Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
Do You Need a Special Needs Trust To Protect Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI)?
Can You Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Disorders?
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Information Session on Social Security Disability Benefits for People with MS

Sheri will be speaking on Social Security Disability benefits for people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on May 10, 2017  at the Vienna Presbyterian Church located at124 Park St. N.E., Vienna .   Please feel free to join us at 7:00 pm! 

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Source: Reprinted from the March 2017 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


Issue: # 96

 March 2017

As a regular reader of my newsletter, hopefully you understand the importance of having an estate plan in place to protect your assets, your wishes, and the people you love if the unthinkable happens.
Maybe you have even taken the critical step to work with a lawyer to create such a plan that will make life easier for your loved ones if you get sick or pass away. But...
...have they done the same for you?

So many people make great choices to take care of their own planning, but forget to check in with aging parents, siblings, or other family members about what documents they have in place.
Are there people in your life who are counting on YOU to help them in a crisis situation? If so, you may be in trouble and unprepared for what's expected of you.
Maybe your mom and dad created an estate plan 25 years ago. You might think you have everything you need to manage their affairs as they age and oversee their estate when they pass away.
The sad truth is that the documents
mom or dad created are likely out of date and possibly invalid because they lack key provisions that are in compliance with today's laws. Think, for example, of Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives that were created pre-HIPAA. Or wills and trusts that were created based on old tax laws. 

Or say, for example, you or your child has a disability.  You must make sure that your mom or dad do not leave anything directly to you or your child or entitlement to public benefits now or in the future will be put in jeopardy.   If your mom or dad wants to leave something to you or your child, your parents or you need to consider setting up Special Needs Trust.  This is true even if you or your child is only receiving Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI).  See article below.   
Now that spring is officially here, let me encourage you to "tidy up" your own estate plan this month, and also look at the planning (or lack of planning) that your loved ones have in place.

Ask if you have been named to any "helper roles" in their documents (Executor, Trustee, Power of Attorney, Agent, Healthcare Proxy). Ask if they have had those documents reviewed by an attorney lately. Are they still up to date? Do you have everything you need to serve if called upon? Did you even KNOW that you would assume these responsibilities and is that OK with you?   
If you are not satisfied with the answers to any of these questions , schedule an appointment with me to meet with your family member. If it turns out your loved ones have everything in order, they will leave with the peace of mind knowing so. If I determine they need additional planning, I will work with them to make any changes they need.
Happy Spring Cleaning!
Do You Need a Special Needs Trust To Protect Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI)?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program that typically provides cash stipends to people who have paid into the Social Security system and who can't work due to their disability. 

Social Security Disability is not a needs-based benefit.   If a person is on this program for two years, they will also qualify for Medicare, even if they are under age 65.   Because SSDI is not needs-based, a Special Needs Trust is not necessary to qualify for it. 

But this does not mean that SSDI beneficiaries should not have Special Needs Trusts.  One major reason is that depending on how much a person receives in SSDI benefits, they may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or they may qualify (or already qualify) for Medicaid. These are both needs-based benefits and a Special Needs Trust would be required to keep them.
In fact, there are many benefits to having a Special Needs Trust that go far beyond the ability to maintain eligibility for SSI or Medicaid.  For instance, a person with a mental illness may be unable to manage money.  A Special Needs Trust would allow that person's funds to be invested and spent appropriately by a qualified trustee. 

In another case, a person with special needs may be able to handle their personal finances but might live in an environment where they are susceptible to mistreatment by others.  In this situation, a Special Needs Trust would provide an appropriate buffer between the beneficiary and the people who would otherwise take advantage of them.

When it comes to special needs planning, you never want to take anything for granted.  Just because an SSDI beneficiary might not need Medicaid and SSI now, it doesn't mean that they won't qualify for, or require, services from those programs in the future.  

For instance, an SSDI beneficiary may rely on private health insurance and Medicare, but if they lose their insurance and Medicare doesn't cover certain medications, it might be incredibly important for that beneficiary to receive Medicaid, which could make a Special Needs Trust essential.  

There are lots of reasons to have a Special Needs Trust beyond merely qualifying for government benefits.  If you or a loved one receives SSDI and doesn't have a Special Needs Trust, it's time to talk with me about your options.

To schedule an appointment, please call my office at (571) 328-5795.
Can You Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for Mental Disorders?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has recently changed their Mental disorder "listings."  

The SSA currently recognizes the following 11 categories of mental illnesses and developmental disorders that may qualify someone for benefits:
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders
  • Intellectual disorder
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma- and stressor-related disorders
Mental illnesses such as PTSD, OCD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia can be especially debilitating for the sufferer and their family. For those who are unable to work because of a severe mental disorder, Social Security Disability benefits may be available. 

However, just having a diagnosis of a mental illness from a psychiatrist or psychologist is   not enough   to qualify for benefits.   In most cases a claimant will also need to present evidence that their illness is so severe that they are unable to do any work.

A treating psychiatrist or psychologist will need to provide ample documentation regarding the severity of the person's illness, as well as their opinion regarding their ability to work. 
It is equally important to follow medication and treatment recommendations from the doctor.   Failing to take prescribed medication or choosing not to follow the doctor's order can be seen as "non-compliance" and will likely jeopardize a claimant's ability to receive Social Security Disability benefits. 

For more information on the new mental disorder "listings" please click  here .

Free Download of Sheri Abrams' Book "Don't Gamble With Your Social Security Disability Benefits"

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You can download a free copy: 

For more information please click  here  to read our Press Release.     

Our Office Location

The law firm of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law is located at: 

service source building


10467 White Granite Drive
Suite 306
Oakton, VA 22124
(571) 328-5795


This is in the "ServiceSource" building and there is plenty of free and accessible parking.

Our office is also accessible by public transportation.


If you know of someone who could use our legal services, please forward to him/her this e-mail newsletter or give him/her our telephone number: (571) 328-5795.


We provide legal services in the areas of Social Security Disability Law, Special Needs Planning, Elder Law, Special Needs Trusts, Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives, Guardianship, Disability Planning and Student Loan Discharge. 
If you, or someone you know, is involved with an educational event or support group that would benefit from a presentation on any of the areas of law for which we provide legal services, please call us at (571) 328-5795.