BELLEFONTE – U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, joined by advocates from the disabilities community, yesterday held a press conference for the unveiling of H.R. 2123, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2013, legislation to remove current barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from independently creating a special needs trust. The event took place at the Sight Loss Support Group of Central Pennsylvania in State College.
“The mission of the Sight Loss Support Group is to help people overcome these emotional and physical challenges in order to help them live independently,” stated Thompson. “And that’s just what we’re here to speak about – individual independence, and making sure that public policy is a tool, not a barrier, in achieving this goal.”
Under current law, individuals with disabilities must have a legal guardian or the courts create a special needs trust, even though they may have the mental capacity to do so themselves. As a result, these individuals face arbitrary and expensive legal fees and extended wait periods in creating trusts, which are often used to supplement daily living and care expenses when government benefits alone are insufficient.
State College Elder Law Attorney Amos Goodall, who in recent months brought the matter to Thompson’s attention, and Sue Paterno, of State College were among those in attendance.
Goodall, also public policy chairman for the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), stated: “The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys has identified this as a matter which discriminates against people who have disabilities. These folks already struggle to live their lives confronting their challenges; the law should not make it more difficult.”
“This law is not the mark of a just society, nor is it fair to the individual. This current inequity must be fixed,” Rep. Thompson added.
“I want to thank Amos Goodall and our local disability advocates for bringing this injustice to light,” stated Thompson. “In the coming weeks and months, I will be engaging with disabilities advocates across the country to rally behind this common-sense measure, and working with both Democrats and Republicans in Washington to ensure this discriminatory policy does not continue.”
H.R. 2123 was introduced by Thompson and Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
NAELA, which is comprised of attorneys in the private and public sectors who deal with legal issues affecting people with disabilities, on Friday, issued a statement in support of H.R. 2123: “NAELA is eager to continue working with Reps. Thompson and Pallone and other members of Congress to ensure the passage of the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2013.”