Congress has given military families and their disabled children an early holiday gift. Under the recently passed 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, servicemen and women now can name a Special Needs Trust as beneficiary of their Survivor Benefit Plan.
As I noted in my July 2013 post, until now military personnel could defer up to 55% of their retirement benefits and leave it to a surviving spouse or child. However, the benefits had to be left directly to the individual. This presented a vexing problem if the benefits were left to a special needs child: the very funds intended to assist with the child's long-term needs would disqualify the child from receiving essential supports through means-tested programs such as Social Security Disability and Medicaid.
Now, a provision in the 2015 Defense Authorization Act allows a deceased person's Survivor Benefits Plan to be put into a Special Needs Trust (also known as a Supplemental Needs Trust) for a disabled child. The funds in a properly drafted Special Needs Trusts are not counted when determining an individual's eligibility for means-tested programs, and thus will not jeopardize the child's government benefits. Well done, Congress.
You can read the text of the legislation here - it is very long, and you will need to scroll to page 264 for the section that concerns the new provision.