Long Island Bus Riders Face Increasing Uncertainty and Possible Cuts

Despite a perky new name– the NICE bus, an acronym for Nassau Inter-County Express and a spiffy new paint job (according to Newsday), the bus service for the more than 100,000 Long Island Bus riders, overwhelmingly disabled and elderly who can’t drive, is not about to get any nicer.
 

 Public Hearing December 12 

 

A public hearing, scheduled to take place on November 19, 2011, had to be rescheduled because the public had not been given required notice of the hearing.  The new hearing will take place December 12, less than three weeks before the new service is about to take effect, with the county legislature due to vote on the new contract December 19, only 12 days before the new private bus company is due to take over the MTA.

 

Potential Cuts in Service for Long Island Bus Riders

 

Newsday’s analysis of the new contract  sets forth the circumstances under which the new bus company can make deep cuts in services.  Should there be duplication in service, the bus company can eliminate 6 routes the first six months of 2012, provided there is another bus route within a mile.  A mile can be a very long way for a disabled or elderly rider.

There can be further cuts in service or increases in fares.

 

Attend the Public Hearing December 12, 2011

 

The hearing will convene at the Nassau County Legislature and we should all let our legislature know how important it is to their constituency to keep service and fares the same.

Charlie Will Never Return: MTA to No Longer Run Long Island Bus

According to Newsday, the MTA voted today to end its contract with Long Island bus, despite protests from bus riders and pleas from transit advocates.   As of December 31st, a private company will take over the operations.

What private company?  It isn’t yet known.  This does not bode well for a smooth transition.

As I have said before, this disproportionately affects the disabled and the elderly, but as of today, all we can do is wait and see what happens.

And as to Charlie, mentioned in my headline above, he may never return.

Long Island Bus Cuts–Public Hearing March 23

Call to Action

 

Everyone who has any family members or friends who are disabled or elderly must attend this public hearing  at Hofstra University March 23, 2011 at 3PM to protest the plans to cut 25 of Long Island’s bus routes and 20% of Able-Ride’s service cuts.

Cuts unfairly target Long Island’s Disabled Riders

 

The MTA is set to vote in April on its plan to cut 25 , or almost half, of its Long Island bus service routes in July.  The MTA is claiming, and perhaps rightfully so, that it is unfair that Nassau County only contributes $9.1 million to the Long Island Bus annual budget of $141 million.  In contrast, Suffolk County contributes $24 million to its $48 million bus budget.

These service cuts would strand 16,000 riders, many of whom are disabled, and unable to afford taxis.  Currently, the bus services more than 100,000 riders each day.

My daughter takes three buses in each direction to get to her classes at Nassau Community College.  It already takes her more than two hours each way.  Last semester she took an evening course and often missed the last bus and had to take a taxi to get home.

Disabled to Lose Able Ride Buses

 

According to Newsday, as many as 18%, or 200 of Able-Ride’s 1130 daily riders will no longer be eligible for door-to-door service if the proposed cuts are made.

I urge everyone to attend the public hearings at Hofstra University March 23, 2011 at 3PM.  You can take the N46 or the N47 bus lines to get there.

Divorce and Special Needs Children

Raising a child with special needs is hard on marriage.  Today, the divorce rate among all couples is over 50%.  Although statistics differ, there is no question that divorce rates are even higher among parents of children with special needs.

When a couple divorces, it is even more important to consider the financial needs of their child with special needs than those of their other children.  Child support charts do not address those needs.  A special needs child often has even more expenses than a child without special needs.  There are all types of therapies: occupational, speech, physical, psychiatric.  There is increased need for paid respite care for the caregiver parent.  There are non-prescription costs of vitamins and other dietary needs.  There are assistive devices, specialized cars, endless items that children with special needs require.

