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Not Sure Who Should Be Your Child’s Guardian? Here Are Some Tips

Guardian, Special Needs Trusts, Attorney, Atlanta, GA Recently a family came in for a special needs trust consult and they were at a loss as to whom they should designate as their child’s guardian.

Although the wife had two sisters, neither of them lived close by; nor took an interest in their intellectually disabled niece. The husband also had a sister, but she didn’t have any children – and never wanted any.

Although both of the couple’s parents were eager to be guardians, the parents were of advanced age and in poor health. And as for extended relatives, well, they were extended and didn’t have any meaningful contact with their family.

It’s OK If The Guardian Is NOT Biologically Related

This scenario is more frequent than may you think. We often talk with families who do not have any biological family that can or want to serve as their special needs child’s guardian. And that’s OK.

You don’t want to designate individuals as guardians if they don’t want to be or do not have a meaningful relationship with your child.

“Our Chosen Family”

One of the things that my wife and I have learned through the years (and being in a similar situation as the couple that came to my office) is that you create what we call “Our Chosen Family.”

Our Chosen Family consists of people who WANT to be a part of our lives and enjoy spending time not only with us, but our special needs son. These are people who we’ve come to trust and love us as if they were our own biological family – and it’s these same people who we have chosen to be our children’s guardians.

Something to consider is that by taking the pressure off of your biological family, this may encourage them to remain engaged with your child. Many times biological family members want to help, but may not be in a position to assume guardianship.

Just because you do not choose someone as guardian, does not mean that they cannot be involved in your child’s life and/or be of assistance to the guardian.

There are several ways to keep non-guardians involved including informal roles like “God-parent” or more formal structures like Micro-Boards.

Things to Consider When Choosing A Guardian

When considering who to chose as your child’s guardian, here are some things to consider:

  • Does the potential guardian have a meaningful relationship with your child?
  • Would your child need to move to live with the guardian? How would this impact your child’s therapies or education?
  • Does the potential guardian have the energy and health to take care of your child?
  • Are they trustworthy and responsible?
  • Would the potential guardian continue to care for your child in a way that you want?
  • Most importantly, do they WANT to be a part of your family and be your child’s caregiver if something were to happen to you?

Also, something to keep in mind is that NO ONE will ever care for your child like you do. So it’s important to keep this in mind and be realistic when selecting a guardian.

We hope that our child will never need a guardian, but if they do, this person will need to quickly step in and make sure your child receives the love and care they need.

We Can Help You Decide

The story of the couple that came into my office has a happy ending.

After talking with them about their “Chosen Family,” the answer as to whom should be their daughter’s guardian was much easier and the person they selected gave them great peace of mind.

So even though the guardian they selected was not biologically related, the guardian was their “Chosen Family.”

If you’re struggling with who to designate as a guardian for your child, we can help. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com and 678.325.3872.

#SpecialNeedsTrusts #Guardians #ChosenFamily

How To Choose A Trustee

Trustee, Trust, Will, Estate Planning, Attorney, Lawyer, Jeyaram, Georgia, AtlantaWhen you set up a trust to protect your assets and finances, one of the most important decisions you will make is who will serve as your trustee.

The trustee (or trustees) is someone who will manage your money and property if you become incapacitated (living will) or for the benefit of others after you pass.

The trustee has a lot of authority, so it’s important to select someone you not only trust and have great confidence in, but also:

  • Makes smart financial decisions
  • Is responsible
  • Can meet deadlines (ex. paying bills on time and filing taxes)
  • Has a healthy relationship with your family
  • Is good at communicating as many decisions and ongoing conversations will need to occur.

Trustees are most often a family member or an institution. Following are some benefits and disadvantages to both:

Family Member

Perhaps the biggest benefits of selecting a family member as a trustee is that they may not charge you a fee to be the trustee and most likely, they have a good understanding of how your family works and what it needs.

However, on the flip side, if you choose a family member to be the trustee it could lead to conflict or resentment especially if there is a separate guardian involved for a minor child or disabled adult. Further, the family member may not have financial prowess and may need to hire someone to help them.

Finally, the family member could become incapacitated, get divorced or pass away. As a result, if you select a family member as a trustee, it’s important to name a successor trustee.

An Institution

If you choose a bank or financial institution as the trustee, there is stability (it most likely won’t die) and more likely financial acumen than a family member. The bank can handle any investments, tax preparations, management, and accounting of the trust’s finances. Further, the bank is regulated by federal laws and uninvolved in family politics.

