Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
7 Common Reasons Why Social Security Disability Benefits Are Denied
Can a Third Party Special Needs Trust Pay for a Vacation?
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Source: Reprinted from the June 2017 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


Issue: # 99

 June 2017

Summer is officially here!  I'm looking forward to the nice weather and enjoying some quality time with my son, Andy, while he's off for summer break.

Andy celebrated his 16th birthday last week, which was a big deal for him...and for mom!  I adopted my son from Guatemala when he was 5 and ½ months old, so it was a very special and emotional celebration of a big life milestone. 

Equally emotional for me is that we are now starting to look at colleges!  We'll be setting up a few visits over the summer to get a feel of what type of campuses and programs would be the best fit for him.  If you've been through the college-scouting process with a teen before, please feel free to send me your best tips.

Also on our summer agenda is a short trip to Niagara Falls.  Exploring the Canadian side of the falls has always been on my personal bucket-list, so I'm excited to check this one off! Vacations are so important for everyone, especially for families with children who have special needs.  See my article below on whether or not a Special Needs Trust can pay for a Vacation.

Finally, in legal news, I often receive frantic calls from people after they are initially denied Social Security Disability benefits.  These people are clearly disabled, unable to work and can't understand why the government would deny their claim. 

The truth is that almost all claims submitted to Social Security  are denied initially.  It's just how the system works.  You could have a straight-forward claim and STILL get a denial. 

If this has happened to you, don't panic.  If you have a good case, you should receive benefits after you have gone through the appeal process.  Also during the appeal process is when an attorney would normally get involved with your case.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't make every attempt to dot your "i"s and cross your "t's" during the initial application for Social Security Disability benefits. To help you avoid mistakes, I've put together an article on the 7 most common reasons why Social Security Disability Benefits are denied ---see below.

Have a great month,

7 Common Reasons Why Social Security Disability Benefits Are Denied

If you have been severely injured or are very ill, you may find it impossible to continue working. If you are in this position, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI). 

It's important to note that just because you have a medical diagnosis of a disability, it does not mean that you are automatically entitled to benefits. You will have to file an application with the Social Security Administration (SSA)  to start the process.

It is estimated that about 80%of all SSDI applications are initially denied. If you are about to file an application for benefits, you should understand why this happens, so that you have a better chance of having your claim approved.

Here at the top 7 reasons claimants are denied, in no particular order:
  1. You are still earning a substantial amount of income. There is NO limit to the amount of assets, cash or resources you can own when applying for SSDI benefits.  However, your income from working is taken into consideration by Social Security.  The Social Security Administration will determine that you are not "technically" disabled if you are capable of significant gainful activity to earn a living.  In 2017 if you are able to earn $1170 or more per month, Social Security will not consider you disabled. 
  2. Your disability is not severe enough. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not grant SSDI to anyone that suffered an injury or has an illness that will keep them out of work for less than 12 months.  Even severe injuries or illnesses will not qualify for SSDI if the injured or ill person recovers or is expected to recover in less than one year. 

  3. You mess up the easy stuff. Many applications are denied due to simple clerical errors, such as misspellings of an address on the application or using an incorrect Social Security Number.  Proofread your application and keep your contact information updated.  If you are working with a Virginia Social Security Disability lawyer, you should of course make sure you remain in contact with them throughout the process.
  4. You do not cooperate. If you are not under a doctor's care or your doctor does not have complete records, the SSA may require you to have a medical examination called a consultative examination (CE). Refusing the examination or missing the appointment for the exam can be enough for the SSA to deny your application.

  5. You did not follow the doctor's orders:  Not doing what your doctor tells you is harmful for your claim for SSDI benefits. You must take all prescribed medication, undergo all surgeries and see your Specialist frequently to have any chance of being approved for SSDI.

  6. You are addicted to drugs or alcohol. A person addicted to drugs or alcohol is frequently denied SSDI benefits. The SSA will only approve people whose drug or alcohol abuse are not "material" to their disability. 

  7. You've been arrested. In certain circumstances criminal convictions or imprisonment can cause a SSDI application to be denied.

Can a Third Party Special Needs Trust Pay for a Vacation?

In general a Special Needs Trust can pay for a vacation.     However, the rules vary by which type of Special Needs Trust that you have. If you have a Third Party Special Needs Trust, which is a trust that is funded by money that does not belong to the disabled person, you should have no problem paying for the entire vacation. However it is far easier to do this if you are vacationing on a cruise ship or another all-inclusive option.

Using Third Party Special Needs trust money to pay for a vacation has been known to cause problems since a vacation normally includes elements of both food and shelter. The fear is that food and shelter could be considered in-kind support and maintenance (ISM), which would reduce the trust beneficiary's SSI benefit. However, even though a cruise ship cabin, hotel, or other vacation housing option, is technically considered "shelter", an ISM penalty is not imposed during a temporary absence from their primary residence. Food, however, could still be a problem, that is why a cruise or other all-inclusive vacation is so great, since food is included with the "shelter" so there is no ISM penalty.

It is often difficult for a disabled person to travel by themselves.   Normally if the disabled person who is the beneficiary of a Third Party Special Needs Trust requires assistance, a trustee can pay for one individual to accompany them on the vacation. More than one caregiver can also be paid for as long as there is documentation that the disabled person needs such assistance.

It is important to make payments from the Third Party Special Needs Trust for a vacation very transparent. That is why it is better to have the Trustee of a Third Party Special Needs Trust pay vacation expenses directly to the vacation provider.  Any incidental expenses can be paid by a co-traveler who will then  be reimbursed from the Third Party Special Needs Trust. The trustee should require receipts for all purchases.

One ideal way to use Third Party Special Needs Trust money is to pay for a vacation through an organization that offers vacations specifically designed for the disabled. One such group that I have worked with and have seen in person work their magic is "Autism on the Seas". "Autism on the Seas" is the Leading Developmental Disability Service Supplier to the Cruise Industry.

"Autism on the Seas"  provides cruise vacation services to accommodate adults and families living with children with Special Needs, including, but not limited to, Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and all Cognitive, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. "Autism on the Seas" provides cruises with their professional Staff (educated, experienced, background checked and sanctioned by the cruise lines) to assist adults and families  in accommodating the typical cruise services, as well as providing specialized Respite and Private Activities/ Sessions that allow their guests the use of the ships entertainment venues in an accommodated and assisted manner.

For more information contact:
"Autism on the Seas" 

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

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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. 
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