Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
Why Updating Your Beneficiary Forms is Crucial When You Have a Special Needs Trust
Consistency is Key for Social Security Disability Cases
In Virginia, How Much Can a Doctor Charge a Patient or an Attorney For Medical Records?
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Source: Reprinted from the June 2018 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


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Issue: #111

 June 2018

Summer is finally here, school is out, and I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with my son over the break.
Andy just turned 17 this month, and he'll be entering his senior year  of high school. That means we'll be spending much of the summer visiting colleges and preparing applications. He is leaning toward attending a state school in Virginia, and we have plans to tour Longwood University in Farmville and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
If either of these schools are your alma mater (or one of your child's alma mater), please feel free to hit "reply" and share with me any pros and cons of the campus or university in general. I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.
Finally, don't forget to download my brand new Special Needs Planning Guide if you haven't already. I wrote this guide for busy parents who want an easy-to-understand overview of the planning that should be done at each stage of life, including filing for guardianship, and how to use legal tools such as Special Needs Trusts to help your child to be prepared for life without you. To download it for free, simply visit

Have a great month,


Why Updating Your Beneficiary Forms is Crucial When You Have a Special Needs Trust 

A Special Needs Trust is an important tool to utilize if you have a with disabilities whom you wish to leave an inheritance when you pass away.
In order to receive public benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your child can only have very limited resources (usually less than $2,000) to maintain eligibility. That means that any inheritance received by your child could result in their disqualification for the important benefits on which they rely.
A Special Needs Trust helps to avoid this outcome by putting the inheritance into an entity that is not technically "owned" by your child. Once the trust is set up, it is then managed by someone of your choosing, called a trustee, who would control the money and make purchases for the benefit of your child. If the Special Needs Trust is created and administered properly, the funds in the trust will not jeopardize your child's ability to collect Medicaid or SSI benefits.
However, it is important to note that a Special Needs Trust only works if the assets you wish to leave your child go into the Special Needs Trust. For most of your assets, this can be accomplished with your will or by simply amending the titles that dictate how your assets are owned.

However, some assets may pass outside of your will by law. Life insurance and certain accounts are set up with a designated beneficiary listed. Likewise, accounts with payable on death beneficiary designations are examples of assets that can be passed directly to someone outside of a will.
Therefore, it is important that you make the Special Needs Trust, not your child, the designated beneficiary of any accounts that pass outside of your Will.
If you do not, the child will receive these assets outright which will affect eligibility for public benefits. This is an unfortunate outcome that can simply be avoided by making sure your child's Special Needs Trust is properly named on all accounts that have a named beneficiary.
If you currently have your child directly listed as beneficiary on any account, I strongly encourage you to change these as soon as possible. But, the first step is to establish a Special Needs Trust. To do so, please call my office to schedule an appointment.

Consistency is Key for Social Security Disability Cases

Social Security Disability cases often come down to one thing -- does the judge find you credible.  One of the ways the judge will determine this is to ensure that your statements about your symptoms have remained consistent.
Some of the factors the judge will use to determine the extent of your disability are as follows:

Your own words
You've most likely filled out a number of Social Security forms. These forms will be used as evidence in estimating your abilities. If you answered on one form that you can drive, but you said that you couldn't drive on another, that could be seen as an inconsistency which may look like you are lying. You must be completely honest about your symptoms and your statements should remain fairly consistent. Of course, symptoms change over time, but large discrepancies in your description may cause doubt.
Medical records
The judge will examine your medical records including exam and treatment information and the results of any tests given. If the information in these medical records differs from the way you have described your symptoms and impairments, you will negatively impact your credibility. Be sure to share all information with regards to your pain and ailments with your physician.
Comments from others

The Social Security Administration usually sends forms to other parties, probably family members, that often make it into your Social Security Disability file. These statements from others are normally about your daily activities and limitations. If the statements of these individuals differ significantly from your own description, you may cause the judge to doubt your honesty.
Be prepared!
It's always best to meet with your Social Security Disability Lawyer before your hearing with a Social Security Judge. You and your lawyer can review statements you previously made to Social Security, review your medical records, and review any other evidence in the claims file that may impact your credibility. This review will help you be prepared for questions about any discrepancies that may appear in your file.
If you are thinking of appealing a denial of Social Security Disability benefits, call our office to have your case screened to see if we can help you.

In Virginia, How Much Can a Doctor Charge a Patient or an Attorney For Medical Records?

As you can imagine as part of my law practice I need to request a large amount of medical records for my clients. I also, on occasion, have had to request my own medical records. I am always surprised at how much these medical records cost.

Each State have laws that dictate how much medical providers can charge for a patient's medical records.  In Virginia if  a patient requests a copy of his or her own records, a medical provider may charge a "reasonable cost-based fee," which can only include the cost of supplies for, and labor of, copying the requested information, postage, and preparation of an explanation or summary of such information as agreed to by the patient.  Code of Virginia § 32.1-127.1:03(J)
In Virginia if an attorney requests a paper copy of a patient's records, a medical provider may charge 50¢ per page up to 50 pages and 25¢ per page for each additional page, plus a $20 search and handling fee and all postage and shipping costs. These costs do not apply to photocopies of x-rays, which cost a "reasonable fee" that may include a search and handling fee of $10 plus the actual cost of reproduction and all postage and shipping costs, or copies from microfilm or other micrographic process, which cost $1 per page.
For electronic copies, a medical provider in Virginia may charge 37¢ per page up to 50 pages and 18¢ per page for each additional page, plus a $20 search and handling fee and all postage and shipping costs, not to exceed a total of $150 for requests made on or after July 1, 2017 but before July 1, 2021, or $160 for requests made on or after July 1, 2021. These costs do not apply to electronic copies of x-rays, which cost a "reasonable fee" of $25 per x-ray, plus a search and handling fee of $10 and all postage and shipping costs.
Attorneys must provide medical providers with a written confirmation signed by the patient confirming the attorney's authority to make the request (a photocopy, facsimile or other copy of the original signed by the patient is acceptable). The medical provider must furnish the records within 30 days of receipt of the request.  Code of Virginia § 8.01-413(B)

Free Download of Sheri Abrams' New Special Needs Planning Guide!

Special Needs Planning is critical to ensure that parents can access key benefits and resources that will be necessary to ensure a smooth transition for their child into adulthood. 

You can download a free copy:  here

Free Download of Sheri Abrams' Newly Updated 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.     

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We provide legal services in the areas of Social Security Disability Law, Special Needs Planning, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Special Needs Trusts, Wills and Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Advance Medical Directives (Living Wills), Guardianship, Conservatorship, 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.