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What is the Special Needs Fairness and Medicaid Improvement Act All About?

Special NeedsIntroduced on February 3, 2015, the Special Needs Fairness and Medicaid Improvement Act (H.R 670) has been floating around congress for more than a year. But, thanks to U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, for Pennsylvania’s 5th congressional district, who authored and sponsored the Act, it was overwhelmingly approved by the House on September 20th, 2016. This act removes arbitrary legal barriers that have prevented individuals with special needs from independently creating Special Needs Trusts. A special needs trust is used to supplement care and living expenses that would otherwise not be covered through Social Security or Medicaid.

According to Thompson, the Special Needs Fairness and Medicaid Improvement Act will correct a discrepancy in current law that prohibits a person with a disability from creating their own Special Needs Trust. In other words, this Act is put in place to correct an error in the law that assumes all disabled individuals lack the mental capacity to handle their own affairs. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) applauded Thompson and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), for their tireless dedication to making sure that this Act passed the house.

Thompson, during the passing of this Act, stated its importance to individuals with special needs. “This is a fundamental issue of equal protection for people with life-changing diseases or disability,” said Thompson. According to current law, persons with a disability are required to have a guardian establish a Special Needs Trust or they must petition the courts to do so on their behalf. Well, we all understand that this mandate can lead to burdensome legal fees. It can also lead to extended wait periods for implementing a Special Needs Trust.

Known as “the correction of a longstanding defect in the courts”, the Special Needs Fairness and Medicaid Improvement Act will remove one more badge of second-class citizenship. People with a disability can now use whatever savings they have to provide for their supplemental needs and still qualify for long-term services and support from means tested-programs such as Medicaid.

The bottom line is that the Special Needs Fairness and Medicaid Improvement Act will remove yet another barrier that individuals with disabilities have to overcome in society. Many disabled citizens live independently, drive cars or conversion vans to work, play sports and have achieved many other significant accomplishments. And when this act becomes law they will be able to create their own special needs trust too. The legislation must still pass the U.S. Senate before it can be signed into law.

Image Credit: Elvert Barnes | Flickr

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