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October 01, 2013

ABA Policy Update

(Note: The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: BIFOCAL Vol. 35, Issue 1.)

On August 13, 2013, at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting, the following two resolutions proposed by the Commission on Law and Aging were adopted by the ABA House of Delegates.

Resolution 100A

On Collaboration Between Guardianship Courts and Representative Payment Agencies

Court-appointed guardians and third-party representative payees both fill a role that society calls ‘fiduciaries”—those entrusted to manage property for someone else, often a vulnerable person easily at risk for abuse. Yet instances of misuse and exploitation of funds by guardians, representative payees, and VA fiduciaries have been identified by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and other significant studies. Coordination between state courts that appoint/oversee guardians and government representative payee programs, which serve largely the same population—as urged by the GAO for over nine years—would better protect the funds of vulnerable adults.

ABA co-sponsors include:

  • Commission on Disability Rights
  • Commission on Homelessness and Poverty
  • Section on Real Property, Trust and Estate Law
  • Senior Lawyers Division

The ABA has extensive policy on adult guardianship, and with the adoption of Resolution 100A, it now addresses needed collaboration among state courts, the Social Security Administration representative payee program, and the VA fiduciary program. Further, the ABA can now have a voice in supporting any proposed legislation in Congress and in state legislatures consistent with the policy, promoting collaboration through state networks, and working with the Social Security Administration, the VA Fiduciary Office, and the HHS Administration on Community Living.

Read the entire resolution

Resolution 100B

In Support of the SSI Restoration Act of 2013 (H.R.1601) or similar legislation

The federal Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) was created in 1972 to provide income support to low-income persons who were aged 65 or older, blind, or with a disability. Most of its financial eligibility requirements have remained unchanged since its inception more than 40 years ago, despite the fact that the cost of living has increased 5.5 times since then. The result is that a growing number of older and disabled SSI recipients become financially more disadvantaged each year.

This resolution expressly supports enactment of The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act (H.R. 1601), introduced in April 2013, or similar legislation that updates several of the financial eligibility requirements for SSI. These changes are financially reasonable, long overdue, and absolutely critical to ensuring a minimally decent standard of living for vulnerable persons who cannot financially survive on their own because of age or disability.

ABA co-sponsors include:

  • Commission on Disability Rights
  • Commission on Homelessness and Poverty
  • Section on Real Property, Trust and Estate Law
  • Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division

The resolution addresses the problem by calling on Congress to enact H.R. 1601 or similar bill that will update several of the program’s means testing parameters to account for more than 30 years of inflation and changing economic realities faced by low income elders and persons with disabilities. Specifically, it calls on Congress to:

  • Update the general income disregard from its current level of $20 to $110 per month.
  • Update the earned income disregard from its current amount of $65 to $357 per month.
  • Update the resource limit from its current level of $2000 for an individual ($3000 for an eligible couple) to $10,000 ($15,000 for an eligible couple).
  • Repeal the in-kind support and maintenance provision which currently reduces the federal payment rate by one-third.
  • Repeal the SSI transfer penalty that currently penalizes an applicant for the transfer of a resource for less than fair market value within 36 months of application.

Read the entire resolution.