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Can I Qualify for Medicare if I have a Disability?

August 14th, 2015

Medicare is well-known for providing health insurance for people age 65 and older. However, Medicare can also provide health coverage for younger people with disabilities, so if you have a disability, it is important to know how you may qualify for Medicare. Medicare

The first step is to apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. To qualify for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits, you must not be working a substantial amount, you must have paid FICA taxes for a long enough period to qualify, and you must have a severe medical condition that prevents you from working and has lasted or is expected to last at least one year, or result in death. If you have not paid enough into the system with your taxes, then you may still be able to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if you meet the income and asset limits.

Once you have been entitled to Social Security disability benefits, or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, for 24 months, then you will automatically be enrolled in traditional Medicare (Parts A and B), as opposed to a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C). If you wish to switch to Medicare Advantage, or enroll in Medicare Part D prescription coverage, you may do so during your initial enrollment period, which starts three months before your 25th month of disability and ceases three months after your 25th month of disability. You may also make such changes during the yearly enrollment period, which is from October 15 to December 7 each year.

As noted above, after becoming entitled to SSDI benefits, there is a two-year waiting period to become eligible. However, there are two exceptions. People with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can get Medicare when they are entitled to receive disability benefits. For people with end-stage renal disease with kidney failure who require a kidney transplant or ongoing dialysis, Medicare coverage can start three months after your dialysis starts.

 

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


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The Greatest Gift

December 12th, 2013

By Marion Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP


As the holiday season approaches, our firm thanks those who have trusted us with their children and their education.

For most of our families, the need to learn and to do well in school is as essential as the need to eat and breathe. When a child is struggling in school and unable to learn or attend, as parents, our worlds fall apart. All parents, no matter what their background, want simply for their children to have a better life than they have. The greatest gift any parent can ask for is a healthy, engaged child who is able to attend school and make progress.  While this sounds simple, in some cases, it can be extremely complex. In some cases, years of litigation and heartache can result from the wrong placement for a child who just cannot access the public school environment. These situations often seem hopeless, but with patience and tireless advocacy, we have helped parents and students find their way. Remember though, as Dr. Temple Grandin noted, often, in helping children with their struggles, “there is no single magic bullet.”

But fortunately, in some cases, there is a magic bullet. For some of our students, a new school placement has made all the difference. We have represented, among others, children who were bullied and threatened suicide in school but who are now engaged; children for whom school made them physically ill but who are now healthy in a new placement, and children who were having violent meltdowns frequently but who are now receiving support in residential settings.  For each of these cases, we worked on a solution and in the best situations, worked with the school districts so that all understood the student’s needs a bit better.

An appropriate placement can change a life.  Conversely, in a few cases, the wrong school can be life threatening. Struggling parents and students must not give up.  The legal process can be difficult and onerous, but children with disabilities in the United States have the right to a free and appropriate public education and the school must work for the child.

At the holidays approach, take the time to appreciate the greatest gift—children who are healthy and able to attend school and to learn.   Do not take normalcy for granted. As for those in your life who are struggling, take the time and effort to truly understand them and make every effort to make sure your school district understands your child also. Never give up and continue to cherish your children.

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Understand Legal Rights to Assist Students with Disabilities Entering College

September 12th, 2013

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.
The beginning of college or other post-secondary school represents an exciting and emotional time for any parent, filled with great pride but also great concern.  For students with disabilities, the emotions are amplified, as many parents wonder if their children are sufficiently prepared and ready to succeed in college.

With careful attention to this transition, parents can act as partners with their children without usurping and controlling the process.   Parents should understand their legal rights and the rights of their children to help the process go smoothly.

Know Your Parental Rights to Receive Information
As a general rule, pursuant to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), the right to access educational records transfers from parents to “eligible students” at age 18.  Many parents and even some colleges believe that this means that parents have no right to receive information or educational or records without student consent.  Many colleges, as a general practice, will not give parents information or educational records about their children.  However, if you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, as most parents do for college students, FERPA allows your student’s college to release student records and information to you, whether or not your child consents.

