In our last issue, we discussed the continued rise in technology that will support individuals with autism as they live and work in their communities in the most independent manner possible. However, in order to take advantage of these growing opportunities, individuals with autism must be financially prepared to do so. At A Special Needs Plan, we advocate that as families look toward the future, they must consider the risk of government benefit support being reduced as the result of changes in federal and state coverage. Unfortunately, this risk may become a reality sooner than anticipated.
The proposed new Health Care Act combined with the proposed federal budget is drastically changing Medicaid and the manner in which services are provided. It is estimated that these changes will mean a cut to Medicaid funding by the federal government of $610 to $834 billion. The changes also institute a new way in which the funding is provided to the states, which many disability experts fear will drastically reduce benefits for individuals, placing much more financial burden on families for their loved ones’ support needs. The proposed budget not only affects Medicaid, but it also reduces funding to special education, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, state developmental disabilities councils, autism programs, and medical research. (https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2017/05/23/trump-medicaid-disability-programs/23746/)
Based upon these impending changes to funding streams for those individuals with disabilities, including individuals with autism, it is becoming quite clear that each family must have their own plan with specific strategies that ensure a secure future. Families must understand the economic landscape of their child’s entire life, knowledge of the adjusting government plans, and an individual strategy that provides for their child’s support needs regardless of government policy. This may feel like an overwhelming or daunting task, or many families feel they have simply started too late, but neither of those items are true.
Due to the complexities of this type of planning, families can start by taking a simple step: complete your child’s Letter of Intent.
A Letter of Intent is a document written about your child’s current needs (medical, therapy, education, employment, behavioral, daily routines, and structure), as well as your future goals for them. This document is an instruction manual for your child that will provide guidance to your child’s next caregiver if you are no longer able to care for them or if you pass away. (You can find a Letter of Intent at www.HowtoSecuretheFuture.com).
The second step is to find a special needs planning professional who can guide you in the process of this type of planning so that you do it correctly. Finding a specialized planning professional in this arena can be challenging because there are very few that focus their time specifically working with families like yours. We have included some tips below that can help:
- Ask organizations you trust for guidance.
- Reach out to other families for advice.
- Interview planning professionals:
1. Do they know the differences between Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), as well as Medicaid vs. Medicare?
2. Do they know the qualification requirements of SSI and Medicaid?
3. What special needs planning certifications do they hold?
4. What continuing education do they complete in this area of planning? How often?
5. Can they explain the advantages, as well as the drawbacks, to an ABLE Account?
6. Can they describe the different types of special needs trusts and when each type is used?
7. Do they know how taxes work within a special needs trust?
8. Do they know what IEP means?
9. How are they involved in the special needs community (other than professionally)?
10. Will they share the planning process to use in creating a special needs plan?
11. Would they let you speak with two or three families they have helped in developing a special needs plan?
What is the professional’s business continuity plan, so that someone with your knowledge is still able to help if you are no longer here?
Your plan spans two generations, so it is critical you begin to build a team that can support your family today, as well as into the future.
For more information on how to prepare for the future, be sure to contact a financial advisor who specializes in serving families with special needs. A Special Needs Plan is driven by what they call Unleash L.I.F.E.™—L.I.F.E. meaning Lasting Independence For Everyone™. This is accomplished with education, action, and support in the creation, implementation, and continued monitoring of a specifically designed lifelong and integrated plan for your family of parents, caregivers, your loved one with special needs, and their siblings.
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Charlotte, NC 28204
Ryan F. Platt is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory, and financial planning through MML Investors Services, LLC, member SIPC (www.sipc.org). A Special Needs Plan is not subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or it affiliated companies. This article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any products.
This article was featured in Issue 65 – Back-To-School Transitions