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How Technology Assists People with Disabilities Lead Better Lives

November 16th, 2017

Children with serious chronic illnesses face immense obstacles in education and socialization. Until recently, it was not possible for a homebound or hospitalized child to attend school. However, it is happening now, with the assistance of telepresence robots. These robots, which consist of a rolling screen with a camera, microphone and speakers, allow users to hear, see, interact and move around in real time in a faraway place. They are being used to allow students with chronic illnesses to participate in traditional school environments for the first time.Littman Krooks Special Education Advocacy A child who must be at home or in the hospital can use a telepresence robot to attend classes in different classrooms, participate in small group discussions and talk with friends. This level of participation can help chronically ill students overcome their isolation, and it provides educational and social benefits that cannot be obtained from individual tutoring. Telepresence robots hold great promise for students with serious illnesses, but there are obstacles to their use, including the cost of the technology and the fact that not all school districts permit them.

For other students with special needs, a wide variety of smartphone and computer applications have been developed to help with educational and adaptive needs. These include apps that help students with communication skills, or that help young adults with vocational training. The Arc provides an online tech toolbox that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities find applications to improve their lives. The Arc of Westchester has formed alliances with other local organizations to focus on how technology can support the functional needs of people with disabilities. The organization is opening a Technology Enhanced Simulated Studio (TESS) in Mount Kisco, New York to help young adults learn to use technology to meet challenges as they transition to adult life.

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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October is National Special Needs Law Month

October 11th, 2017

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has designated October as “National Special Needs Law Month.” Special Needs Law attorneys throughout the country contribute a great deal to their communities by educating those with special needs, their families, and caregivers about their legal needs. 

The program is part of a nationwide observance of National Special Needs Law Month during the month of October, sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Headquartered in Washington, DC, NAELA was formed in 1987 in response to the growing needs of older adults and people with disabilities in coping with the legal problems of aging and special needs.

Other programs throughout the United States will include: seminars in financing long-term care; seminars in legal tools for financial management, such as powers of attorneys and trusts; seminars in understanding Medicare and Medicaid; discussions of special needs trusts and a student’s right to an independent educational plan; discussions of public entitlements such as Social Security and Supplemental Security Income; discussions of housing options; and other issues with which local special needs planning attorneys feel the public should be familiar.

Membership in NAELA has grown to more than 4,300 members since its inception in 1987 commensurate with the continuing national advocacy for people with special needs.

Unlike traditional lawyers, special needs planning attorneys focus on with their clients “holistically” – helping with the issues that affect a particular segment of the population rather than a particular area of law.

When clients visit a special needs planning attorney, they generally present problems beyond the need for a will or a power of attorney. Special needs planning attorneys are familiar with the multifaceted aspect of this complex area of the law, as well as a network of services and providers who assist clients effectively.

NAELA devotes much of its resources to education of its members and the public. Special needs planning attorneys must constantly monitor the ever-changing statutes and regulations to which people with disabilities are beholden for their daily existence.

Littman Krooks managing partner, Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., is past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a Fellow of NAELA, past Chair of the NAELA Tax Section and past Editor-in-Chief of the NAELA News. 

 

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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Diabetes and 504 Plans

September 28th, 2017

By Erica Fitzgerald, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

If you are the parent of a child diagnosed with diabetes, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with your child’s rights. Having a developmental disability is not a prerequisite for protection under the law. Individuals with recognized disabilities, including diabetes, have the same rights to access programs and facilities as their non-disabled counterparts. This right to equal opportunity extends to the classroom. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”), The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) all ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate and succeed in school. These laws also provide a legal remedy for those experiencing discrimination and who are not receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”).

Section 504 is a civil rights law that protects individuals from discrimination and entitles children diagnosed with disabilities that limit a major life activity, such as learning, to a FAPE designed to meet their individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of children without disabilities. However, “learning” is only one example of a major life activity which can be impacted by a disability. Even if your child has been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes but continues to excel academically, he or she may still be eligible for accommodations and qualify for protection under Section 504. School districts have responsibilities to address the needs of your child with diabetes and to make sure he or she can attend school safely.

Section 504, IDEA and the ADA all consider diabetes to be a disability; therefore, it is illegal for schools and day care centers to discriminate against children with diabetes. However, the IDEA is only applicable under certain circumstances, if there is an educational impact and the child needs special education services. First, a student may have a cognitive or emotional disability in addition to diabetes which qualifies him or her for special education services under the IDEA. Second, a student without a coLittman Krooks special needsmorbid disability may nevertheless qualify for special education services under IDEA as having an “other health impairment.” For example, a child with diabetes may experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia and/or hyperglycemia which significantly inhibit the ability to concentrate, access instruction or attend school. Third, complications from diabetes may result in excessive loss of instruction time, rendering a child eligible for special education services under IDEA.

