Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blind and Visually Impaired Social Security Recipients Win Major Legal Victory

Blind and Visually Impaired Social Security recipients won a major victory on Tuesday when Judge William Alsup of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California found that the Social Security Administration was violating the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

In 2005, The American Council of the Blind sued the Social Security Administration for failing to provide important information to, among others, blind and visually impaired recipients of social security in alternative formats such as Braille or other media besides its standard printed notices.

The case finally came to trial before Judge Alsup for a seven-day trial. On October 20th, Judge Alsup issued his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and his Judgment that Social Security was violating the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiffs were represented by a number of attorneys, including the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.

The DREDF press release with information about other counsel for plaintiffs and links to the decision is found at

Paul's Comment:

Four years of litigation to come to a conclusion that seems as plain as the nose on one's face is a slap in the face to the disability community. The amount of money spent by the government to fight this litigation is the height of irresponsible waste of taxpayer's money. This sad saga is a further reminder to the disability community of the need to stand together, support each other's causes, and fight the intellectually weak and spineless, in this case, the Social Security Administration.

Please help by disseminating this information to everyone who may possibility be affected by this decision.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Will First-time Homebuyer Credit Be Extended?

On Tuesday, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, and Republican Senator Johnny Isakson agreed that the first-time homebuyer tax credit should be extended through June, 2010. Both see this tax credit as having a stabilizing effect of the housing market and would like to see it extended.

It's any body's guess, of course, whether this expression of extending the credit will make its way into law. The first-time homebuyer's credit is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Much has been written about the question “When should I start taking my social security benefits?” The pros and cons have been well discussed, but those discussions have left out one element that could make a critical difference in the answer to this very important question. That element is the little known social security benefit called “Disabled Adult Children,” a social security disability income program.

Social Security considers this to be a “child’s” benefit, because it is paid on a parent’s earnings record, not the child’s. To receive benefits under this program, the child need not ever have worked. The qualifications for these benefits are:

The adult child must have a disability recognized by social security and have been diagnosed before age 22.
The adult child must be at least 18 years old.
The adult child must be unmarried.
The adult child’s parent (sometimes step-parent or even grandparent or step-grandparent) must be deceased or receiving social security retirement or disability benefits.

Once qualified, even though the adult child must be “totally” disabled, he or she is allowed to earn up to $980 per month. (This figure changes from year-to-year.) Further, since this disability income payment will likely be higher than the current Supplemental Security Income benefit, the adult child should apply as soon as qualified to determine which benefit is higher.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, once the adult child has been receiving Social Security Disability Income benefits for 24 months, he or she qualifies for Medicare, no matter how old he or she is. Hypothetically, then, the adult child could be receiving both Medicaid and Medicare, as well as SSDI benefits, and still only be in his or her twenties.

Moreover, the parent only needs to apply and qualify for social security benefits. The parent still may be employed and even earning too much money to actually receive any social security cash benefit. (IRS calculates your retirement benefit based upon your age and earnings record. For example, assume an individual is entitled to $1,400 per month at age 62. If that individual earns approximately $50,000, he or she will not receive any cash benefit. [These figures are not exact but a rough approximation of a hypothetical situation.] If the individual does not receive any cash benefit prior to full retirement age, qualifying for social security at age 62 will have no negative affect on that individual’s full retirement age monthly cash benefit.)

It is, therefore, critical for all adults who have children with disabilities to understand the Disabled Adult Children benefit program of Social Security. Deciding to apply for social security benefits at age 62 seems to be a “no-brainer” for parents of children with disabilities who qualify for DAC benefits.


A former social security claims representative who wishes to remain anonymous. She frequently clashed with her supervisors by applying the law the way it was supposed to be applied.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Operation Hero Miles

Follow this LINK to a really great way to help troops in Iraq and Afghanistan get home for free on leave and families of injured soldiers to fly to hospitals across the country to visit with them. You can donate frequent flyer miles to the Fisher House Foundation for this purpose.

Whatever your feelings are about these wars, we are all sensitive to the tremendous sacrifices being made by our servicemen and servicewomen and want to help where we can. Please try to help, if you can.



