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Is it time to update your estate plan?

AVOIDING ESTATE PLANNING?

Many people avoid making an estate plan for various reasons.  Some do not want to think about dying.  Some think it is a chore to complete (all those questions to answer).  Others do not know what to do.  Others completed an estate plan at one point and do not want to look at it again.  Whatever the reason, it is not a good idea to do nothing.  The State of North Carolina has already put together a will for you, it is known as intestate succession (dying without a will) and your property gets distributed according to the North Carolina statutes.  Not a good plan.

If it has been more than 2 years since you have updated your estate plan, you should consider reviewing it.  Reasons for making changes to your estate plan include:

  1. You got married or divorced – If you married you may want to change your will or trust to make your spouse the beneficiary of your estate.  If you divorced, you may want to remove your spouse.  You need to particularly look at any beneficiary designations for life insurance policies or investments.  Could be insult to injury after you pass if your money goes to an ex-spouse.  If you re-marry you may not want your ex-spouse to get funds that you wanted to go to your new spouse.  Proper beneficiary designations cause property to pass outside of one’s estate.

 

  1. You had a child – Congratulations!  If you are a first-time parent or just added another bundle of joy to the family you may need to make changes to your estate plan.  A revocable living trust is a great tool for leaving assets to minor children.   Additionally,  one of the hardest parts of estate planning is figuring out a primary and secondary guardian for your child or childrenAlso, will you give all of your property to the guardian to care for the child(ren) or do you want a trust to handle it?  Tough decisions for every parent of minor children.

 

  1. You turned 18 years old – Welcome to adulthood.  You have been wishing for this time for a while.  However, naps and snacks may seem more appealing when adult responsibilities take off.  If you are now 18 years old, you are responsible for your own healthcare.  Your parents may not be able to make medical decisions for you.  If you are injured during that crazy ski trip you always wanted to take (the double black diamond trail did not seem that scary after the bunny trail) or during the crazy stunt in college that just went awry.  Many teenagers are injured in car accidents.  While an 18 year old may not have money to need a will or trust, they certainly need to have a healthcare power of attorney, living will and general power for attorney.

 

  1. You started a business – That’s the way to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit!  Now that you started it, what happens if something happens to you?  Did you incorporate or form an LLC?  Do you have partners, other shareholders, or other members?  Do you have an operating agreement or bylaws that address the manner of handling the business interest if you or someone else in the business passes away or becomes incapacitated?

 

  1. You sold property you listed in a will or trust to go to someone when you pass away – This may be taken care of in your will or trust, but it does not hurt to review your documents to make sure no problems will occur.  For example, you counted on a particular item to be the sole property to one family member while the others received cash or other tangible personal property.  The left-out family member may challenge the will or trust alleging they should get part of the remaining property as that was your intent to give them something.

 

  1. You bought or sold real property – In North Carolina, if a married couple purchases real property and both spouses are listed on the deed, then title is held as tenants by the entireties.  This type of title has a right of survivorship component.  This means that if one spouse passes away, the real property ownership interest automatically passes to the other spouse.  So the real property would not go into the estate of the deceased spouse.  However, if something happens to both spouses, then whichever is deemed to have passed first, their interest will go to the other spouse and all of the interest in the estate will go into the second spouse’s estate.  Confusing?

 

  1. Pets – Some people consider their pet as part of the family or even more important.  What happens to your pet when you pass away?  What do you want to happen?

 

This is not an exhaustive list, but some things for everyone to consider.  No estate plan or an improper one can lead to nasty, bitter squabbles amongst family members.

Coping with Disabilities after a Car Accident

Spinal Injuries from Car Accidents

Some people suffer permanent injuries as a result of a car accident or other incident.  Money from a personal injury claim is good, but it does not fix the change of life for these people. 

Ryan “Gooch” Nelson is one of these people.  He suffered a spinal injury from a car accident that left him a quadriplegic.  In spite of the loss of use of his limbs, Ryan was able to play the guitar again.  (see his story here). 

According to the story, about 12,000 new spinal injuries are reported each year and motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause.  These spinal injuries can leave people unable to walk and in wheelchairs.  In addition to people who suffer from spinal injuries, many people are bound to wheelchairs due to other medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida. 

