Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
Guardianship for Children with Special Needs
Social Security Emergency Message: SSA Failed to Send Notifications
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Source: Reprinted from the September 2017 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


Issue: # 102

 September 2017

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as they work to recover from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma & Maria.  And, I'm hoping for the best for those affected by the wildfires on the Pacific Coast and the earthquakes in Mexico. 

When you have a loved one or child who is disabled, natural disasters like these can be exceptionally challenging.  Evacuation is not always possible when the family does not have an accessible or disability-friendly place to go to.  When Irma struck Florida, many people slept in their cars at rest stops as they drove up the state because the hotels were full. Sometimes this is just not possible when you have a loved one with special needs.

That said, I was happy to see the massive efforts the state of Florida took to open dedicated special needs shelters so that residents who were unable to flee the storm because of their disabilities had safe places to go with access to medical professionals that stayed behind to help. 

In times of crisis, we worry about all of our fellow Americans...but sometimes we forget about the extra challenges experienced by the most vulnerable among us. Let it serve as a reminder to check-in and be available to our disabled friends and neighbors who could use an extra hand of help in an emergency.

P.S. As I was sightseeing in Canada and Buffalo NY on vacation, I came across the Museum of Disability by accident.  Of course it was right up my alley and I couldn't wait to explore, but the museum was so well done that even my teenage son found it interesting.  If you ever travel up that way, add the Museum of Disability to your excursion list!  Information about the Museum of Disability can be found at .

Guardianship for Children with Special Needs

There are many reasons why a parent needs to consider obtaining guardianship over their 18-year-old child with special needs.  This is even if the child resides at home, still attends high school, and looks no different the day after his or her 18th birthday than the day before. Here are a few compelling reasons:


Once a child turns 18, he or she is an adult under the law and his or her parents no longer have the ability to make decisions for and speak for him or her to his or her doctors or to have access to their medical records.  Without a guardianship a parent could be barred from the examination room and would not be able to tell the doctor or psychiatrist that their child is not taking his or her medication or is exhibiting symptoms at home that they are forgetting to tell the doctor about.  In reality if a child is so low-functioning that he or she cannot communicate at all, healthcare providers would probably turn to the parents for guidance. But there are circumstances in which it is not obvious that an adult child's decision-making powers are impaired. Guardianship is a method of resolving this issue in advance of an emergency.


Guardianship may be a necessity for an 18 year old who has special needs in order to continue entitlement to Special Education services.  Under the law, all rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act, of 2004, (IDEIA) transfer from the parents to the students at age 18. 

Many parents are shocked at now being excluded from IEP (Individual Education Plan) meetings with the school.   Without a guardian your child may agree to accept his or her diploma and leave high school at age 18, when the law says he or she is eligible for four more years of services.    
Being Taken Advantage of by Unscrupulous People

Some young adults with disabilities are "gullible." They can be persuaded to sign leases, buy cars or apply for credit cards by others who appear to be their friends.  For example, a disabled child could be persuaded by some "friends" to sign up for a credit card in order to purchase "gifts" for these "friends."  If you had a guardianship in place you would be able to get all of these charges waived and the credit card cancelled.

As frightening as it may be to have someone take financial advantage of your child with special needs, there are predators who will try to lure a person with disabilities away from home.  Once a child is 18, he or she is an adult and can leave the family home and live wherever they please. However, guardians have control over where their child lives and can seek the assistance of the police to force a third party to return your child to you.
Deciding whether or not to pursue guardianship is a very important decision.  Each case is unique.  If you would like guidance on whether or not to pursue a guardianship for your child with special needs, contact the Law Office of Sheri R. Abrams at 571-328-5795 to schedule an appointment.

Social Security Emergency Message:  SSA Failed to Send Notifications 

On August 28, 2017 the Social Security Administration issued Emergency Message EM-17023 to their employees advising them that in error, Social Security failed to notify claimants and beneficiaries of certain adverse decisions, such as denial and cessation of disability benefits.  The time frame for this error in sending notices happened between September 2016 and March 2017.

According to Emergency Message EM-17023, Social Security failed to send notices in some of the following situations:
  • Cessation of benefits letters telling the beneficiary that he or she was no longer disabled. 
  • Denial of initial applications filed by disability claimants. 
  • Letters informing a beneficiary that there has been an overpayment of benefits. 
  • Letters informing a claimant that there has been a change on the onset date of disability. 
Due to the failure to send these notices many beneficiaries have no idea that their benefits have been stopped or denied. Moreover, they have no idea that they have a right to appeal these adverse decisions.
In order to address this error Emergency Message EM-17023 instructs Social Security employees that:
"If the beneficiary alleges he or she did not receive a notice during the relevant period, technicians should take the allegations seriously, carefully review the case and provide due process as required by existing regulations and agency policy."
Unfortunately, Emergency Message EM-17023 does not state whether or not the claimant and beneficiaries who didn't receive notices will now receive notices informing them of their right to appeal.
To read Emergency Message EM-17023 click here .

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

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Our Office Location

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

service source building


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


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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, 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.