Rep. Sherrill Introduces Legislation to Deliver Benefits to Veterans with Children with Special Needs

March 19, 2021
Press Release
Bill corrects oversight in the Survivor Benefit Plan, allows for Special Needs Trust open enrollment

Washington, DC -- Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) today introduced the Deborah Nixon Special Needs Trust Inclusion Act alongside Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12). This important bipartisan legislation would allow veteran participants in the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) to take full advantage of Special Needs Trusts. Under current law, beneficiaries were unable to change their beneficiaries to incorporate the trusts.

“The Survivor Benefit Plan is an earned benefit for our men and women in uniform,” said Rep. Sherrill. “The families of our service members deserve to take full advantage of the program. Many of our veterans with dependents with special needs, including Deborah Nixon in my district, haven’t been able to designate their children as beneficiaries for fear of imperiling the other benefits their dependent receives. It is past time for that to change.”

“As a father of three adult children, I know that job of parenting never really ends.  However, parents of children or adults with special needs face unique challenges as they prepare for the long-term needs of their child,” said Rep. Bilirakis. “Our legislation removes bureaucratic barriers and helps make this an easier process for these families.”

Congress allowed SBP enrollees to designate a Special Needs Trust as their beneficiary in 2014, as long as they had previously designated “Spouse and Child” or “Child Only” as their beneficiary. Unfortunately, veterans with special needs dependents who had already designated “Spouse Only” to avoid jeopardizing their child’s other benefits were not given the opportunity to change their designee.

The legislation is named after Deborah Nixon, a veteran of the Uniformed Public Health Corps and a resident of New Jersey’s 11th District, who was unable to change her beneficiary after the 2014 SBP changes. With this legislation, she would be able to designate her child’s Special Needs Trust and ensure that they receive these earned benefits.

The Deborah Nixon Special Needs Trust Inclusion Act would authorize a limited benefits open season to allow those enrollees to change their designee to “Spouse and Child” or “Child Only” to allow their children to take full advantage of the benefit their parent earned. The legislation would also designate the creation of a Special Needs Trust as a qualifying life event and allow parents to change their designee once the trust has been established.