Wheelchairs

Coping with life from a wheelchair can be challenging in many ways.  For Ryan Nelson, he learned the challenges of now moving about in a wheelchair.   Navigating life from a wheelchair is a major change.  Everything in your life must now be adjusted.  Ramps must be erected where stairs once served.   Doorways and halls may need to be widened.  Tables, shelves and other furniture may need to be adjusted for height. 

The first place to look is your home.  Some may run into financial constraints for making adequate modifications to their dwelling.  This may be even more difficult if a person rents property. 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

More difficult are modifications to places outside of a person’s residence.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to give people with disabilities more access and equal treatment in a variety of settings.  The ADA requires most commercial and government buildings to have proper parking spaces and accessible sidewalks.  Additionally, the law provides requirements for the placement and width of doorways for wheelchair accessibility, minimum width for aisles and hallways, and sign placement.  People with a sight disability may require braille signs on buildings.  People in wheelchairs require many accommodations that most of us never even consider during our day.  For example, we may walk into a building and think the carpet color looks nice or maybe hideous.  But, do we consider the length of the carpet or the type of padding for a person in a wheelchair to navigate?  I have been told it can feel like trying to push a wheelchair through sand on some carpets. 

Society should not push people with disabilities into particular places.  All should be able to seek employment, enjoy entertainment, conduct business, seek medical treatment and freely navigate places as they see fit without restrictions that don’t really effect the rest of us.  Empowerment should be the norm.

Another area the ADA protects is service animals.  These seem to be becoming more popular lately.  People with disabilities who need a service animal should not be denied access to places and the opportunity to conduct business just because the business does not want animals on their premises.  The animals play an important role in people’s well-being and treatment.

As part of his rehab Ryan Nelson was able to play the guitar again.  He found a way to overcome and adapt.  Most people with disabilities are very good at adapting for their needs. 

If you need legal assistance with a disability matter, please call Wickward Law Office, PLLC at 919-710-6691. 

Veterans Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan

Veteran with Cancer Denied Benefits – VA says not service connected

Army combat veteran John Marshall claims the VA abandoned him when they denied his claim for benefits.1  He was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized.  The VA claims he did not provide information.  They also claim his cancer is not service connected. 

John Marshall’s situation is not uncommon, unfortunately.  Many veterans were exposed to breathing air in Iraq that contained remnants of burnt materials from burn pits.  All kinds of items were burned in Iraq during the Gulf War.  The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that the Department of Defense needs to better adhere to burn pit guidelines and have better protocols for burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.2  The report indicates that many illnesses suffered by veterans returning the Middle East may be caused by burn pits.

I have spoken to veterans who believe they have suffered lung problems, eye problems, cancer and other health conditions as a result of inhalation of burn pit emissions. 

In order to succeed in a VA service connected claim, a veteran must prove they were active military with a proper discharge.  The veteran must prove they suffered a condition during their military service.  This could be something incurred even on leave, such as a car accident.   Veterans do not have workers compensation coverage.  The VA benefits are basically their working insurance coverage.  The veteran must prove they have a chronic condition.  The veteran must prove a connection between the illness or injury during service and the current chronic condition.  This is referred to as a nexus. 

According to the story, the VA denied John Marshall’s claim stating it was not service connected.  The usual denial occurs at the nexus evaluation.  The VA may be saying that John Marshall was unable to prove his cancer was a result of an injury or illness during his military service.  According to the GAO report, the VA is beginning to investigate the burn pit health issues.  So, they may have denied his claim stating he did not suffer an injury or illness during his military service.  If exposure to the burn pits emissions is later deemed to be a cause of many medical illnesses, then he should be able to get his claim approved.

The burn pits are similar to Viet Nam veterans and their exposure to Agent Orange.  This chemical caused many medical conditions in veterans returning from that region.  It was not until later that the VA concluded there are presumptive conditions as a result to exposure to his herbicide. 

Not only is this a travesty for John Marshall, but it leaves his family with no help.  In order for dependents to receive benefits from a veteran’s death not during active duty, the family must prove the death occurred due to a service connected disability or a condition directly related to a service connected disability.  Without the service connected award, the family members could not receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits.3

If you are a veteran or know someone who has been denied their benefits, please contact Wickward Law Office, 919-710-6691, for representation.  There is no consultation fee. 

