One of the most valuable services to secure for children and adults with special needs are those of an advocate.
Advocates can be special needs attorneys or non-lawyer professionals who are supervised by attorneys. They can also be parents or family members of someone with special needs who self-advocates on their behalf. While levels of expertise may differ, the goal of advancing the interests of a person with special needs is the same.
Often, trustees of Special Needs Trusts work with an advocate to help coordinate trust distributions and payments for important services. By distinction, advocates in this role typically understand the disabled individual’s human needs better than the person managing their trust funds. It is important to have advocates on many fronts, for instance, education, healthcare, and public assistance to name a few.
Parents or guardians may choose to work with a special education advocate if they have exhausted their known options in pursuit of educational support. This advocate will be able to help them understand the services that the educational system can provide and how to obtain these services.
Similarly, healthcare advocates would know a wide range of information concerning state and federal health care programs. They could help represent someone with special needs in areas relating to insurance, medically-related administrative items or in gaining access to particular health care resources.
Another example of advocacy, is a “disability advocate,” or someone who is specifically trained to help get qualified Social Security Disability claims approved. Navigating the ins-and-outs of government assistance bureaucracies can be daunting, especially when vital public benefits are delayed or wrongfully denied. A skilled advocate, including an attorney who practices in thsi area, can help.
Some questions to consider when choosing an advocate are:
- Does he or she have experience dealing with situations similar to your special needs family member?
- How would he or she handle your situation?
- What would be an estimated time frame for completing a specific item?
- How will you be expected to assist him or her?
- What will he or she charge and how will you be billed?
Technically, there are two main types of special needs or disability advocates, legal and social.
Legal advocates are lawyers who litigate on behalf of a special needs client and skillfully assert their rights. There are different types of lawyers who specialize in different areas to help your loved one with special needs. Social advocates are people who work toward furthering disability rights through social change and public policy, and are often trained to help your loved one as well.
Regardless, special needs attorneys are critical in being able to step-in and provide legal authority when all other advocacy attempts fail. We know what it takes to ensure your loved one with special needs is protected. Do not wait to contact our office to schedule an appointment during this Special Needs Law Month, or at any time, about the planning you need.