The downside of naming a bank or financial institution as a trustee is cost. Sometimes banks have a minimum fee. This may make banks cost-prohibitive for small trusts. Further, while the bank may not die, employees at the bank can change frequently making it difficult to build relationships.

Still Not Sure?

Choosing the right trustee is an important decision and can be stressful as there are many factors to consider. However, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine whether a family member or an institution will be the best choice for you based on your wants and family’s needs.

We’re Here To Help

DJ Jeyaram is an experienced estate planning attorney who specializes in helping families create trusts – including identifying the best trustee – to meet their needs and situations.

You will work directly with DJ in creating a will or trust that reflects your family. DJ can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

How To Obtain Guardianship For Your Special Needs Child

Guardianship Attorney GeorgiaIn many states, including Georgia, as soon as your special needs child turns 18, he or she becomes a legal adult and is assumed to be able to make decisions on their own behalf unless a court determines otherwise.

However, if you determine that retaining guardianship over your child once he or she turns 18 is in your child’s best interest, here’s how you do it. (See related post: Is Guardianship The Right Choice When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18?)

Start Planning BEFORE Your Child Turns 18

Requesting guardianship can be a lengthy and involved legal process. In order to retain guardianship of your child, you need to have the court appoint you as your child’s guardian.

To make sure there is not a gap in your child’s guardianship when he or she turns 18, it’s important to prepare your petition to the court well in advance of your child’s 18th birthday. If there is a gap in guardianship (i.e. your child turns 18 before you have guardianship) and a decision needs to be made about your child’s health or legal rights, it could cause some serious problems.

Step-By-Step Process

  • Every state’s guardianship laws differ slightly and the process can be daunting. This is where hiring an attorney to help guide you through the process is beneficial.
  • There are several forms you will need to complete, including forms that will need to be completed by a qualified physician to evaluate your child.
  • Once you submit the forms, your child will need to appear in court with you. As much as possible, you will want to help your child understand the process and what to expect in advance of actually appearing in court.
  • The court will appoint a representative for your child to help determine the merits of your claim that your child is not competent to act on his or her own behalf and that guardianship is in fact the right choice. The representative will most likely want to meet and visit with your child. In addition, in some circumstances, the representative may visit your child at home.
  • Finally, you will need to attend a hearing with your child. At this point, the judge will review and determine if your child is incapacitated and, if so, to what extent he or she requires assistance. Further, the judge will then decide if the person petitioning for guardianship will be appointed as guardian.

Some Things To Consider 

  • You and your spouse or significant other can petition the court to share guardianship. You will become co-guardians.
  • If your child’s need are complex, you can request that a non-profit agency or public or private corporation serve as your child’s guardian.
  • Guardianship may not be the right solution for your child. There are alternatives such as conservator or limited guardianship that give your child more independence.

Once You Are Awarded Guardianship

The paperwork doesn’t stop once you’re awarded guardianship. Every year you will need to file detailed reports about your child’s finances and overall well being. In some states, guardians must also provide proof that they’ve made adequate residential arrangements as well as provided appropriate healthcare services.

If the guardian cannot prove that they have adequately provided for their adult ward, then the court can remove the adult ward and name a different guardian.

Getting Started

As a parent of a special needs child and an attorney with extensive experience with legal issues relating to special needs children, I can help you navigate the complex guardianship process. DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

Giving Back: Delta’s Special Gift To The Autism Community

Autism Delta Airlines TourSpecial guest blog post by Cassandra Jeyaram, PhD.

Despite my love of traveling, it’s been years since I’ve flown. My last flight was when our son was 8 months old, and we flew to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for multiple tests and evaluations. At 8 months old, my son Kai was easy to “control” and keep happy.

At 7 years old with a dual diagnosis of Autism and Williams Syndrome, the thought of flying with Kai makes my hands sweat and to be honest, want to throw up. No thank you. We have enough anxiety and stress in just our every day, highly routinized lives. But there are times, when we hear about our friend’s taking family vacations or we see trip pictures on Facebook; and we feel the loss of the freedom to travel more acutely. We want our kids to experience the world, but the thought of flying is daunting.

Like many other children with autism and special needs, Kai thrives on knowing what to expect and at any time, any little thing – a sound or smell or sight – can send him into sensory overload and a meltdown. So going to the Atlanta airport – the world’s busiest airport – and asking him to sit still for more than five minutes seemed out of the question.

