Sheri R. Abrams, P.C., Attorney at Law
Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Trusts News from
 Sheri R. Abrams, P.C. Attorney at Law
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In This Issue
How Will the New Stimulus Package Help People With Special Needs--Including Those Receiving or Trying to Receive Social Security Disability Benefits
What Expenses Should a Special Needs Trust Not Pay For?
Launch of More Accessible Website
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Issue: # 7 February 2009
Picture of Social Security Card and Dice

Welcome to the seventh edition of our newsletter.  In these monthly newsletters we will be showing you how not to gamble with your or your patients/clients Social Security Disability and/or SSI benefits.  We will also be providing you with information on the uses of Special Needs Trusts.
How Will the New Stimulus Package Help People With Special Needs--Including Those Receiving or Trying to Receive Social Security Disability Benefits
social security formPresident Obama recently signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the second economic stimulus plan, into law.  This law significantly increases federal spending across a wide range of initiatives, including many programs that help people with special needs.
Some of the affected programs include:

$12.2 billion to increase funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants. These are used to fund special education programs on a state level. The increase in grants raises the federal government's share of special education costs (with the rest assumed by the states).

$500 million for the IDEA Infants and Toddlers program. This program funds state initiatives designed to assist families of children with special needs who are under 2 years of age.

$400 million for IDEA preschool grants. The grants fund educational programs that help preschool aged children with special needs.

One-time payments to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) recipients. This provision distributes an additional $250 per person one-time SSI or SSDI "bonus" payment, much like last year's economic stimulus payment. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has indicated that this payment will not count as income in the month it is received, although any funds retained by the beneficiary will count as a resource in the month following the distribution, much like a typical SSI payment.

$500 million to help the SSA speed up "processing disability and retirement workloads." Up to $40 million is also made available to help the agency utilize electronic medical records for disability claims.

$500 million in state formula grants. The grants are designed to update and repair job training facilities for people requiring vocational rehabilitation.

$87.5 million in funding for the creation and repair of independent living facilities.

What Expenses Should a Special Needs Trust Not Pay For?
question markSpecial needs trusts are designed to supplement, not replace, the kind of basic support provided by government programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Special needs trusts pay for comforts and luxuries -- "special needs" -- that could not be paid for by public assistance funds.  This means that if money from the trust is used for food or shelter costs on a regular basis or distributed directly to the beneficiary, such payments will count as income to the beneficiary.  This can affect eligibility for government benefits like Medicaid and SSI.  One of the trustee's most important jobs is to use discretion in making distributions from the trust so as not to jeopardize the beneficiary's eligibility for these government benefits.  If the beneficiary receives SSI, here are some basic expenses that should not be paid through a special needs trust without consultation with a special needs attorney, such as Sheri Abrams.
Cash given directly to the beneficiary for any purpose
Food or groceries
Restaurant meals (except if given as an occasional gift)
Rent or mortgage payments
Property taxes
Homeowners or condo association dues
Homeowners insurance if the insurance is a mortgage requirement
Utilities such as electricity, gas, and water
Utilities hookup or connection charges
However, many of these payments will only cause a one-third reduction in SSI benefits. The trustee may determine that the benefit of the trust making these payments far outweighs the loss of income.

For more information on Special Needs Trusts please read on.
Launch of More Accessible Website---Hoping to Create a More Welcoming and Open Experience for People with Disabilities 
Image of Wheelchair SignAs an Attorney who practices Disability Law I felt it was important that my website be fully accessable to those in the disability community.  That is why I hired Butler New Media, a disability services firm, to put my website through a comprehensive web accessibility evaluation with real users with disabilities.  Through extensive testing and remediation my website now has a variety of accessibility features that are beneficial to people with disabilities who use assistive technology.

Butler New Media redesigned my website to be among the first to comply with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines 2.0.
My website was one of the first to be completed through ACCESSIBLENET, a bold and ambitious new project aimed at creating at least 100,000 new accessible websites over the next ten years.  The project is the vision of Butler New Media co-founded by a person with a disability, Cornelius Butler.  He is an alumnus of Georgia's High School/High Tech Program and the first person in the nation to start a business after graduating from the program.  He wanted to provide an easier way for people with disabilities to access online resources. He realized as a legally blind individual that people with disabilities have unique needs, wants, and desires that are currently not being addressed by website owners.  "I wanted to make it easier for website owners to ensure their sites are usable by all people,  regardless of ability. I believe that this project will break new ground in building awareness about the disability community and market" said Butler.

For more information on Butler New Media please see: 
Our Office Location
Picture of New OfficeCome Visit Us
Our law office is located in the "Old Town
Fairfax Building," formerly known as the "Jesse Building."
                        4015 Chain Bridge Road
                                     Suite i
                             Fairfax, VA 22030
                               (703) 934-5450
We are right across the street from the Courthouse in Fairfax City, Virginia.
Free Parking (including a Handicapped parking space) is available in the lot behind the building.
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We provide legal services in the areas of Social Security Disability Law and prepare Wills, Special Needs Trusts, Living Wills, Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney for clients in Virginia, DC and Maryland, and we are always happy to provide FREE friendly phone advice.
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