Failure to qualify for special education services and an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) under the IDEA does not mean a child with diabetes is not entitled to an individualized, written diabetes management plan which establishes the student’s medical needs and how the school will meet those needs. In addition, a student with diabetes should also seek to obtain a written plan developed pursuant to Section 504 (“504 Plan”) which establishes accommodations that a student with diabetes may need, such as permission to eat anywhere and anytime or carry a cell phone and use it in class, if needed. The 504 Plan can establish procedures and protocols to ensure that a student with diabetes can attend field trips and participate in athletics and extracurricular activities safely with appropriate assistance and supervision. Having a formalized 504 Plan will also ensure access to dispute resolution procedures should any issues arise. A school district remains responsible for providing a student with diabetes with a medically safe environment that offers the same educational opportunities enjoyed by peers even if the child is making meaningful progress academically. This includes providing the student with assistance with administering insulin and glucagon, checking blood glucose levels, and allowing the student to eat snacks during the school day. But a school district’s federal obligations to provide an equal opportunity to participate extend beyond the traditional school day and include non-academic and extracurricular activities as well. Thus, it is the responsibility of the school district to ensure that a child with diabetes has access to medical supplies and any necessary assistance not only at school but also on field trips, during extracurricular activities, and at after school clubs and sports.

If your child with diabetes attends a private or parochial school, these federal laws may not apply. Only schools that receive federal funding, or facilities considered open to the public, must reasonably accommodate the needs of children with diabetes. The standard applied to private non-religious schools, nurseries, day care centers, community based organizations, summer camps after school programs and special events is not the same as the standard to which public schools must adhere. Private schools that receive federal funds are only obligated to comply with minimal obligations such as the least restrictive environment mandate, comparable facilities requirement, and the requirement to provide an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. They must provide minor adjustments to accommodate students with disabilities. Thus, it is important to understand your child’s rights and to advocate effectively for them.

 

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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Preparing a Letter of Intent For Your Child With Special Needs

August 9th, 2017

By Amy C. O’Hara, CELA, Partner

No one else knows your child as well as you do, and no one ever could. You are a walking encyclopedia of your child’s history, experiences, habits, and wishes. If your child has special needs, the family’s history adds a helpful chapter to your child’s book, one detailing his unique medical, behavioral and educational requirements.

What would happen if you suddenly became unable to provide your child with the necessary supports he needs? Without you, your child would become dependent on other caregivers who simply do not possess all of your personal knowledge and insight. However, there are steps you can take now to minimize the natural disruption and disorientation that will occur upon your death or if you become unable to care for your child during your lifetime.

Littman Krooks Special Needs PlanningFirst and foremost, you should put into place supported decision making for your child to assist with personal financial and medical decisions.  Depending on your child’s functioning, this is accomplished by either appointing a legal guardian through a court proceeding or having your child execute a power of attorney and health care proxy.

Second, you should prepare a letter of intent to help loved ones and your child manage a difficult transition when you no longer are the primary caregiver. A letter of intent is an important planning tool for parents of children with special needs (including adult children), and also may be useful when planning for minor children who are not  expected to face special challenges.

Although a letter of intent can be considered one of the most important estate planning documents a parent can prepare, it is not a formal legal document that must be created by an attorney. The goal of a letter of intent is to memorialize your knowledge of your child’s needs so that you may guide future caregivers, guardians and trustees in providing the best possible care to your child. Simply put, a thoughtful letter of intent ensures that those who come after you need not waste precious time figuring out the best way to manage and care for your child.

At minimum, the letter can address the following points regarding your child: family history, daily schedule; food likes and dislikes, medical care, education, government benefits received, employment, residential environment, social environment, religious preferences, behavior management, and funeral arrangements.

Once you prepare, sign and date the letter of intent, you should review the document annually and update it as necessary. It is important that you let your child’s potential future caregiver know the letter of intent exists and where it can be accessed; even better, you can review the document with the caregiver on an annual basis. The letter of intent should be placed with all of your other relevant legal and personal documents concerning your child.

The letter of intent can be a difficult and extremely emotional document to write, as you are envisioning a time when your child is navigating this world without you. However, once it is completed, the first important step has been taken toward creating a detailed road map for future caregivers and trustees. As a parent you also may be relieved to know that you are ensuring the highest quality of life for your child by laying the foundation for as seamless a transition as possible after you are gone.

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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Job Training for People with Disabilities is Available from ACCES-VR

July 3rd, 2017

Individuals with disabilities who need help with vocational rehabilitation or support for independent living should be aware of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR).

