Since 1987, when President Ronald Reagan designated the month Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, March has been a time to spotlight people across America with intellectual disabilities. President Reagan said that we should join together to give these fellow citizens “both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”
At the time of this writing, COVID-19 is just taking off in the United States. Of particular concern to all of us is the safety of our elders and people with disabilities, who are likely more susceptible to developing more serious symptoms from the new virus.
That the Trump administration has gutted federal environmental protections – such as by declining to enforce the Clean Air Act – is well known and widely reported in the media. Between 2016 and 2018, fine particulate pollution went up 5.5% – the equivalent of causing 9,700 premature deaths in 2018 alone, according to Rolling Stone, citing a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study.
Many of our clients have legal responsibility for the financial circumstances of adults with intellectual disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, dementia or other medical conditions causing developmental disabilities or mental incapacity. These clients may wear the hats of parents, conservators, or representative payees for recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
At our law firm, our attorneys are dedicated to the protection of people with disabilities, including those with life-long developmental, mental health or physical impairments; those who become disabled from illness or injury later in life; and older Coloradans facing dementia, physical frailty and other vulnerabilities related to advancing age. As part of our advocacy, we help individuals, families and professionals prevent, detect and respond to abusive situations.
Many people with disabilities rely on Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, federal benefit programs that the Social Security Administration (SSA) administers. SSDI and SSI are financial lifelines for many people unable to work because of their disabilities.
In 2014, Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as the ABLE Act, allowing people with severe disabilities to put away money for the future without jeopardizing their eligibility for public benefit programs that provide important safety nets for those challenged by disability. These programs include Supplemental Security Income or SSI, federal housing benefits and Medicaid, known as Health First Colorado in our state, a joint federal-state program that often covers residential, medical and other important services.
At Chayet & Danzo LLC, our lawyers help Coloradans with Down syndrome, also called DS, and their families and loved ones create estate and long-term care plans to provide safety nets throughout the lives of people with DS and related conditions. While it is well-known that DS is associated with a higher risk of early onset Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, a new study sheds more light on the link between these conditions.
Halloween is a holiday for kids and adults alike, a way to socialize and visit neighbors while the kids have a ton of fun and the grownups enjoy the children's costumes and cuteness. But for a child with a developmental or intellectual disability, trick or treating may not be as enjoyable.
In part 1 of this post, we talked about the importance for the guardian of a vulnerable adult of developing a relationship with an attorney for information, guidance and legal services. Today, we share other thoughts that might help a Colorado guardian enhance the life of their ward.