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Special Needs Planning Newsletter: We All Want the Best for Our Children

Chambliss Law Firm Monthly Editorial – September 2017

We All Want the Best for Our Children

by Peter Harrison, Special Needs Planning Attorney

My two-and-a-half-year-old son has been doing a lot of growing up lately. His mastery of language and understanding of social concepts astound and bring me joy every day. He is understanding his emotions and those of others around him. He recently spent 20 minutes gathering leaves for a caterpillar we found on a walk. He has learned to say "please" and "thank you," and he seems to be understanding what it means when he says "I love you." 

My son also has his challenges. He is terribly afraid of haircuts and being left with a babysitter on a date night. He runs slower than a snail dragging a refrigerator, even when compared to other children his age. He is, and I suspect will always be, small for a boy of his age. I fear that his intelligence, when combined with his small stature and kind and caring spirit, will make him the target of every bully throughout his days. It bothers me that I can only prepare and protect him for so long before he will be on his own. I'm sure all parents or caregiver family members can relate to this, especially if they care for a child with special needs: we all have our own stories of joy, triumph, struggle, and fear. 

As parents and caregivers, we share a primal, dauntless, and uncompromising drive to do everything in our power to protect, encourage, and assist our children. I simultaneously hope for my son's future while being scared for his struggles and feeling a protective rage against those that threaten him. With every step or stumble my boy takes, I am cheering for accomplishment or for another attempt, all while watching for the next opportunity or hazard ahead – just as other parents and caregivers probably do. We all worry about who will be there to share in the joy and stand in defense of our loved ones when we are gone. 

Special needs planning is the application of that drive to help our children with the legal issues that come with having special needs. One facet of special needs planning is obtaining public benefits through programs such as Social Security's Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). CDB is one program parents often overlook. This program generally allows an adult who was disabled as a child to receive Social Security benefits based on his or her parent's work record. The benefits are available when a parent has either retired or died and are often far greater than the child would receive under SSI or his or her own work record for disability. However, to be eligible, the child with special needs cannot have engaged in "substantial gainful activity." This means that parents who try to have their child with special needs obtain a job like his or her peers may cause irreparable harm. If a child with special needs has worked enough, he or she may become ineligible for CDB, but not have enough of a work record to receive disability on his or her own. 

It can be devastating for a parent or family member to realize all the encouragement and drive to give your child a better life did more harm than good. Rules like this are why we are so adamant about wanting to meet, counsel, and educate families who could benefit from special needs planning. We understand what our clients are trying to do, and we want to be there with them throughout life's challenges and successes.

If you have a neighbor, family member, or friend caring for a child with special needs, ask what special needs planning they've done. For more information about CDB and other ways to protect and improve the future of a child with special needs, contact us to schedule an appointment.