Monday, April 30, 2012

SNA President Janet Lowder Wins NAELA Powley Award Three Decades of Special Needs Advocacy Recognized

April 30, 2012 (Tucson, Arizona)-- Special Needs Alliance President Janet L. Lowder, a partner with Hickman & Lowder Co., L.P.A., Cleveland, Ohio, has been recognized with the 2012 NAELA Powley Award.  Each year the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys honors a member for leadership in “promoting a greater understanding of the rights and needs of elders and persons with special needs.”

Lowder has been a special needs activist for nearly 30 years, battling to change restrictive laws and to reshape the developmental disability system so that individuals with special needs can lead self-directed lives within the community. “I am deeply moved by the honor that NAELA has bestowed upon me,” she says. “I’ve committed my professional life to serving vulnerable populations and having that work recognized is very fulfilling.”

In the early nineties, prior to passage of federal legislation (OBRA-93) providing the basis for asset-protecting special needs trusts, Lowder was instrumental in creating one of the nation’s first pooled third party trusts for individuals with disabilities.

“In my law practice, I was representing widowed women of limited means, who had adult children with disabilities. Many of them had no family members to whom they could entrust caregiving and financial decision-making when they passed away.  Their assets were insufficient to attract the services of corporate trustees and they didn’t know where to turn.  I wanted to find a solution for them.” The result was creation of the Community Fund Management Foundation, which currently manages a pooled special needs trust serving nearly 1800 individuals with disabilities.

Lowder, who is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation, speaks passionately about elderly clients she’s gone to bat for.  “One 90-year-old woman was about to be displaced from the long-term care facility she considered home. She’d been hospitalized and subsequently required dialysis.  Since the facility didn’t like Medicaid’s reimbursement rate, they wanted to get rid of her. We fought them in federal court.”  Friends greeted the woman with welcome home signs to celebrate successful conclusion of the case.  

Having built an unusual law firm that serves elders, adults with disabilities and children with special needs, Lowder has published widely on such topics as trusts and financial planning, community-based living and workplace rights.

“The opportunities for individuals with disabilities have improved dramatically since I first became involved with the special needs community,” she observes.  “We’ve seen de-institutionalization, establishment of the right to special education, and laws barring employment discrimination.  Much remains to be done, but the world has changed in important ways.”

About the Special Needs Alliance:
The Special Needs Alliance (SNA) is a national, not-for-profit organization of attorneys committed to the practice of disability and public benefits law.  SNA membership is based on a combination of relevant legal experience, direct family experience with disability, active participation with national, state and local disability advocacy organizations, and professional reputation.

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