Adding an Extra Layer of Protection to a Special Needs Trust
A recent felony charge against the mother of a special needs child in Minnesota offers a good reason why professional oversig...Read more
photo: Tim Pierce
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued an Emergency Message to all personnel requiring workers to specifically inform Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants or beneficiaries of the reasons a special needs trust has been rejected by the agency.
In the past, when the SSA determined that assets in an SSI beneficiary’s or applicant's trust were countable and therefore rejected the trust, the agency would frequently send a notice to the beneficiary or applicant telling him that he was ineligible for benefits because his assets exceeded the resource limit. However, this notice almost never explained the reasoning behind the SSA's rejection of the trust.
The new Emergency Message, which went out to all field-level SSA personnel, requires caseworkers to spell out exactly what portion of the Program Operations Manual System (also known as POMS, the SSA’s internal guidance system that is used by field workers who handle benefits eligibility questions) applies to the trust being rejected. Unfortunately, the Emergency Message does not tell field workers that they have to explain their reasoning in plain English -- merely citing the appropriate section of the POMS appears to be enough.
While this new policy will make it relatively easy for professionals to determine what went wrong with a trust and whether an appeal is in order, it will likely give the layperson little if any guidance about her trust. So if you receive a rejection notice from the SSA, don’t try and interpret the questions on your own. Instead, take that message to your special needs planner immediately. Your planner will be able to discover what the SSA claims is wrong with your trust and can work with you to remedy the problem before your benefits are compromised.
To read the Emergency Message, go to: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/reference.nsf/links/03022016015517PM