Social Security Disability &
  Special Needs Planning News
 Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law
In This Issue:
What Are Social Security Emergency Messages?
Social Security Emergency Message 16012--Local Social Security Offices Must Give Specifics When Rejecting Special Needs Trusts
Social Security Emergency Message 16013--Waiver of SSI Overpayments Resulting From Same Sex Marriage
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Source: Reprinted from the March 2016 Newsletter of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law,


Issue: # 86

 March 2016

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Welcome to our monthly newsletter. 

These monthly newsletters are designed to provide useful information on Disability Law & Issues with a special emphasis on Social Security Disability & Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and Special Needs Trusts & Planning.

You may have been added to our e-mail newsletter mailing list if you are a client, business associate, a Facebook friend, a Linked-In connection, or another professional contact of Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law. 

You may unsubscribe by clicking on the link at the end of this e-mail.
What Are Social Security Emergency Messages?

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Social Security has used Emergency Messages for many years to convey important information to Social Security employees. Usually, Emergency Messages are not concerned with true emergencies. They just convey instructions to employees, concerning new issues that many times affect those receiving Social Security Disability & SSI benefits and families with Special Needs Trusts. 

However, Social Security is labeling many Emergency Messages as "sensitive" or "secret" and  listing them on Social Security's website for only a very short period of time and then they disappear.

It is therefore very important for anyone who works with the disabled or those with special needs keep close track to these Emergency Messages as soon as they are released. 

For the current online list of Social Security's Emergency Messages, please click here .

Social Security Emergency Message 16012--Local Social Security Offices to Give Specifics When Rejecting Special Needs Trusts--Effective 3/2/2016
Special Needs Trusts
A Special Needs Trust allows a disabled person to receive gifts, lawsuit settlements, or other funds and yet not lose his or her eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other programs. Such trusts are drafted so that the funds will not be considered to belong to the beneficiary in determining eligibility for public benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued Emergency Message 16012 to all their local offices instructing workers to specifically inform those applying for or receiving SSI benefits of the reasons a Special Needs Trust has been rejected  so as to render that person ineligible.

In the past SSA would frequently send a notice to the person receiving or applying for SSI benefits telling him or her that they were ineligible for benefits because their assets exceeded the $2,000 resource limit.  However, this notice almost never explained the reasoning behind the SSA's rejection of the Special Needs Trust.

The new instructions require that in cases where a notice is required due to excess resources that include a Special Needs Trust, the notice must spell out exactly what portion of the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) applies to the trust being rejected.  

This should make it relatively easy for Special Needs Planning Attorneys to determine what went wrong with the Special Needs Trust and how to remedy the problem.  

For more information see Emergency Message 16012 , if it is still available online.

Social Security Emergency Message 16013--Waiver of SSI Overpayments Resulting From Same Sex Marriage---Effective 3/28/16.

When same sex marriage became legal nationwide many same sex couples received an increase in the amount of Social Security benefits that they receive.

However, if one or both members of the same sex couple are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a needs based benefit, this recognition of legal marriage has caused a reduction or even elimination of their Social Security benefits.

Here are two examples:

1) In cases where both members of a same sex couple are receiving SSI: The benefit amount for a married couple who are both receiving SSI benefits is less than the total of what the two would receive if they were not married. In most States an individual receives $733/month in SSI. A married couple who are both on SSI will only receive $1,100/month.

2) In cases where only one member of a same sex couple is receiving SSI: If a person is married the income and resources of the person they are married to are attributed to them in deciding if they meet the financial criteria to receive SSI. So, if a disabled person is living with and being supported by a person who is working and has a good income, if they're not married, the disabled person will suffer, at most, a one-third reduction in his or her SSI for "living in the household of another." But if they are married, the disabled person will lose his or her SSI altogether.

As you can see when same sex marriage became legal nationwide it caused many individuals and couples who were receiving SSI benefits to be overpaid.

However, the Social Security Administration has decided that it would be "against equity and good conscience" to try to collect these overpayments.

According to Emergency Message 16013, Social Security will waive these overpayments automatically and the individual or couple does not have to repay this money or even file the form normally required to obtain a waiver of an overpayment.

For more information see Emergency Message 16013, if it is still available online.

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, 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.