When we think about special needs, we often think specifically about educational needs for children. However, the long-term educational and medical needs of minors and adult children with disabilities are serious matters to consider as well.
The phrase, special needs, generally refers to disabilities caused due to learning difficulties, physical problems, or emotional and behavioral issues. The parents and guardians of people with special needs face incredible challenges in fighting for the rights of their loved ones.
In the early days of my legal career, I worked for many years representing families involved with the Department of Child Safety. This often included families with special needs children. I learned early on that representing the rights of a child with special needs can be an arduous and lifelong task of negotiating bureaucratic channels.
My professional mission is to help these families get all of the available benefits and resources for their child, while also protecting their personal assets now and after death. This can include efforts to help in obtaining guardianship for a special needs adult child or creating a Special Needs Trust (SNT) to protect a disabled child’s government benefits.
The first step in protecting your child’s rights, including your adult child with special needs, and your personal assets. is to determine whether your child qualifies for local, state or federal special needs assistance.
The Social Security Administration utilizes a fairly strict process for determining eligibility for assistance. Children can qualify for social security benefits if they meet the definition of “disability for children” and if they have little or no additional income or other financial resources.
In making its determination, the Social Security Administration will include the family’s combined household income in its assessment.
To qualify for social security benefits such as supplemental income or disability benefits, a child must meet both of the following requirements:
- He or she must have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits his or her activities.
- The condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or result in death.
Additionally, a child may be able to qualify for health insurance from their State Children’s Health Insurance program (SCHIP), even if they fail to qualify for social security benefits. SCHIP provides health insurance to children from working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford private health insurance.
The rules and standards for adults living with disabilities are similarly stringent and require proof that the adult is unable to work as a result of his or her disability.
So how can you determine whether your child’s special needs will meet this standard? The Social Security Administration publishes a manual that lists the various impairments that can qualify an individual for Social Security disability benefits and/or supplemental Income. These include:
- Certain mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, autism and schizophrenia
- Various immune system disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and HIV/AIDS
- Sjogren’s Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome and certain other syndromes
- Skin disorders, such as dermatitis
- Speech and other sensory disorders
- Liver disease, kidney disease and digestive problems such as IBS or other debilitating digestive disorders
- Certain blood disorders, such as hemolytic anemia or bone marrow diseases
Of course, this is only a start to understanding the various types of disabilities which may qualify for local, state or federal benefits. In addition to seeking all possible sources of care and support for your loved one living with a disability, you also want to take steps to understand your rights in protecting your financial assets.
I can help you analyze your circumstances and work with you to ensure your child and your family receive the maximum benefits allowed under the law, while protecting your estate at the same time.
One thing you can do now if you have an adult child with a disability is to complete my Free Guardianship Checklist.
If you have a special needs minor or adult child, we want to work together to protect his or her rights and your family’s assets. Schedule a free consultation today.
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