WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation from Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan to make it easier for individuals with disabilities to set up a special needs trust for themselves. Under current law, these individuals cannot set up such a trust. This bill fixes that discriminatory exclusion.
“Those who want and need to set up a trust to help pay for their care shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to do it,” Grassley said. “This bill allows individuals to act in their own interests with their own assets without having to rely on a family member or the courts.”
“Going this extra step to help persons with special needs is the right thing to do,” said Nelson.
“People with disabilities deserve to be treated with dignity, which includes having control of their own care,” said Stabenow. “This bill will help individuals manage their own finances while still having access to critical benefits like Medicare.”
The Senate passed the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act (S. 349) by unanimous consent this week. A companion bill is pending in the House of Representatives.
A special needs trust allows for a person with special needs to manage his or her assets without compromising access to certain government benefits, primarily Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify for SSI, which helps low income people with special needs, an individual with personal assets greater than $2,000 is required to put those assets in a special needs trust. Under current law, the individual must rely on a parent, grandparent or the court to create such a trust. Court costs might consume assets that otherwise could be used for the individual’s care, and family members might not be available. The bill removes the unfair burdens on individuals simply seeking to manage their own assets.
The Finance Committee passed the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act in June. Grassley, Nelson and Stabenow serve on the committee. Grassley is a senior member and former chairman.