Posted by: Katie May

Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, containing provisions that protect disabled children of members of the military. It specifically allows members of the military to leave their survivor benefits to a Special Needs Trust for the benefit of a disabled child. Until these provisions become law, the military parents’ survivor benefits had to go directly to the disabled child, resulting in a potential loss of benefits, thereby undermining the purpose of the survivor benefits: to protect loved ones in need of support after death.

Special Needs Trusts make it possible for persons with disabilities to receive assistance through Medicaid, a means-tested program, to pay for the high costs of long-term care and to still afford basic expenses such as personal care items, books, and clothing. In return, states have the right to recoup the costs of their public assistance from the trust after the person with disabilities passes away.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), together with organizations such as the Military Officers Association of America, and through coalitions like the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), made it a top priority this year to advocate for these provisions to be included in the 2015 NDAA. “Within NAELA, I am especially thankful for the dedication of Michael Amoruso, Esq., NAELA Public Policy Steering Committee Chair; Howard Krooks, CELA, CAP, NAELA Past President; and Brian Lindberg, NAELA Public Policy Adviser; in leading the efforts to pass this legislation,” said Bradley Frigon, president of NAELA.

While NAELA and other advocates celebrate the passing of these provisions, more work still needs to be done to ensure that persons with disabilities can live economically secure lives while having access to the long-term care they need. “With this victory, I look forward to gaining momentum to pass other important legislation, like the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act,” Frigon added.