Disability affects tens of millions of Americans, and many of these individuals and their families require legal representation to secure the rights of those individuals under Federal and State law. At the same time, they may not be aware of their rights or may feel shame or stigma about disabling conditions. There is no need for shame or stigma, and the legal framework protecting the rights of persons with disabilities has become far stronger over the last four decades.
While disability may be sensory (blindness and deafness, whether partial or total), cognitive (diminished capacity or learning issues), emotional or related to mobility, individuals in all of these categories have greater legal rights than in past generations.
Therefore, while circumstances differ from individual to individual and family to family, and while results are sometimes difficult to predict and impossible to guarantee, we hope that the information on this site shows that Mr. Wyman is passionate about the disability field and about protecting the rights of his clients.
Areas of Disability Practice
- Special Needs Trusts, either in a relative’s will or as a separate document, are meant to maintain the rights of persons with disabilities to retain (or later quality for) government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. The family must have meaningful (although not huge) assets to place into the trust in order to provide a better life for the disabled family member once parents or others cannot provide care, and the family must seriously consider the choice of an effective Trustee.
- In some cases where the individual’s disability occurs suddenly due to an accident or medical malpractice, this office would seek to become involved early in the process and work with the plaintiff’s attorney to see that the court and other officials approve the Special Needs Trust before funds are disbursed.
- Education. Federal and State law provide that all children shall receive a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE). This means that, in many cases, a child with a disability will receive some additional services or accommodations, such as extra time on tests or sign-language interpreters As there are a wide variety of special needs, there are many possible services. Usually, the parents and the Child Study Team meet to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Often these services are expensive, and schools will tend to deny some requests. In cases where the only appropriate services are offered in another state, it may be possible to obtain payment for those services, but since these services are also expensive, there will usually be resistance. If parents believe that their child needs more services or accommodations than the school has offered, this office will advise the family and advocate for those additional services. Sometimes these disputes are resolved through discussion and negotiation, while at other times, an administrative hearing or lawsuit may be necessary. Services and state funding can in some cases be available for students in private schools. Note also that parents will often need to consult experts and that the services available under FAPE are not unlimited.
- Guardianships involve the appointment of an agent (the guardian) to supervise the financial and personal life of an individual who cannot care for him or herself (the ward). Reports from two physicians, psychiatrists or psychologists (as appropriate) are required, as is a court hearing where an attorney will be appointed to represent the interests of the ward to be certain that there is no abuse of the process.
- Powers of attorney to allow a family member or other trusted person to deal with the financial needs of an individual with a disability provided that the individual has the capacity to sign the document.
- Estate planning for families with members with special needs. In large part, this relates to Special Needs Trusts, but care must also be given to the needs of able-bodied children and their role, if any, in the care and protection of a disabled sibling.
- Fraud investigation and litigation relates to the all too common circumstance where an unscrupulous person attempts to take over the financial life of a person with a disability. Court action is usually required.