 

 1   http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/02/23/terminally-ill-army-combat-veteran-says-va-abandoned-him.html?intcmp=hphz25

 2   http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1163.pdf

http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/benefits_chap13.asp

Special Needs Children in Charter Schools

Popularity of Charter Schools

Charter schools are becoming more popular.1 One reason is their focus of different academic programs compared to a traditional school curriculum. Charter schools are still public schools, but the charter allows them to be exempt from certain state laws. This enables a charter school to tailor their education programs differently than other public schools.

Charter Schools In North Carolina

Charter schools are schools authorized by the State of North Carolina under a document called a charter. The NC State Board of Education oversees these schools. In January, 2015, the Board approved 11 charter applications. They approved 2 more in February, 2015 and another in March, 2015. The charter must meet the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-218.1. Each charter school is operated by a non-profit business.   Each charter school has its own board of directors.

A charter school must meet the academic and other standards set forth in the charter. If they fail to do so, the state can revoke the charter and shut down the school. Unfortunately, Dynamic Community Charter School, a school created for educating children with disabilities, was closed when the Board of Education revoked their charter claiming various violations. The school lost its appeal and charter in July, 2015.2 I do not know all of the allegations and claims by the State so I cannot comment whether the actions by the State were appropriate. However, this is a sad affair, as it seems from comments and reactions of parents that the school was providing a great academic environment for these children.

Problems in Charter Schools

Some schools (public and charter) seem ill equipped to address the special needs of children with disabilities. The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools made the following statement:

Yet, when it comes to educating students with disabilities, the sector has largely been caught flat-footed. On average, charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools and they have generally not invested adequate resources to develop exemplary programs for students with disabilities. 3

Financial restraints and pressures to meet the charter standards may be a reason for the lower enrollment rates. The lower enrollment rate leaves parents with special needs children with limited education options. If National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’ information is correct, then the dismantling of Dynamic Community Charter School is a larger set-back to special needs children and their educational options in North Carolina than at first glance.

Even if they get accepted to a charter school, the question is whether the school has the proper programs in place for students with disabilities. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-218.55 provides that “a charter school shall not discriminate against any student on the basis of . . . disability.” As part of this non-discrimination requirement, the charter schools must abide by the federal rules for evaluating students with disabilities for Individual Education Plans (IEP) or a 504 plan (from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).

Kids with different learning styles, special needs and physical differences should not be seen in a different way. Every child is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). They are not to be discriminated against in any of these schools; yet, they do not seem to be getting the assistance they need to succeed.

One problem I see with many charter schools is they do not have the proper staff to address the needs of children with disabilities. They generally do not have a psychologist on staff. A good psychologist can provide valuable insight into the needs of a child with disabilities. The psychologist can help develop behavioral plans and provide training for other staff for proper interaction with these children. Appropriate attitudes and interaction by teachers and staff at a school can make a huge impact on the success of a child with special needs.

Positive in Charter Schools

Unfortunately discriminatory attitudes abound in teachers and school personnel in both public and charter schools in North Carolina. In my time representing special needs children, I have represented children and their parents in charter schools in Durham and Wake counties. A lot of schools generally are ill-equipped to meet these children’s needs, but I have found some of these schools become better educators of these children than regular public schools with the proper help, advocacy and education. I have seen dramatic turn-around of attitudes towards special needs children by charter school personnel after IEP meetings in charter schools.

I have extensive personal and professional experience representing such children and their parents because they deserve to be included and given the chance to succeed. I partner with families, identify needs, advocate for these children in IEP and 504 meetings, mediate claims, and file petitions with the NC Office of Administrative Hearings when appropriate.

Contact Wickward Law Office, PLLC, 919-710-6691, for your child’s educational needs.

 

1 http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/12/07/charter-schools-spread-across-us/?intcmp=hphz14

2 http://www.wral.com/dynamic-charter-school-loses-appeal-charter/14689659/

3 http://www.ncsecs.org/background-1/

 

 

How to interact with children with disabilities

An Apple store employee in the Nashville, TN area gets big kudos for his compassion in dealing with a child with autism and downs syndrome. The 9 year old child was in the store with his mother to get an iPad. He accidentally ran into a door and fell to the ground. The employee sat down on the ground with the child and helped him set up the tablet. He met the child where he was. 1

We can all take cues from this employee. He met the child where he was. As noted by the child’s mother in the story, the employee could have waited until they stood up or told them they needed to come back later, but he did not. He did not degrade the child. He did not make him feel less important. The employee treated him with respect and kindness.

