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New bill: military kids could get survivor benefits and SSD

Proposed legislation has been presented to Congress to address a perceived inequality when it comes to severely disabled children of military retirees versus those of civilians. Military children, whether in New York or elsewhere in the U.S., typically receive Social Security disability program benefits as well as Medicaid to help them cope with the often staggering costs of their own care. Those payments may well make the difference between surviving and not having the necessary funds to pay for housing and medical expenses, including prescription drugs.

When a military retiree elects to enroll in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), their survivors can receive up to 55 percent of the retirement pay after the death of the retired service member. This program can benefit survivors who count on the income of a military retiree to make ends meet. Until recently, those who benefited from the SBP payments typically did not include disabled survivors who already received benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance.

Counting the SBP payment as income, Social Security and other agencies denied benefits to severely disabled survivors of military retirees, often determining that the additional income resulted in a disqualification for the other government benefits. However, a bill entitled Disabled Military Children Protection Act seeks to change the law to help the disabled children of military retirees. Introduced in Congress on March 29, the bill seeks to allow surviving disabled children of military retirees to receive both Social Security disability benefits as well as payments from the SBP program.

Noting that the health care costs for a severely disabled child can be as high as $100,000 annually, the proposed law seeks to help retirees plan for their children's futures. The legislation would allow the retiree to create a special-needs trust that would protect the assets from being included in income calculations for Social Security disability, similar to a program already in existence for civilian federal retirees. New York military retirees may be interested in following this important new law as it travels through the legislative process.

Source: Army Times, "Bill would protect SBP for special-needs kids," Karen Jowers, April 3, 2012

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