellow and the Vice President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and is a member of its Council of Advanced Practitioners (CAP). Crystal's practice focuses on elder and special needs law. She is a member of the Elder and Disability Law Section of the New Jersey Bar Association, NAELA, and Secretary of the New Jersey Chapter of NAELA and the Garden State Bar Association.


Harkin Report Cites Lack of Community Services

By Bridget O’Brien Swartz, CELA In 1999, the Supreme Court's Olmstead decision found that delivering services in a segregated setting when such services could otherwise be provided in a less restrictive, more integrated setting, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, states were directed to provide services within the mainstream community to the [...]


Looming Budget Deadlines Threaten Safety Net

By Bridget O’Brien Swartz, CELA and Morris Klein, CELA As federal budget deliberations become increasingly urgent, there are a number of issues in play: Given that Senate and House versions of the 2014 budget are $91 billion apart and that the fiscal year begins on October 1, a short-term continuing resolution to provide temporary funding [...]


When Medicaid or SSI Benefits are Denied or Terminated – Now What?

The Voice is the e-mail newsletter of The Special Needs Alliance. This installment was written by Special Needs Alliance members Ann N. Butenhof, CELA and Judith L. Bomster, Esq., of Butenhof & Bomster, P.C., in Manchester, New Hampshire. Both Ann and Judith focus their practices on estate planning, special needs planning, elder law, and probate and trust administration. Ann is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). Judith currently serves on the Ethics Committee of the New Hampshire Bar Association, and was the primary drafts person for New Hampshire's first pooled special needs trust program for third party trusts. Both Ann and Judith are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).