Delta’s Here to Help: Taking Flight Tour 

However, Delta has launched a program to try to help parents like me who are anxious about flying with their children with autism and other needs. This past weekend, Kai and attended one of Delta’s “Taking Flight” tours. It’s a free tour of the airport – from security to boarding the plane – to help parents and their children become more comfortable in navigating through the airport and flying.

Kai and I and a few other families were met by two Delta pilots, two Delta gate agents, two Delta members of the Complaint Resolution Office, two Delta flight attendants and the head of Atlanta’s TSA near Delta’s international check in. This Delta team not only understood that there’s a lot for our children to process, but that moms and dads are probably pretty anxious too. (Understatement!)

Members of team shared their personal stories about traveling with children or loved ones who have autism or special needs. Wait what? Pilots and flight attendants who understand that the process of having to take off their shoes to go through security can cause an epic meltdown or that the LOUD whooshing of the airplane toilet can cause our children to meltdown? Wow.

They’re Just Like Me!

The more I talked with the Delta team and they shared tips on how to navigate the process from check in to boarding, I started to feel a glimmer of hope. One of our pilots, Erich Ries has a son who is on the autism spectrum. Erich said he’s traveled with his son more 40 times! It hasn’t always been easy, but they did it and he was so glad they did.

Our other pilot, Angie Millar, has a sister who is autistic and during one of the flights with her sister, her sister experienced a seizure. I couldn’t believe it. Here were people just like me! They talked about how through their professional and personal experiences, they have all probably seen and successfully handled every possible situation with individuals with autism or special needs.

Delta Team’s Personal Travel Tips

Some of the personal tips they shared:

  • Call TSA Cares 72 hours before your flight and let them know you have a child with special needs. They can help you make accommodations for your child to make the entire process at the airport smoother (ex. such as meeting you at check in and helping you bypass the long lines at security – it’s like Disney’s Fast Pass!) (1-855-787-2227)
  • Consider creating a laminated card to give to gate agents, the TSA and flight attendants about your child. I know a lot of parents don’t like to bring attention to their child’s disability, so this is a discrete way we can notify individuals that we need help without making a big production. Gate agents, TSA, flight attendants, etc. can’t help us – if they don’t know.
  • If you’re traveling with another adult, consider having your partner board first and create a “nest” on the airplane. For example, get out toys, electronic devices, blankets, snacks, and other comfort items to make your child more comfortable for the flight. Then, you and your child can board last to minimize the time for potential anxiety to kick in and reduce the amount of time they have to sit still on the plane.
  • Sit near the front of the plane. Maybe not in the very front now because that’s the “bulk head” and there isn’t a place to store your carry on (i.e. no way to access comfort items on quick notice). but the second row so you can store their personal bag under their feet. This not only gives you access to their comfort items, but it gives them something to rest their feet on and potentially reduce their likeliness to kick the seat in front of them (what else are they going do with those dangling, antsy feet?!)
  • Watch videos on YouTube about going to the airport or boarding the plane.
  • Create positive anticipation and excitement about going to the airport and your upcoming trip. Pilot Erich creates a countdown for his son and shares with him lots of fun information about where they are going. They talk about their trips in advance – so the trips aren’t a surprise.
  • Every child is different and the aforementioned tips may or may not work for our kids, but they’re a great foundation to get us to start thinking about ways we can make our kids more comfortable and less anxious about navigating through the airport and flying.

A Very Special Gift

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what I took away from the tour was hope. As we were in the plane, pilot Erich looked at me and said, “You can do this.” I almost started to cry. Here’s someone who gets it and has done it – more than 40 times!

This post is by no means a replacement for the tour, but more of an endorsement of the tour and a hope to encourage other parents to take their children on the “Taking Flight” tour so they too can experience first-hand the sights, sounds and smells of the airport and become more familiar with the entire process.

Thank you Delta Airlines and The Arc for making these tours possible. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences with us and for giving us such an amazing and special gift – confidence to travel and share the world with our loved ones.

A very special thank you to Erich Ries, Angie Millar, Maren Vargas, Dinah Robinson and to all the other amazing members of our Delta tour team! THANK YOU!

Take Delta’s Tour

If you’d like to participate in one of the tours, please contact ACSCRO.ATL@delta.com. The next tour is October 1, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at ATL Airport. You must RSVP as spaces are limited.

Guardianship: Is It The Right Choice When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18?

