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DISABLED CHILDREN OF MILITARY FAMILIES HELPED BY PASSAGE OF NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2015

As a result of the Congressional passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015 on December 12, 2014, disabled children of military families have been given the right to have their parents’ survivor benefits to go into a special needs trust. Until this becomes law, survivor’s benefits were paid directly to the children – which jeopardized their public benefits since public benefits such as Medicaid are often means-tested. Special needs trusts are used to give a higher quality of life for those who are disabled as the trusts can be used for clothing, books, vacations, personal property and other items not covered by public assistance.

It is hope that there is passage of other bills concerning special needs, such as the Special Needs Fairness Act which addresses the basic unfairness of requiring a parent, grandparent, court or guardian establish a special needs trust with the funds of the disabled person. Apparently first party special needs trusts (trusts established with the funds of the person with special needs) required establishment by parent, grandparent, court or guardian based on the initial incorrect presumption that most disabled persons have mental incapacity. However, with the lame duck session of Congress almost over, it is unlikely to pass at this time. The good news is that the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) passed on December 16, 2014 (see article in this month’s e-letter) and this law passage will be an extra tool in the tool box to help some persons with special needs.

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