ACCES-VR helps people with disabilities gain and keep employment, and assists with support for independent living, through rehabilitation, training, education and career development. Funding for some services is based on financial need, and most services are provided at no cost.

The program provides vocational rehabilitation services that include assessments and evaluations, vocational counseling and guidance, special transportation, rehabilitation technology, work readiness, adaptive driver training, tutoring, reading and note taking services, modifications to homes or worksites, job development and placement, on the job training, and job coaching.

In addition to vocational rehabilitation services, transition services are available to young people who are finishing school and seeking work or higher education. ACCES-VR works closely with school districts to help youth with disabilities prepare for transition and employment, community living, or post-secondary education. The Youth Employment Services (YES) program helps students transition to the world of work, and provides a schedule of services that accommodate the school day and academic calendar as necessary.

ACCES-VR district offices are located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, White Plains and other locations, where applications for services are available. The best way to get started with the program is to attend an orientation session. To learn more, visit http://www.acces.nysed.gov/vr.

 

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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House Passage of American Health Care Act Requires Monitoring, Attention and Advocacy

May 5th, 2017

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.

The United States House of Representatives, by a vote of 217 to 213, on May 4, 2017, approved legislation—called the American Health Care Act–to repeal aspects of the Affordable Care Act and replace them.   The House bill must still pass the Senate to become law.  If approved, the new legislation will impact every American citizen, particularly those who have not had insurance before, those who have pre-existing conditions and those who rely on Medicaid.  According to The New York Times, the House bill would eliminate tax penalties for people who go without health insurance. The bill would roll back state-by-state expansions of Medicaid, which covers millions of low-income Americans.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated  that the bill would cut Medicaid spending by $880 billion.  School districts will face cuts in funding and children with disabilities could receive less services.

We will keep you apprised on important developments and the changes in law will have a significant impact on vulnerable adults and children with disabilities.

 

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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Tax Deductions & Credits for Special Needs Families

March 10th, 2017

By Amy C. O’Hara, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

Parents of children with special needs often have unique financial concerns, and one way to ease those concerns is to reduce their tax burden.

There are many tax deductions and credits available that parents may not be aware of. Parents of children with special needs should familiarize themselves with the deductions and credits and take care to document all expenses related to their children’s medical expenses, development and therapy.

Here are 5 useful tax deductions and credits for parents of children with special needs:

Littman Krooks Special Needs Planning

1. Medical & Therapy Expenses

The first type of deduction to consider is for medical and therapy expenses. For income tax purposes, learning disabilities are a type of medical condition. This may include autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and other learning disabilities.

While these expenses are limited by 10 percent of adjusted gross income, the limitation may be exceeded by certain types of out-of-pocket expenses.

Such expenses can include the following:

  • Special schooling such as: tutoring that is specifically intended to address the special needs of the child.
  • Regular education when it is intended to treat the child’s special needs.
  • Aides that a child may require to benefit from education.
  • Exercise programs, if they are recommended by a medical professional.
  • Transportation to and from special schools or therapy sessions.
  • Equipment, devices and supplies necessary to treat or alleviate a medical condition, including technology items such as communication devices.

2. Specialized Foods

A gluten-free, casein-free diet can be used as a deduction provided it is medically recommended. Generally, only the additional cost of the specialized foods over and above what would be paid for similar items is deductible.

3. Legal Expenses

In some cases, legal expenses related to your child’s special needs may be deductible, for instance if you hire an attorney to help you prove that your child’s medical expenses are legitimate.

Tax Credits

Even more helpful than a tax deduction is a tax credit, which applies directly to the amount of tax you owe. The tax credits most helpful to parents of special needs children are the Child and Dependent Care Credit and the Earned Income Credit. In both cases, a credit that is normally only available for children may also be used for an older child with special needs.

4. Child and Dependent Care Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Credit may be applied when you pay someone to care for your dependent, and it provides a tax credit of up to $3,000 per dependent, to a maximum of $6,000 for two or more dependents.  Child-care, after-school programs and day camp qualify for the credit.

The credit is available for children under the age of 13, but the age limit does not apply to older children with special needs.

5. Earned Income Credit

The Earned Income Credit can also be useful for parents of children with special needs. The credit generally may be applied by families with a low to moderate income and children under the age of 19, or up to age 23 for full-time students. However, for adult children living with their parents, the age limit does not apply.

In Conclusion

Parents of children with special needs know that there are unique challenges involved, including financial hurdles. However, with careful planning and the assistance of an experienced attorney who is sensitive to special needs issues, you can make sure you do what is necessary to reduce your tax burden and protect your child’s interests.

