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Build Your Best Team

  • NFL Coach Firings: Who’s gone, openings and candidates (January 2, 2019, 10:31 AM).

  • Meet the 2019 Draft Quarterback Class: Everything you need to know (January 2, 2019. 8:04 AM).

  • Tracking the Underclassman Declarations for 2019 NFL Draft: Full list (January 2, 2019, 8:01 AM).

(Among the top 10 ESPN January 2, 2019 news briefs)

A New Year means new starts. Individuals commit to an exercise program, a diet, a brand new skill to learn, or a budget. As the NFL enters the postseason the teams that did not make the playoffs begin restructuring with the hope of taking a shot at the 2020 Superbowl. If you have a family member with a disability, January might also be a good time to think about your support team’s strengths and weaknesses along with who you need to “draft” to get to the next level of development. Which of these are positions that you need to review or fill on your team:

  • The Self-Advocate. The most important person on the team that creates a life plan for your family member with a disability is that person her/himself. Is your family member as involved as s/he can be in directing supports and services? What additional supports can help that family member make more choices and advocate more in her/his own voice?

  • Your Pre-Admissions Screening (PAS)/Independent Service Coordination (ISC) agency. This is the agency and your individual worker therein, who provides the Individualized Service and Support Advocacy (ISSA) services. The abbreviations for the agency and the person sometimes change, but this person’s role remains the same: to enroll your family member in the Prioritization of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS) database and to advocate for your family member and help you get the services that person needs. Is this happening?

  • Key Players on Your Family Member’s Individual Education Program (IEP) Team, including the transition specialist if your family member is enrolled in high school and is between the ages of 14 and a half and 21. Are these people helping your family member get and use the practical education s/he will need to succeed in adult life?

  • Key Players on Your Family Member’s Individual Support Plan (ISP) Team, including your Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional (QIDP) if your family member is already receiving adult services either through the Disability Division of the Department of Human Services or through your rehabilitation counselor if services come through the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). Are these people finding and evaluating services to support your family member’s most independent life?

  • You Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Enrolled Agent (EA), or Other Tax Preparer. Whether you use a family shop or one of the big companies, make sure your tax preparer knows about the disability that your family member has and helps you get any relevant deductions and credits. For example, are you able to deduct any Impairment Related Work Expenses? Is the family member with the disability a dependent that allows someone else to claim Head of Household filing status? Does your Special Needs Trust need to file a separate return?

  • Your Certified Financial Planner Professional (CFP). Do you have a plan to pay for the services that your family member with a disability will need post-high school? Is your family member collecting all the Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits to which s/he is entitled? If s/he is working, is everyone well-versed in Work Incentives that allow those benefits to be extended as earnings from work increase? Can you put an ABLE account to good use for this case?

  • Your Special Needs Attorney. Are the wills, Financial and Health Care Powers of Attorney, Special Needs Trusts and other trusts that comprise your estate plan fully up do date? Has Social Security seen your special needs trusts?

  • Micro-Board or Cooperative Board Members. If you have formalized your family member’s circle of support either as a micro-board or into a cooperative involving several families, are all your board positions filled? What additional resources might yet be necessary for your family member with a disability to get additional education or credentials, find a job, start a business, be more active in her/his community, or live within her/his own home? Who among your friends and community members that has these connections can you recruit to your board?

  • Your Employment Network (EN) Service Provider. If your family member receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and wants to find a job or take her/his career to a higher level, s/he can use Social Security’s Ticket to Work to access employment readiness, search, application and other job development supports. Is this a good path to greater self-support?

  • Members of Your Worshiping Congregation. Your places of worship (if you have them) should be a natural launching pad for community inclusion for our family members with disabilities. Does my family member want to take an active role in our community’s faith life? What message would people with higher visibility for people with disabilities send to my congregation?

Starting with the person with a disability her/himself, it takes a strong team to design and advance a plan for supports and services that give the person with a disability as much control as possible over a life that is as integrated in the larger community as possible, and which advances as much as possible that person’s goals for living, working, recreating, worshiping, contributing and building relationships. This is all quite possibly a harder collective task than advancing through the NFL playoffs and winning the Super Bowl. Take a New Year’s inventory to make sure your team is up to the task so that your family member with a disability will win.

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