Guardianship Special Needs

In most states, a parent is deemed to be the legal guardian of his or her child until their child turns 18. Up until that point, parents make all the medical, financial, educational and day-to-day decisions for their children.

However, once your child turns 18, he or she is legally considered an adult and your authority to make decisions on your child’s behalf stops. This usually isn’t an issue, unless you have a special needs child that may not be ready or able to make good decisions about their care.

Following is a discussion of some options of what you can do when your special needs child turns 18.

Guardianship

With guardianship of your child, you have the legal authority to make decisions about your child’s healthcare, housing, food, clothing, and other subjects that affect your child such as decisions about a their income, property, public benefits and other financial matters.

Guardianship is not automatic. And when your child turns 18, parents (or an adult willing to oversee your child’s care) must petition the court for guardianship.

However, not every child who has disabilities needs to have a guardian. With appointed guardians, your child loses a great deal of independence. Your child will no longer be able to make decisions about their personal life, health care, financial or legal matters.

Alternatives To Guardianship

Most state laws require that guardianship only be imposed only when less restrictive alternatives would not best benefit and protect the child.

Following are a few examples of less restrictive alternatives to guardianship.

Conservatorship

If your child has the capacity to make some decisions, an option to consider is Conservatorship. The individual appointed to serve as Conservator manages your child’s property and financial affairs. Most other decisions are left up to the child.

Power of Attorney

Power of attorney is given to a responsible adult (ex. a parent) that acts on your child’s behalf on financial, legal or business matters but the child still retains the right to act on his or her own behalf.

Representative or Protective Payee

If your child receives Social Security, benefits from the Veteran’s Administration, Railroad Retirement, welfare or other state or federal benefits, the Court can appoint someone to help manage their payments from these entities. All other decisions are left up to your child.

Factors To Consider When Making This Decision

It’s important to take into consideration several factors when deciding whether your child needs a guardian or some other form of support.

  • Your child’s ability to make sound decisions, including understanding the effect and consequences of his her decisions and actions
  • Your ongoing need to be involved in your child’s medical care
  • Your need for continued oversight over your child’s financial affairs
  • Your child’s needs and wants
  • Your child’s ability to communicate his or her needs
  • Your child’s level of independence with respect to self-care (ex. feeding, dressing, bathing, etc.)
  • Whether your child will require outside support such as assisted living or a home health assistant

When To Make A Decision

The conversations and decisions about how your 18-year-old child should be cared for need to happen BEFORE he/she turns 18. These conversations are not easy. In fact, they’re very difficult and there are many variables to consider. As a result, it’s important to start thinking about your child, his or her needs and long-term well-being now.

We Can Help

Although we cannot make the decision for you about what’s the right answer for you and your family, we can guide you through the decision-making process and help you with the legal aspects. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872 for a free initial consultation.

If Your Child Has Autism, Make Sure These 4 Things Are In Your Will

Autsim Will & Special Needs Trust

Although everyone should have a will, as parents of special needs children, we need wills to ensure that our kids are well cared for and have a good quality of life after we pass.

My son has a dual diagnosis of Autism and Williams Syndrome. Here are four things I recommend all parents of children with Autism – or any special needs – include in their wills or estate plans.

1) A Special Needs Trust – A will is a basic legal document that details your last wishes and is often used to distribute your property or assets.

However, a basic will does not include provisions that are needed to protect and provide for your special needs child. This is where a Special Needs Trust comes into play. A Special Needs Trust can be a part of your will or it can be a stand-alone document. It allows you to designate and qualify your assets in a way that doesn’t penalize your child when it comes to his or her public benefits.

Eligibility for many government benefits is determined based on the resources your child or adult ward holds in his or her name. If your special needs child has too many resources, even by just one dollar, he or she may not qualify for, or may even lose, benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Even if your child does not currently receive government assistance, he or she may need it in the future.

A special needs trust is a way to protect your loved one’s current resources and future benefits. Through a special needs trust you can leave assets to your child or ward without negatively impacting his or her government benefits.

2) Designated Guardian – We often assume that a member of our family – maybe a sister or our own mother – will automatically be given custody of our children if something happens to us. However, this is not true unless you have a will, trust or estate plan in place that specifically names them as guardians.

Without a legal plan in place, anyone can request custody and a judge will decide with whom your child/children will live with. Choosing a guardian is perhaps one of the most difficult decisions to make. It’s important to choose someone you trust and who will respect your wishes for your child(ren).

Things to consider when selecting any child’s guardian are the guardian’s age, his or her family values, parenting style, character, willingness to serve as guardian and whether he or she already has an established relationship with your child.

