Beginning April 28, 2014, The Social Security Administration implemented its “Trust Centralization Project” to improve the quality and efficiency of its review and approval of special needs trusts. This Project is the result of efforts by a group known as the “SNT Advocates,” primarily attorneys who work with special needs clients and had concerns about how their special needs trusts were being viewed by the Administration.
As a result of the Project, many cases, including cases in our area, are being reviewed. In some instances, trusts which were previously approved by the Administration are now being rejected. If you or someone you know has received a notice about a trust, you should see an Elder Law Attorney immediately to determine what steps to take to protect eligibility for SSI benefits. It is important to remember that Medicaid benefits follow the same rules, so loss of benefits could mean loss of needed medical care and treatments.
There is a short deadline of only 60 days for appealing a Social Security decision, and the deadline may be shorter for Medicaid. It is important to seek help right away, because an attorney needs time to analyze the case and prepare the necessary appeal documents, something which may not be possible on day 49 or 53 or 59.
A little background:
The Project affects disabled people who receive SSI, which is a needs-based benefit. It does not affect people who receive SSDI, which is an insurance program. SSI rules require that recipients have no more than $2,000 in “countable resources,” which includes cash and accounts which can be liquidated, regardless of cost, penalties or taxation. Recipients are also very limited as to income.
Because of the restrictive SSI rules, families sometimes set up trusts for SSI recipients. These trusts, often called special needs trusts or supplemental needs trusts, are designed to protect the person’s benefits by creating restrictions on the control and use of trust funds such that those funds are not considered as countable resources.
SSI rules require that a recipient who is the beneficiary of trust submit the trust to the Administration for review. The Administration then determines if the trust meets the requirements and is an exempt resource. In the past, the reviews could take many months or a year or two, and the decisions across the country and even within single field offices was inconsistent. So, it is important to remember that, just because the government sends you a notice doesn’t mean the notice is correct.
If you have received such a notice, Kaye Dent at Frisse & Brewster Law Offices will be happy to provide you with a free consultation to help you determine what, if anything, you may need or be able to do.
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