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Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Passes Congress

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By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro

On December 7, 2016, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act passed Congress as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and is expected to be signed by President Obama very soon. This is a momentous victory for persons with disabilities since it corrects the erroneous assumption under prior law that persons with disabilities lack the capacity to handle their own affairs.

In 1993, Congress amended the Medicaid statute via the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) to recognize the use of special needs trusts. The purpose was to ensure that the funds allocated to a person with a disability is not subject to exploitation or waste while preserving the person’s eligibility for means-tested public benefits. The problem; however, is that OBRA limited the establishment of such trusts to a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian of the person with a disability, or a court of competent jurisdiction. The statute failed to recognize the ability of a person with a disability to establish their own trust, and also lead to the implementation of various rules from the public benefits offices that led to the implementation of various rules that further complicated the establishment of the trusts and detrimentally impacted an individual’s benefits. Various agencies started evaluating things such as where the initial funding of the trust came from and whether a parent acted under that authority of a power of attorney, and thus on behalf of the individual, instead of acting as a parent, in establishing the trust.

While it may take some time for states to implement the new law under the state code and for public benefit administrators to incorporate the change in policy manuals, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Hook Law Center, P.C. would like to thank advocates, in particular the Special Needs Alliance (SNA) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), for their hard work over the years in helping bring this issue to the attention of lawmakers and in working so diligently to get the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act passed.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – PetSmart Charities

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about PetSmart Charities and their gifts to the Norfolk SPCA?

Kit Kat:  Well, this is a terrific story! On November 28, 2016, the Norfolk SPCA completed the terms of a grant paying for the spaying/neutering of 1,390 cats in Norfolk. The grant was awarded nearly two years ago. It paid mostly for the trapping, neutering, and releasing of stray cats back to the place in which they were found. As part of this process, the cats were placed under anesthesia, and at the time of the spaying/neutering, they were also given an eartip (slight trimming) on the left ear to indicate that they have been fixed.

This was the second PetSmart Charities grant awarded to the Norfolk SPCA. The first grant which lasted from 2012-2014 paid for the sterilization of 1,200 cats who had no discernible owners. Sterilization prevents homeless cats from constant birthing of kittens, who themselves in turn, will become homeless with no source of food and shelter. Though the grants have expired, the Norfolk SPCA is pleased to offer this same service at the nominal price of $40 per feline to cats found in Norfolk or any other jurisdiction brought to their doors. Thanks to all who contribute to the Norfolk SPCA! This is where some of your monetary gifts are directed. Feral and homeless cats are a tremendous problem nationwide. In the prime breeding season of April-November, thousands across the United States are born every year. Anything that can be done to put a dent in this homeless population is a wonderful gift to these homeless felines, who must search for shelter and scavenge to feed themselves under difficult conditions.

If you would like to learn more about the Norfolk SPCA’s outreach to feral cats, visit their website at www.NorfolkSPCA.org under the “Outdoor Cats” tab. Their clinic which handles the majority of feral cats is called the Sabre Road clinic, 757-383-6620. (info@norfolkspca.com, December 1, 2016)

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Posted on Tuesday, December 20th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.