With a special needs child there are even more considerations. Think about the traits that you, as a special needs parent, need to raise your child and does the guardian have these traits?  My top three traits for special needs guardians are 1) Energy; 2) Patience; and 3) The ability to advocate for my child. (See Related Post: 10 Tips On Choosing The Right Guardian)

3) Guardianship Letter & Instructions –  Once you’ve selected a guardian, you need to put them in a position to succeed if they are forced to step into your shoes. You should write instructions to the guardian about things they will need to know on how to parent your child.

Include things like your child’s routines, medicines, information about his or her medical providers, how to deal with sensory meltdowns, what is the best way to get them to eat or sleep. Simple things like their favorite stuffed animal that they need to go to sleep with at night or where they like to hide their favorite sippy cup or the name of their favorite YouTube videos are small details – but they are of big importance to our children.

We’ve had years to learn these things about our kids. Help your child’s guardian avoid having to learn from experience by documenting what you already know!  (See Related Post: How To Create A Successful Care Plan For Your Child’s Guardians)

By painstakingly detailing your routines and including details about what makes your child comfortable or happy in your care plan, you are setting your guardians up for success and for a smooth transition in case something were to suddenly happen to you and your spouse.

4) Conservator or Trustee – A conservator or trustee is someone to handle all financial decisions related to your child. A conservator helps ensure that money left to your special needs child is used for your child in ways that best benefit  your child.

Often times families ask me if their child’s designated guardian should also be the conservator or trustee. It depends. Your guardian can serve as both, but sometimes families prefer set up some up checks and balances by selecting different guardians and conservators. It’s important to select someone you trust and who will make smart financial decisions on your child’s behalf.  The guardian and the conservator work together in the best interest of your child.

Getting Started

As a parent of a special needs child and an estate planning attorney, I understand the challenges of adding one more thing to your plate. However, putting into place a will to protect your child with special needs is something we all need to do sooner rather than later – just in case.

We’ll walk you through the will planning process step-by-step. Initial consults are free.  We want to help you create a legal plan that best protects your child with special needs as well as your final wishes for your entire family. I can be reached at DJ@JeyLaw.com or 678.325.3872.

 

DJ Jeyaram Joins Frazer Center Board of Directors

DJ JeyaramCongratulations DJ Jeyaram for being selected to serve on the Frazer Center Board of Directors.

Mr. Jeyaram joins an esteemed group of community members who are committed to the inclusion of individuals with disabilities. The Frazer Center provides services for children and adults with disabilities.

Honor To Serve

“It’s an honor to serve along with so many esteemed individuals who have committed their lives to helping individuals of all levels of abilities and disabilities,” Mr. Jeyaram said. “The Frazer Center understands and appreciates the value of all individuals and that there is tremendous community benefit and value in diversity.”

The Frazer’s Center Guiding Principles 

  • We value every individual as a member of the community.
  • We strive for excellence in every aspect of our work.
  • We are committed to advocacy and research on behalf of the community we serve.
  • We are faithful stewards of all the resources entrusted to our care: human, natural, and economic.
  • We are committed to building and deepening partnerships knowing we cannot do this alone.

Local and Global Community Inclusion 

The Frazer Center is a long standing advocate and resource for helping with the inclusion of individuals of all abilities into the community. According to an annual report by the Frazer Center, “We are vision builders with a passion for the world that we hope for—one in which each person has the chance to be acknowledged for their gifts, to be valued and included despite any difference in ability, and to be productive members of society.”

Learn More

To learn more about the Frazer Center and the programs it offers for adults and children with disabilities, visit http://www.frazercenter.org/

Got Katie Beckett? Your Child Could Qualify For NOW/COMP Waivers Too

NOW/COMP

If your child receives the Katie Beckett Waiver, first and foremost, congratulations!

You survived the laborious process of securing physical, speech and occupational therapy notes, medical histories, doctors’ notes and evaluations – not to mention probably resubmitting your 2-inch completed application more than once!

BUT, as parents of special needs children, we know it’s worth it. Without Katie Beckett our kids would not receive the services they need. So if the thought of going through yet another application process seems overwhelming – read on.

How Children Qualify for NOW/COMP Waivers

One of the benefits of being on Katie Beckett is that your child may also qualify for additional services through the state’s NOW/COMP Waivers – programs designed to help children and adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities (or a closely related condition) live at home or integrate into the community.