A similar situation occurred in December. A mall Santa in Charlotte, NC got down on the floor with a 6 year old autistic child. The child’s family said the gesture by the Santa instantly made the child feel at ease.2 Also, a barber in England met a child with autism where he was and made him feel at ease to cut his hair.3

It is hard enough growing up without physical or mental disabilities. Remember how awkward junior high school was (yes, it was junior high school when I went to school, it is now middle school). Children with disabilities have an extremely difficult time growing up. Other kids make fun of them, adults do not always treat them with respect or kindness, and learning to cope with their disabilities can be difficult. But, with the right compassion, consideration and caring, these kids can flourish.

I will never forget a case where I represented a nine-year old girl for an SSI claim. We went to the hearing. She seemed to open up to me quickly before the hearing. She was a sweet child. It hurt me to hear how she was sad from getting bullied in school. The evaluation process for an SSI case includes a determination that the child has difficulty in school with using and acquiring information. This child also had a learning disability. I asked her some math questions in the hearing. She seemed calm and willing to answer the questions. She did not seem upset or hurt from the questions. The judge interrupted by questioning saying I did not need to put her through this. I explained I was merely advocating for her. When we walked out of the hearing, she said to me, “that judge was really mean to you, wasn’t he?” I told her it was okay, I was there to help her.

Knowing if a child has a disability can be difficult. This is especially true with kids with autism. There is such a broad range of autism spectrum. Kids may be very high functioning with autism. It may be hard to spot at first that they have autism and have special needs. Awareness is key. The quote from the Apple employee story sums it up:

“And I walked away from this experience with the reminder to always meet people where they are at. It’s so easy to be so focused on our own mission or plan (or sale) that we fail to see what people really need. I long to be better at this. I long to not be so self-absorbed that I never miss an opportunity to love exactly like someone needs in the moment.”

Unfortunately, I have been in IEP meetings where school personnel have either accused a child of using their disabilities to get out of class or simply stated “all kids do that”. Children are children and can manipulate to get what they want; discounting a child’s disability or medical condition only makes them feel isolated. “No one understands what I am going through”.

We all need to learn to meet children with disabilities where they are but not to make them feel less important in the process.

 

1  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/01/27/apple-store-employees-kind-gesture-toward-special-needs-boy-goes-viral.html

 

2  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/12/04/mall-santa-makes-kind-gesture-toward-shy-6-year-old-autistic-boy.html

 

3  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/11/09/barbers-genius-trick-for-cutting-autistic-boys-hair-goes-viral.html

 

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

IDEA Requirements

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1)(A) 2012), requires states receiving federal education funds to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to all children with disabilities.1 This is the standard used in determining whether a child with disabilities is receiving appropriate educational services.  North Carolina receives federal education funds and thus is subject to these laws. 

 “The IDEA emphasized the special education and related services required to meet the unique needs of such children.Under the IDEA, a FAPE must provide such children with meaning full access to the educational process. “. . . a FAPE must be reasonably calculated to confer some educational benefit on a disabled child. Such an educational benefit must be provided to a disabled child in the least restrictive and appropriate environment, with the child participating, to the extent possible, in the same activities as non-disabled children. 2   A “free appropriate public education” by definition includes “special education and related services.”A “free appropriate public education” consists of:  “special education and related services that (A) have been provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge, (B) meet the standards of the State educational agency, (C) include an appropriate preschool, elementary, or secondary school education in the State involved, and (D) are provided in conformity with the individualized education program….”  20 U.S.C. Sec. 1401(a)(18) (1988).4

A FAPE “consists of educational instruction specially designed to meet the unique needs of the handicapped child, . . . supported by such services as are necessary to permit the child to benefit from the instruction.”5

“The IDEA does not, however, require a school district to provide a disabled child with the best possible education. And once a FAPE is offered, the school district need not offer additional educational services. That is, while a state “must provide specialized instruction and related services `sufficient to confer some educational benefit upon the handicapped child,’ … the Act does not require the `furnishing of every special service necessary to maximize each handicapped child’s potential.'””2 (citations omitted).

 This is the battle that takes place between the parents of a special needs child and a school.  The parents obviously want the best education for their child.  This is not the standard set by the law.  However, the school may not be providing any services or not the appropriate services as required by the law. 