So if your student’s college resists providing information, let them know your child if financially dependent and, if necessary, you can provide your tax returns.
Encourage Your Child to Self-Advocate
Parents must help their children advocate for themselves. Ideally, students should have developed this skill in high school as part of transition services on their IEP, but many do not develop this skill by high school graduation.
If your child has not developed the skill of self-advocacy, there is still time.  Your student must know his or her strengths and areas of need and understand his or her legal rights. You can ask your student’s advisor to work with your child to help him or her self-advocate and explain the importance.
How much should you advocate for your college student? Every student is different. For students with disabilities initially adjusting to college, some parental advocacy is appropriate to get students settled. But ultimately, your goal should be to ensure your child understands his or her legal rights and can advocate.

Understand Your College Student’s Rights
Although colleges and universities do not have to comply with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and develop IEPs or provide a free and appropriate public education, just about every institution must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.   This means that they must offer equal opportunity and access to opportunities for students with disabilities, and offer programs and services on the same basis as to non-disabled students. Specifically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides, in relevant part that, individuals with disabilities shall not “be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Students with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations and services, but your child will have to initiate the request for accommodations or services and provide documentation.
Your student’s college should have a Disabilities Service Office and publish important information on student rights. The Office for Civil Rights has put together guidance written specifically for college students with disabilities and has also published important information on auxiliary aids and services.
Parents of High School Seniors
In a future entry, we will provide guidance for parents of students with disabilities in high school, preparing for college, to ensure your child is receiving appropriate transition services.

For more information visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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How to Help Children Who Have Difficulty with Executive Functions

August 30th, 2013

Children with special needs often struggle with executive functions. For parents whose children face these challenges, it is important to understand what executive functions are, the common warning signs of problems with them, and how learning specialists can help children who face this difficulty.

Executive functions are cognitive processes that control other cognitive processes, connecting past experience with present action. Executive functions are crucial to children’s daily activities like dressing themselves or doing chores, and difficulty with executive functions will especially impact a child’s schoolwork. We all use executive functions for such actions as making plans, keeping track of time, making corrections while thinking, reading or writing, and engaging in group discussions. Executive functioning is what permits us to keep track of more than one thing at a time, holding on to information until it is appropriate or useful for it to be applied.

Children who struggle with executive functions will often seem to be disorganized. Thy may have trouble planning projects and have little understanding of how long they may take. These children may have trouble memorizing information, and when telling a story may have trouble keeping events in sequential order. In addition, a child may have problems with working memory, for instance being unable to remember a phone number while dialing it. There is no one test to identify problems with executive functioning. Educators, psychologists and others may use a variety of methods to identify such problems, including careful observation, tests and trial teaching.

If a difficulty with executive functions has been identified, there are many learning tools that educators and parents can share with children to help them with organizational skills.

Four Learning Tools Available:

  • Checklists: One tool that helps with executive functions is using a checklist. If a child has trouble conceiving of or keeping track of the steps necessary to accomplish a complex task, then a checklist can be a tremendous help. Instead of struggling to understand what step should be done next, a child can simply move through the list. Checklists can be useful at school or with the tasks of daily living, such as getting ready for school in the morning. It can be especially helpful to set time limits for each task on a checklist, as children with executive dysfunction will often not be able to judge how much time each step should take.
  • Calendars and Plans: Because struggling with executive functions make planning difficult, it is all the more essential for children to be introduced to the importance of writing down a plan. Frequent use of a calendar and writing down homework assignments are habits that should be encouraged, and that will take time and energy.
  • Encouragement: Children who find organization challenging often do not understand why being organized is important and may become frustrated with planning. However, encouragement and repetition can help children develop these skills, and establishing a reward system can help them see the benefits.
  • Routines: Developing a routine is also important for children with executive function problems. Doing homework at the same time every day is an especially useful routine, especially with older children who may prefer to do homework when they feel like it. This leads to procrastination and problems with the work. A child who has trouble planning and getting organized may not see that putting off a task will have bad results, and encouraging a routine is one way to help.

