Legal Protections for Same-Sex Couples

Same-sex couples don’t have many of the protections and financial benefits that married couples experience.  A recent article in the New York Times addresses important steps that same-sex couples can take to make sure that their loved ones are taken care of in the event one of them becomes ill or passes away.  Click here to read more.


Bullying and Students With Disabilities

Excerpt from (click for entire article)

Like bullying in general, bullying of students with disabilities represents both a civil rights and public health challenge. Amongst the possible effects of bullying the U.S. Department of Education (ED, 2010) includes lowered academic achievement and aspirations, increased anxiety, loss of self-esteem and confidence, depression and post-traumatic stress, deterioration in physical health, self-harm and suicidal thinking, suicide, feelings of alienation, absenteeism and other negative impacts, both educational and health related. While both students with and without disabilities face significant negative emotional, educational and physical results from bullying, students with disabilities are both uniquely vulnerable and disproportionately impacted by the bullying phenomenon. Unaddressed bullying of vulnerable students can be expected to have serious negative impacts on the school experiences of all children – social impacts can be expected in addition to individual impacts. Despite this, there exists a dearth of both research and policy focusing on eliminating the bullying of students with disabilities. Furthermore, evidence suggests that existing legal and policy tools available to address bullying against students with disabilities remain significantly under-utilized.

SSA Adds 38 Conditions to Those Qualifying for Automatic Disability Benefits

In certain circumstances the Social Security Administration (SSA) will fast-track a disability benefits application through a process known as Compassionate Allowances, usually because the applicant is suffering from a severe disability that may be life-threatening. The original Compassionate Allowances program defined 50 conditions, including many cancers and other terminal conditions, that obviously met disability standards and led to a much faster disability benefits application process. As of March 1, 2010, the SSA will add an additional 38 conditions to the Compassionate Allowances list, greatly expanding the number of people who are eligible for the program.

Although most of the conditions on the revised list are very rare, the SSA has included early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as one of the new conditions, meaning that people who contract Alzheimer’s before turning 65 could receive disability benefits immediately. Adding the new conditions to the initial list could result in an additional 40,000 to 50,000 new fast-tracked disability benefits approvals in 2010 alone. Social Security Administrator Michael Astrue explained that the SSA “will continue to hold hearings and look for other diseases and conditions that can be added to our list of Compassionate Allowances. There can be no higher priority than getting disability benefits quickly to those Americans with these severe and life-threatening conditions.

To read an article in the Senior Journal about the changes, click here.

To see the list of new conditions, click here.

The original 50 conditions can be found here.

Common Mistakes Parents Make With Special Needs Trusts

I’m on my way out this weekend to California to attend the Academy of Special Needs Planners Annual Conference in San Francisco.  As I’m preparing for my trip, I came across this article from the Autism Support Network which details the most common mistakes parents make with their special needs trusts.  As you may have guessed, one of the biggest mistakes is not having their estate planning prepared by someone who practices in the area of special needs planning.  If you have a loved one with special needs, Wiggen Law Group can assist you with planning designed to enhance his or her quality of life now and in the future.