One of the Levels of Care that qualifies someone for an applicant for Katie Beckett is the Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF-ID). The ICF-ID level of care is the same level of care used to qualify an applicant for the NOW/COMP Waivers. So if you qualify under ICF-ID Level of Care for Katie Beckett, you should also qualify for NOW/COMP under the same level of care.

The NOW/COMP waivers increase the independence and quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities. They cover expenses not typically covered by Medicaid such as respite, job training, housing services, and transportation. Services can be provided to help support the individual during the day, night and weekends.

One of the common misconceptions is that the NOW/COMP Waivers are only for adults. And while it is true that many NOW/COMP services are aimed at older individuals, children may also qualify for the Waivers and utilize services more appropriate for children.

Approximately 12,000 individuals in Georgia receive services through the NOW/COMP waivers. The waiting lists are long and sometimes it takes years to get approved – but it’s worth it. And, here’s the best news yet – once your child receives the wavier, it’s his/hers as long as your child continues to meet the eligibility criteria during annual renewals and continues to need services.

Here are some of the services your child can receive.

Sample of Support Services NOW/COMP Covers

  • Nursing services: If your child has a clinical diagnosis that requires complex assessment and intervention, nursing services are available to help restore your child’s health or prevent further deterioration.
  • Respite – Brief periods of support or relief for caregivers. This includes hourly and overnight care for your special needs child.
  • Specialized Medical Equipment – Devices, controls or appliances that enable your child to increase the abilities to perform activities of daily living and interactive more independently.
  • Specialized Medical Supplies – Food supplements, special clothing, diapers, bed wetting protective gear and other supplies.
  • Vehicle Adaptation Services – Adaptations to your family’s vehicle such as hydraulic lifts, ramps, special sets, etc.

The aforementioned is just a sample of the services available. For a comprehensive list, click here.

How To Get Started

The NOW/COMP Wavier application process is not nearly as arduous as the Katie Beckett application process. But remember, the waiting lists are long and often takes years to secure services. To download the PDF application, click here.

Congratulations! Jeyaram & Associates Opened Its Doors 9 Years Ago Today!

DJHeroCongratulations to Jeyaram & Associates’ Owner and Founder DJ Jeyaram for hanging out his shingle 9 years ago today!

With 50% of startups failing in the first five years, Jeyaram & Associates is not only defying the odds, but it’s successfully helping physicians, nurses, hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care facilities, pharmacies, Medicaid and healthcare providers as well as individuals and families in the special needs community.

To celebrate Jeyaram & Asssociate’s 9 year anniversary, we’ve created a super hero figure of DJ Jeyaram as he relentlessly and tirelessly fights for the underdog and individuals who often do not have a voice or are overlooked.

Jeyaram & Associates is a four (4) attorney firm offering extensive legal expertise in healthcare corporate, regulatory and fraud matters; special needs estate planning and guardianship; and Katie Beckett and NOW/COMP appeals. The firm is AV rated and a certified Minority Business Enterprise.

Georgians With Developmental Disabilities “Shortchanged”

Developmental DisabilityGaps Remain In Community Support Services

Six years after their 2010 settlement agreement that addressed Georgia’s treatment of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities, the State and the US Department of Justice still cannot agree on what exactly that means.

Under part of the 2010 settlement, Georgia must improve care for individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities. This includes moving these individuals into community settings when appropriate. There are annual reports filed with the court from an independent reviewer about the progress of the settlement.  According to the most recent report, Georgia still has gaps in services and waiting lists mean community integration has not been fully realized.

U.S. Supreme Court Orders Community Integration

Georgia’s compliance with the 2010 settlement will continue to be a contentious issue. A federal judge overseeing the execution of the settlement said, “The state of Georgia always has shortchanged people with mental illness.” Georgia was the focus of the Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling in Olmstead v L.C. In that case, the Court ruled individuals with mental illness and DD have a right to receive services in the most integrated community setting appropriate for their needs.

Most Applications For Assistance Initially Rejected

Despite the disagreement over what is required under the settlement, the 2010 settlement has helped many people move back or remain in their communities. This is thanks to the increased availability of Medicaid waivers. However, some disabled individuals and their families still get discouraged during the application process, especially if the application is initially rejected.

 We Can Help 

 Jeyaram & Associates has helped dozens of families get and keep support services for individuals with developmental disabilities even after an initial rejection. For more information, contact Jonathan Anderson at  janderson@jeylaw.com.