Difficulty with executive functions is a common problem for children with special needs, but if the challenge is identified and addressed, then there is a lot that parents and teachers can do to help. If you believe your child’s executive functioning difficulty is becoming debilitating, be sure to discuss this with his or her teacher or section 504 or IEP team and document concerns in writing.

For more information about our legal services for families with special needs, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Guest Post: 2013 Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions, From MyAutismTeam Parents

January 17th, 2013

This post was featured on the blog for myautismteam.com.

With each new year, this is a time to take stock of your accomplishments, or ponder those projects that will make it to the “to-do” list in 2013.

And no New Year is complete without resolutions. Resolutions can take many forms; from the above mentioned project list to personal improvements in ourselves. At MyAutismTeam, we wanted to hear from the parents about their own resolutions. We surveyed over 35,000 parents on MyAutismTeam about their resolutions and what they are envisioning for 2013.

One of the resounding resolutions for parents this year will be to take a moment for themselves. From making an effort for laughter to making time for spouses and exercise, parents recognize that they give their best to their children when they are at their best. While simple in theory, such small acts go a long way, as a study from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders has shown that parents (mothers in particular) are prone to feeling a sense of chronic stress that is similar to that of soldiers in combat.* This stress can often translate into health issues leading to additional stress, etc.

However, parents are taking note. In an effort to avoid and reduce stress, parents are choosing to focus on the positive. Concentrating on their children’s strengths and new therapies, parents are choosing to make 2013 a time to learn. In a year when autism was front and center, parents are also taking action and vowing to be stronger advocates for their children and more engaged in their progress. The top ten resolutions from the survey are listed below.

Top 10 Resolutions for 2013 by Parents with Children on the Autism Spectrum

  1. I will develop my child’s areas of strength.
  2. I will take things one day at a time.
  3. I will be a stronger advocate for my child at his/her school or with healthcare providers.
  4. I will explore new therapies for my child.
  5. I will be part of a strong social network for emotional, social, and informational support.
  6. I will make more time for my spouse and myself.
  7. I will exercise more.
  8. I will start looking at things from my child’s perspective.
  9. I will manage my own anxieties about social situations with my child.
  10. I will be vigilant in monitoring and managing my child’s progress.

In the busy days ahead, don’t forget your resolutions to help you get through to the next. Did your resolutions make the list? If not, share them with MyAutismTeam at http://www.myautismteam.com today.

To follow MyAutismTeam on one of their social media platforms, click below:

  • Blog: http://blog.myautismteam.com

For more information on special needs planning or special needs advocacy, please visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Financial Security for a Family Member With Special Needs

December 6th, 2012

Adults with disabilities are increasingly at risk as the U.S. considers cuts to public funding. While the debate rages on concerning how the U.S. will continue to fund Medicaid and Social Security benefits, where cuts should be made and whether the systems are at all sustainable, millions of people with disabilities rely on the programs for a significant portion of their basic needs.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, as of 2009, more than 5.5 million adults with disabilities living in the U.S. have their health care covered under Medicaid. Approximately 6.9 million  individuals with disabilities get regular Social Security payments via the Supplemental Security Income program.

In addition to navigating the complex systems of medical care and education for persons with disabilities, family members often are faced with the issue of how to ensure adequate financial assets to pay for these expenses without disqualifying the person with disabilities from government benefits. Families often begin a special needs trust, which can have money placed into it on a regular basis for future needs, like a college savings plan. Others have the trust designed so that any proceeds from specific life insurance policies will be directed to the trust when they pass.

Many estate planning attorneys who specialize in special needs trusts suggest judicious planning. Rather than piece together a plan that may have significant holes, work with an experienced special needs trust attorney to help with financial planning. The family members of someone with a disability should ensure their own financial needs are also secure; if parents use all of their funds and go bankrupt, an entire family can be devastated. View the special needs trust attorney as an informational resource about other support systems; there may be outreach programs and other benefits available though Medicaid, such as art classes and drop-in programs. Work with other family members in developing a plan for trust administrators so they stay informed about plans for the special needs individual and the proper role of the administrator.

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