For Immediate Release
December 7, 2016
Abby Matienzo, Communications Manager
                 703-942-5711 #230

NAELA Praises Passage of Special Needs Trust Fairness Act as Part of 21st Century Cures
The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act corrects a patently false and degrading error in the law that presumed all individuals with disabilities lacked the capacity to handle their own affairs.


Washington, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, sending the legislation to the President for signature. The package included the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act (sec. 5007), which corrects an error in the law that presumes that all persons with disabilities lack the mental capacity to handle their own affairs.

NAELA applauds Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) along with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) for their bipartisan dedication to ensuring this common sense fix became law. Previously, the legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent and overwhelmingly in the House, but with several additional non-related Medicaid provisions.

“D-4-A” special needs trusts were first recognized by Congress in 1993. They help ensure that individuals with disabilities can use what savings they have to provide for their supplemental needs while still qualifying for long-term services and supports from means-tested programs like Medicaid without living in utter destitution.

An oversight in the 1993 trust law meant that individuals who did not have a parent, grandparent, or legal guardian had to petition a local court for the creation of their trust. This in turn led to unnecessary legal fees, time wasted, and administrative confusion. The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act corrects this error by allowing individuals with capacity to set up their own trust. "No longer will individuals in need of a special needs trust, but without parents or grandparents, face undue legal difficulties," said NAELA President Catherine Anne Seal, CELA, CAP.

Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) are attorneys who are experienced and trained in working with the legal problems of aging Americans and individuals of all ages with disabilities. Established in 1987, NAELA is a non-profit association that assists lawyers, bar organizations and others. The mission of NAELA is to establish NAELA members as the premier providers of legal advocacy, guidance and services to enhance the lives of people with special needs and people as they age. NAELA currently has members across the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit

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