National Report Pegs Autism Prevalance at 1 in 91

Bethesda, MD (October 5, 2009) --

A national report released today in the journal Pediatrics reveals that 1 percent of U.S. children ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder, an estimated prevalence of one in every 91children. This is a dramatic increase from the one in 150 prevalence rates currently reported.

“This national study charts a dramatic rise in the prevalence of autism in the United States and we applaud this administration’s recognition that autism is an urgent public health priority,” said Autism Society President and CEO Lee Grossman. “But families today are asking: how high must these prevalence rates rise before the nation responds? Significant resources must be directed toward screening and diagnosis, affordable interventions that treat the whole person and comprehensive education plans to foster lifelong skill development so that people with autism will have the ability to work and live independently.”

The report, entitled “Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder among Children in the US,” published in today’s issue of Pediatrics, was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services National Survey of Children’s Health, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was conducted via a telephone
survey of over 78,000 parents, and determined a point prevalence of 110 per 10,000 respondents, roughly 1 percent of the population of children in the United States.

On a constituent call to discuss the report, the CDC reported that its initial analysis of the Autism and Developmental Delay Monitoring project data, due out later this fall, confirm the 1 percent figure. This report will also contain more data on age of diagnosis, groups affected, and access
to interventions.

The increasing numbers have long-term economic costs to the country, as autism is a chronic medical condition affecting people across the lifespan. “Lifespan services, particularly for adults, are typically inadequate and inappropriate,” Grossman stated. “This new data should be a call to action to the government to improve and increase services and supports first.”

The Autism Society has been working with Congress on several key bills, which have stalled. “The information in this new report highlights the pressing need for additional services, support and treatments for families affected by autism spectrum disorders,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “My bill, the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act, will help children and adults with autism gain better access to coordinated services, improve training for professionals treating these disorders, and will relieve the financial burden on the millions of families struggling with this disability.”

This bill, if funded, would provide funding for applied research into effective interventions, the first ever demonstration grants on adult services, create an adult prevalence study, and fund family support and information networks.

“Autism affects millions of American families, and the cost of diagnosis, early intervention, and treatment imposes a heavy burden on most of them,” said Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus. “This legislation, the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009, would improve the dissemination of information between autism researchers and service providers, improve training for professionals treating autism spectrum disorders, and mandate that health insurers cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Enactment of this legislation would do a lot to help millions of American families.”

“The increase in the reported prevalence of autism across the nation testifies to the urgency of executing a comprehensive strategy in response to this public health emergency,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus. “For its part, Congress must ensure robust funding to support aggressive programs of research, education,
and services. Furthermore, Congress needs to enact additional legislation, such as the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009, that will establish the infrastructure and mechanisms for delivering appropriate services across the lifespan to individuals with autism and their families. We must look to maximize the reach and impact of our investments and activities by closely
coordinating government efforts with those of national advocacy organizations, such as the Autism Society.”

About Autism

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disability that typically appears during the first two years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism, but increased awareness and funding can help families today.

About the Autism Society

The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. We do this by increasing public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people on the spectrum, advocating for appropriate services for individuals across the lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. For more information, visit

Monday, October 5, 2009

Are the costs of ABA therapy deductible as a medical expense?

I approach answering this question with some trepidation. I have not found a clear-cut answer, and there are aspects of ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy with which I am not familiar. Therefore, I am going to put some disclaimers directly into this post:

I. IRS Circular 230 Disclaimer

NOTHING in this post is intended or written to be used for the purpose of avoiding Federal Tax penalties, and it cannot be used by the reader or any taxpayer to avoid Federal Tax penalties, and this post was not written to support the promotion or marketing of any transaction or matter discussed in it.

II. Consult Your Tax Advisor

This is not legal advice that you can use in any way. Consult your tax advisor about whether you can or should take this as a medical deduction.

III. This does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Now, back to the question:

It is my belief that ABA therapy does qualify, in whole or in some parts, as an expense that is properly deductible on Schedule A as a medical expense. How much of the therapy you can deduct will depend upon the actual modalities used in your particular situation. The fact that something is called ABA therapy does not necessarily make it "medical" in nature. You might have to look at each particular activity and deduct some but not all activities.

Therapy to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body, is deductible as a medical expense. Based upon my understanding of ABA therapy, the premise of ABA therapy would qualify under this test for deductibility as a medical expense.