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Thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, veterans can now direct up to 50% of survivor’s benefits to a special needs trust. Whether the survivor is a spouse or a child with special needs, this preserves their eligibility for Medicaid and Social Security disability or income benefits (“SSDI” and “SSI”.)

There are 4 basic requirements.

  1. The trust must be created by a spouse, parent, grandparent, guardian or court (see your friendly elder law and special needs attorney).
  2. The trust must be irrevocable.
  3. The trust must be for the sole benefit of the person named.
  4. When the person dies, the trust must repay Medicaid for the cost of the Medicaid benefits he received while alive.

Military Survivor Benefit Plan Special Needs Trusts are funded directly by payment of a Survivor Benefit Plan Annuity. The amounts in different peoples’ trusts are pooled for investment.

Having a trust can mean the difference between getting and not getting dental and vision care and other supports which public benefit programs do not provide. It can mean the difference between having a home and being dependent on someone else for a place to live.

 

Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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