 

Learn more about Littman Krooks services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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Housing Assistance for People with Disabilities

November 22nd, 2016

Finding affordable housing can be difficult for people with disabilities, who may have special housing needs or limited funds. However, there are a number of resources available to help:

Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York

The Center for Independence of the Disabled (CID-NY) is a primary resource. In addition to providing individuals with referrals and resources related to affordable and accessible housing, CID-NY  can provide assistance with applying for disability related programs. The phone number for the main intake line is 646-442-4186.

Medicaid Waiver Program

The Medicaid Waiver Program provides help for individuals who need managed long-term care to find housing in the community and the home services they need. In addition to housing, the program provides services such as meals and home care. For more information, contact the Regional Resource Development Center at 718-816-3555.

Home of Your Own Program

Pretty asian girl using her smartphone on the couch at home in tThe Home of Your Own Program is a project of the New York Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to help individuals with developmental disabilities, their families who are income-eligible, and direct support professionals to find a home of their choice. The program and its network of partners provide counseling and resources for home ownership and other independent residential opportunities. Contact OPWDD at 518-473-1973.

Rent Freeze Program

New York City tenants with disabilities may qualify for the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) program. Eligible people with disabilities living in rent-stabilized, rent-controlled, Mitchell-Lama and other eligible apartments can have their rent frozen and receive an exemption from future rent increases. Their landlords are provided with tax credits to make up the difference.

Affordable Housing Lotteries

In New York City, affordable housing lotteries are held for renovated or newly constructed buildings with subsidized apartments. Usually, 2 percent of the units in a development are set aside for people with visual and hearing disabilities, and 5 percent are set aside for people with mobility impairments. Call NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) at 212-863-7990.

 

Learn more about our services in special needs planning, special education advocacy, estate planning and elder law.

 

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Workshop on Childhood Trauma Provides Insightful Information for Parents and School Personnel

October 31st, 2016

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

littman-krooks-trauma-workshopOn October 27, 2016, a committed group of parents and educators, on a very stormy evening, attended a workshop on: Development  Mediated by Trauma: How to Recognize and Remediate Adverse Childhood Experiences,  with experts Dr. Boris Gindis, psychologist specializing in trauma and Jennifer Griesbach, a psychotherapist specializing in adoptive children. According to Dr. Gindis, “Trauma is an objectively stressful event that subjectively is experienced by a person as emotional distress, disturbance and suffering.” Traumatic stress, even only unresponsive care, can cause damage to the biochemistry of the brain, he noted. The workshop centered on the understanding of Developmental Trauma Disorder and the need for patience and awareness of the issues.   Ms. Griesbach and Dr. Gindis both recommended therapeutic parenting and specific types of psychotherapy and family counseling to assist children.

Marion Walsh, Esq. from Littman Krooks LLP noted that many schools and parents do not understand the effects of trauma on children and that school districts have an affirmative duty to locate students suspected of having disabilities, including emotional disabilities.  Trauma can lead to emotional and learning disabilities. She spoke about the need for education, training and school services and placements available.

More information will be forthcoming in the future as we learn more about this important topic. Visit our calendar to learn about our upcoming workshops.

Learn about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Moving to a New State When You Have a Family Member with a Disability

July 26th, 2016

Moving to another state is a big undertaking for any family, but it can be particularly complicated when a family member has a disability. The secrets to a successful transition are advance planning and a backup plan in case of problems. Here are a few specifics to keep in mind.

Know what to expect with public benefits

If your family member with a disability is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, there should be no disruption in payments, as long as you inform the Social Security Administration as early as possible of your change of address. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits should not be disrupted either, but the amount could change. In 2016, the federal maximum SSI benefit for an individual is $733 per month. However, some states add an optional state supplement or make food stamps or other benefits available to SSI beneficiaries, so those benefits may vary by state.

Plan in advance for health care needs

Health care is a primary concern, and in this area much can change when moving to another state. In addition to finding new doctors, therapists and other service providers, you should be prepared for changes in coverage. Private health insurance policies may have different coverage or premiums in another state. If you signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act state exchanges, you can take advantage of a 60-day special enrollment period, but be sure to check the eligibility requirements ahead of time. Medicare benefits should not be affected by an interstate move, but Medicaid will need to be reapproved in the new state, and the services and support available through Medicaid varies from state to state.

Special education and other services

While students with disabilities are guaranteed a free and appropriate public education by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a special needs student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) will need to be renegotiated. Other services, such as day care, social programs and in-home services vary greatly from state to state. ABLE Act legislation has not yet been enacted in all 50 states, and special needs trusts should be reviewed by an attorney to ensure that they are up to date and there are no problems created by the move.

Moving to a new state is a big project, but creating a checklist and engaging in advance planning will help you have an organized approach. Even with a detailed plan, it is a good idea to have a backup plan, and an emergency fund, in case of pitfalls along the way.

 

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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