Parent/Guardian Right to Participate

A parent or guardian is entitled to their input and say in the creation of the Individual Education Plan (IEP).  They are part of the IEP team.  I have represented children and their parents where the school has tried to make the decision on their own or told the parent they do not have a right to a say in the plan.  This is wrong according to the law.  “The IDEA requires that the parents or guardian of a disabled child be notified by the school district of any proposed change to their child’s IEP. It also requires that the parents or guardian be permitted to participate in discussions relating to their disabled child’s evaluation and education.” 2

  “A school district is required by the IDEA to provide an IEP for each disabled child. An appropriate IEP must contain statements concerning a disabled child’s level of functioning, set forth measurable annual achievement goals, describe the services to be provided, and establish objective criteria for evaluating the child’s progress. The IDEA establishes a series of elaborate procedural safeguards “designed to ensure that the parents or guardian of a child with a disability are both notified of decisions affecting their child and given an opportunity to object to these decisions.” The IEP must therefore be prepared by an IEP Team, which consists of a representative of the school district, the child’s teacher, the parents or guardian and, where appropriate, the child herself.” 2 (citations omitted).

 I represent children with disabilities and their parent/guardian for their educational needs because I believe all children should be able to get an education and pursue their dreams.  However, many schools view the needs of these children differently.  They may be providing services, but it does not mean those services comport with the requirements of the IDEA.  Please contact me if your child needs help with their educational needs. 

 

 

1 E.L. v. Chapel Hill-Carrboro Bd. of Educ. (4th Cir. 2014)

 2 Mm ex rel. Dm v. School District of Greenville County, 303 F.3d 523(Fed. 4th Cir. 2002)

 3 Shook by and through Shook v. Gaston County Bd. of Ed., 882 F.2d 119 (C.A.4 (N.C.), 1989)

 4 Combs by Combs v. School Bd. of Rockingham County, 15 F.3d 357 (C.A.4 (Va.), 1994)

 5 J.P. ex rel. Peterson v. County School Bd. Hanover, 516 F.3d 254 (4th Cir., 2008)

Can I as a parent make medical decisions for my child if they are 18 years old and still in high school? What about my college student?

Problem

Parents may know that their high schoolers usually see their doctor without the parent going back with the child to the examining room.  This is an indication about the eroding parental say in their child’s health care.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 and amendments provides individuals with privacy when it comes to their medical treatment and medical records.  There is an exception for parents to be involved in their child’s medical care. 1

What if your child is 18 years old and still in high school and needs medical attention?    The student is considered an adult for purposes of HIPAA.  So the student’s medical information is protected under HIPAA.  Parents have no right to obtain information from a medical providers.  Medical providers are under an obligation to protect the student’s information regardless of the situation.

This privacy rule is enforced even though a student is on their parent’s health insurance.  Under the Affordable Care Act, parents can carry their children on their health insurance until the child turns 26.

Case in Point

In Virginia, a mother found out the hard way about this protection of medical information. 2 Her son was 18 years old and still in high school. He was in an accident and fell into a coma. She had no right to make decisions for his care. The doctors made the medical decisions without her input.

NOTE: Each state has their own laws regarding health care and privacy so some of the information in the article may not apply to North Carolina.    

Solution

So, how can a parent ensure they can help make medical decisions for their student?

This is not just important for students in high school, but college students. They are young, may be out-of-state for school and if something happens to them, their parents may be the only ones available to make medical decisions for them.

Every person should have at least the following documents:

  • HIPAA compliant medical release
  • Healthcare power of attorney
  • General power of attorney
  • Advanced directive (living will)

An individual can give consent for another to access their medical information. A proper HIPAA compliant medical release will permit another to access medical information. As an attorney, my clients sign such releases so I can request medical records for them. A student can sign a release giving their parent or someone else the right to access their medical information, including their records.

A Health Care Power of Attorney enables a person to appoint someone else to act as their medical decision maker in the event the person is unable to make decisions, such as when they are incapacitated or found incompetent. The person can direct their medical care through this document.

A general, durable power of attorney enables a person to appoint another individual to make decisions and take actions, other than medical, as selected by the signor. For example, if a person is in a serious car accident that puts them in a coma, the health care power of attorney allows the appointed person to make medical decisions and the general power of attorney would allow the appointed person to get information and pay their bills.

If you become incapacitated and need life sustaining measures, then you can direct if you want these measures or not through an advanced directive (living will).  So in the situation above, if the student had directed to withhold live sustaining measures in a living will, then when he was in the coma, the doctors would have honored the document regardless of what the doctors thought was appropriate and reasonable.

