People with special needs (sometimes called disabilities) have legal needs (and related legal opportunities) that others do not have. One of the opportunities is the ABLE account (discussed in my blog post of February 5, 2015.) While the ABLE account is useful, if used in moderation, for easy money management without affecting government benefits, there are a number of other legal issues facing people with special needs.
Many of the legal issues facing people with special needs concern financial eligibility for government benefits. (Special Needs law is like Elder law in that way.) There are strategies for protecting the special needs person’s money while still maximizing government benefits. There are different strategies to allow family members to provide for the special needs person without impacting government benefits. These strategies form the backbone of the legal services for people with special needs.
In addition, to the strategies mentioned above regarding how to own assets that belong to or can benefit a person with special needs, legal issues can arise concerning income sources, housing, food, education, caregivers, management of assets and personal care. Frequently, these issues are tied together.
For example, a person with special needs may receive Supplemental Security Income, the Social Security program for people who haven’t worked long enough (and will never be able to work long enough) to qualify for Social Security Disability Income. Housing made available to the SSI recipient above the minimal level allowed can lead to a reduction in SSI benefits, however. Similarly, the value of the special needs persons’ assets may be too high for a parent to get the necessary bonding to act as guardian. In addition, legal needs may be different for someone who became disabled as an adult than they are for someone else who has been disabled since childhood or even since birth.
Special Needs Law isn’t like checkers. The “pieces” don’t all move the same way. Future installments will discuss some of these issues in more detail.