Child Support for Children with Special Needs

For children who are receiving needs-based government services such as SSI and Medicaid, parents and matrimonial/divorce lawyers should consider establishing a first-party self-settled special needs trust.  Child support belongs to the child, not the parent, so the trust cannot be a third party trust.  Child support in New York extends past a child’s 18th birthday until they are 21, whereas the child is an adult for Medicaid purposes in New York at 18.  Establishing an SNT for those years may be essential to getting proper services for the disabled child.

Guardianship

For those children with special needs who will require a guardian, the divorcing parents should consider which parent, if not both, will become the guardian once the child turns 18.

Education

Many divorce agreements call for the parent without physical custody to pay half of a full-time college education.  Those children with special needs who attend college often cannot manage a full-time program and the separation agreement should consider this possibility.  Also, the child may continue to attend college well past their 21st birthday, so this too should be considered when making financial decisions as to education.

Redrafting Your Estate Plan after Divorce

Divorcing parents of children with special needs should retain an attorney with experience in special needs planning.  If you have any questions, please feel free to call me.

The Difference between Medicaid and Medicare

Previously, I discussed the differences between Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) .  Two other government programs that frequently confuse people, including professionals, are the differences between Medicaid and Medicare.

Medicare

Medicare is a health insurance program for persons over the age of  65 and for those with certain disabilities who receive SSDI. A person must have entered the United States legally and have lived here for five years before becoming eligible for these benefits.

It is extremely important to understand that Medicare does not cover long-term nursing home care.

Medicaid

Medicaid is funded jointly by the federal and state governments.   Under certain circumstances, Medicaid will provide benefits for nursing home care.  In New York and a number of other states Medicaid will pay for home health care for those in need.

Medicaid is for those with low income and minimum resources.  Among those with low income who are eligible are:

  • pregnant women
  • children under 19 years of age
  • people 65 and older, blind or disabled
  • in need of nursing home care

A disabled person in New York would apply for Medicaid through the state agency.  Here in Nassau or Suffolk County, the application is available from the Department of Social Services.

It is a very complex and difficult application.  Many people retain the help of an elder care attorney to aid them in applying for Medicaid.  If you need assistance, please contact me by calling  (516) 223-4800 or by filling out the contact form on this website.

The Difference Between SSI and SSDI is More than Just a Letter

Many people, including lawyers, confuse two very different government programs for disabled persons.  Although both are overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), there are some significant differences  both in how the programs are funded, and to whom  the money is distributed.

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)

SSDI is a program for disabled persons.  It has no means test.  In other words, there is no investigation into, or requirement based on, your finances to determine if  you qualify for the program based on your income. You can receive SSDI if you have a physical or mental condition which prevents you from working for at least 12 months, or a disabling condition likely to lead to your death.  Eligible candidates must be younger than 65 and have worked 5 out of the last 10 years.

A disabled person is eligible to receive Medicare after two years of receiving  SSDI.

A person’s dependents are eligible to receive dependent’s benefits under SSDI.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a means-tested program, which means qualifying for SSI is based on financial need and not work history.  You must be blind, disabled or over the age of 65 to qualify.  Additionally, you must have under $2,000 in assets and limited income.  Children who are blind or disabled may also be eligible to receive SSI.

A disabled person on SSI is entitled to also receive Medicaid.

A person’s dependents are NOT eligible to receive SSI.

Dual SSDI and SSI

If a disabled person has worked enough to receive SSDI, but the benefit amount is less than the SSI amount, SSI will give you enough to equal the SSI monthly amount.

You can own your own home under both programs, however under SSI you must live in it, and you will not be paid the part of your SSI earmarked to go towards housing expenses.

You can work under either program,  but the rules are very different for each program.  It is especially important to know how many hours you can work under SSI before you lose your benefits since most people who receive SSI also receive Medicaid and cannot afford to lose their  medical benefits.

Special Needs Trusts and SSI

If a disabled person is receiving SSI and receives a windfall by either a personal injury settlement or an inheritance, that beneficiary must establish a Supplemental Needs Trust to protect the SSI government benefit.  Since SSDI is not means-tested, an SNT is unnecessary to protect you from losing your SSDI in the event of receiving a lump sum payout.