Unfortunately, even young people are injured or killed.  These are only some of the documents every person should have.  These can help avoid the parental nightmare of not being able to care for your child.

Contact Wickward Law Office, PLLC at 919-710-6691 for these and all of your estate planning needs.

 

1 Special Case- Minors:  http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/laws-regulations/index.html

2 http://www.wral.com/son-in-coma-mother-shocked-to-find-she-had-little-say-in-his-medical-care/15062774/

 

Social Security Benefits – Early Retirement and Disability Benefits

Retirement Age

In 1983 Congress enacted legislation to increase the full retirement age from 65 to 67.  If you will be retiring in 2016, your full retirement age is 66.  If you were born after 1960, then your full retirement age is 67.

(see https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/agereduction.html for complete retirement age info)

However, Congress did not change the early retirement age of 62.  Therefore, if you will be 62 years old in 2016 and choose to take early retirement benefits, you will receive a reduced amount of 75%.  (see https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/1943.html#&sb=0 for complete table of reductions)

Early Retirement and Disability Benefits

So, if you filed for Social Security disability insurance benefits (DIB) and you either are receiving early retirement benefits or are contemplating filing for early retirement benefits, keep in mind your early retirement benefits will affect your disability benefits. NOTE: This does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Remember, your disability benefit monthly amount is determined by your earnings over your life time. You can access your earnings record at www.ssa.gov; click on the “My Social Security” tab. You will need to create an account if you have not logged into this site before.   Once there, you can view your earnings statement and see the amount you would receive per month if you are found disabled.

Without any early retirement benefits, if you would receive $2,000 per month for Social Security disability insurance benefits, you would get a lump sum payment for your past due benefits based upon this monthly amount. So if you file for your disability benefits and it takes 2 years before you are awarded benefits, then you would receive $48,000 in past due benefits.

(NOTE: There is a 5 month wait period before you are paid your DIB payments . See 20 C.F.R. 404.316). Once this period ends you are entitled to receive benefits; this is called the “entitlement date”.

When the early retirement benefits are in play, if you would receive $2,000 per month for Social Security disability insurance benefits, but you are receiving $1,500 in early retirement benefits, you would only get $500 per month in past due benefits over the same time period listed above. So your past due award would only be $12,000.

When you receive disability insurance benefits, you may receive them until you reach full retirement age, then the benefits just change into retirement benefits (see 20 C.F.R. 404.316).

If you receive early retirement benefits and then receive disability benefits, you would receive your past due disability benefits as noted above, but then you would receive your full retirement amount when you reach full retirement age rather than the reduced amount. It’s as if you never took early retirement.

CAUTION: Just because the retirement age was increased, the age for selecting Medicare benefits did not. If you do not take your Medicare benefits around age 65 you may pay higher premiums later.

“A Night to Shine” for Special Needs Teenagers

Tim Tebow, former NFL player, formed TimTebowFoundation.org.  This organization helped organize an event called “Night to Shine” for special needs teenagers.  These teens will get dinner and dancing at a local church.  This same scenario is happening in 49 other churches in 26 states around the country.  Additionally, two other ministries have made this event possible in Nairobi, Kenya and Jinja, Uganda.

Way to go Tim and the other ministries.  Helping these teenagers feel special even for one night will go a long way.  Teenage mental illness, including depression, may be higher than anyone realizes.  Bullying often occurs to these teens and they may feel like no one cares.  This event may make them feel special and important.  We all want that.

These teens may not be able to go to their school’s prom for various reasons.  This event gives them a chance to enjoy a night and feel special.

Here is the full story:  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/19/tim-tebow-valentine-game-plan-special-needs-proms-throughout-nation/

New Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury

The Carrick Brain Center offers some new treatment options for veterans and civilians suffering from traumatic brain injury.  One type of treatment is the Off Vertical Axis Rotational Device (OVARD).  This device helps with neurological rehabilitation by stimulating vestibular system to encourage neural activity in parts of the brain that have been affected by injury or illness.

Here is the link to the story:  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2015/01/15/texas-center-offering-innovative-treatment-for-veterans-with-traumatic-brain/?intcmp=features

Many veterans suffer from traumatic brain injury as a result of an accident or multiple accidents during their military service.  However, civilians can suffer traumatic brain injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma.  Athletes who have suffered head injuries/concussions may be able to get some help.

The only problem is the center does not accept any insurance payments.