Lori Wolf spoke with The New York Times about the challenges of financial planning and trusts for troubled adult children. See her full insight in the article, “For Parents With Troubled Adult Children, Financial Hurdles Abound,” in the link below.



We are pleased to share this memo from Bergen County’s United Way who is now accepting applications for its Very Special Homes© community in Tenafly.

“With the support of the Tenafly community and in partnership with the Madeline Corporation, a non-profit affordable housing developer, BCUW is building six units of special needs housing for individuals with developmental disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities.  The one and two-bedroom units are designed for highly independent individuals who are capable of living on their own with some supports.  We expect to complete construction in the fall and welcome the tenants by Thanksgiving.”

Please find the application package for your convenience below.

UW Tenafly Cover Letter Final

UW Tenafly VSH-Application(2015)_FORM-1

UW Tenafly VSH-Checklist(2015)_FORM-1

UW Tenafly VSH-Disability Certification(2015)_FORM-1

UW Tenafly VSH-ReleaseofInfo(2015)_FORM-1

On December 3, 2014, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow qualifying disabled persons to establish tax-free savings accounts similar to 529 plans to pay for a host of expenses, including, but not limited to, housing, transportation, and medical expenses.  The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 is expected to be approved by the Senate, and would be effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2014.

Similar to 529 Plans, each state could elect to establish an “ABLE” program.  Contributions to the ABLE account could be made by any person.  Such contributions would not be tax deductible and would be limited to $14,000 annually.  Income earned by the account that is either reinvested or distributed to an eligible disabled individual would not be subject to income tax.  The account could hold a balance of up to $100,000 without being considered an asset for eligibility under means-based benefits programs, such as Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Similar to 529 Plans, the law would contain provisions dealing with distributions for non-qualified expenses and provisions dealing with what happens to the ABLE account funds on the disabled individual’s death.

This legislation presents an invaluable planning opportunity for families with disabled children, as parents would be able to establish a tax-exempt ABLE account for their disabled child without such an account being considered for SSI and Medicaid.  Under current law, people with disabilities are generally disqualified from eligibility for SSI and Medicaid if they have more than $2,000 in assets.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires public schools to develop an Individualized Education Program for every student with a disability who is found to meet the federal and state requirements for special education.  IDEA requires that when an Individualized Education Program team is deciding where a student will receive his or her special education services, the team must first consider placement in the general education classroom before removing the child to a special education class or program.

New Jersey has been notorious for having one of the most segregated special education settings in the country.  New Jersey ranks 1st in the nation when it comes to placing our special needs students in self-contained classrooms for the majority of the day and in public and private special education schools.  Roughly half of all special-needs students are educated outside the general education classroom and one in ten special needs students is educated in an out-of-district school.  In addition, New Jersey ranks as the 5th highest in the nation when classifying its students as disabled.

Earlier this year, federal District Court Judge Mary Little Cooper approved a settlement agreement between a coalition of disability rights advocates and attorneys, including New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, the Education Law Center, the ARC of New Jersey and Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, and the Christie administration.  The agreement brought to close the 2007 federal lawsuit, Disability Rights New Jersey et al. v. New Jersey Department of Education, et al.  The Plaintiffs argued that “children with disabilities in New Jersey schools are not being educated in the least restrictive environment, in violation of IDEA and the New Jersey Special Education Statute.”

The settlement agreement requires “needs assessments” and “corrective plans” for the 75 New Jersey school districts with the highest rates of segregation, both in K-12 programs and preschool, encompassing roughly one-quarter of the state’s school children.  These districts must “determine the impact of their policies, procedures and instructional programs on the placement of students with disabilities.”  The goal of the program is to “inform district actions and address those areas that limit the district’s ability to educate students in less restrictive settings.”  Once the data from a district is collected, the New Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs staff will meet with the school district’s staff to develop a training and assistance plan.

The Settlement Agreement can be found here.