Keep the Family Home in the Family

Are one or both of your parents in need of more assistance with daily activities than what they are receiving in their home?

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities can be expensive, but the government helps those in need with Medicaid benefits. A problem many people face with Medicaid is that they are ineligible due to having too much money and too many assets.

For many retirees, qualifying for Medicaid to pay for nursing care appears to be impossible.

As their child, it may seem like this is a hopeless situation and quite unfair to have your parents lose everything they worked hard for over the past few decades to try to qualify for Medicaid.

MERP is the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program. MERP can only recover from assets that pass through probate. Both a Ladybird Deed and Transfer on Death Deed pass property outside probate.

Estate and Medicaid planning can be accomplished to keep your hard-earned assets in the family. Contact our office for more information.

15 Year Anniversary for Filis Law Firm

In July 2002,  I sat for the Texas Bar exam. Thankfully I had my friend Mary K. to make the 3 days of testing tolerable. Then, after many months of waiting, we finally received our results. Many people do not know this, but all the Texas law school graduates who take the Bar find out if they passed the Bar all at the same time. The Texas State Bar Examiners post the pass list online. I was thankfully on the list and within a couple of months, I formed The Filis Law Firm, PC.

Over the years I have enjoyed the flexibility of having a general civil practice. In the middle of 2008, I entered into the world of Oil and Gas. We are in Texas so it makes perfect sense to work in energy in some capacity. I enjoyed oil and gas title work, but my son who inspired me to explore a different path in my career. With his diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, our lives changed – not better or worse, just different. Since then, Filis Law Firm has provided me with the ability to share what I have learned over the years and help protect the legal rights of children with special needs and their family members.

Fifteen years of Filis Law Firm, and many more years to come.

Advising Families With Children With Special Needs

Filis Law Firm
5600 NW Central Drive, Suite 202
Houston, TX 77092

CHIP Health Plan for Working Families

Do you earn too much money to be eligible for Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for private health insurance for your kids? Based on certain income requirements, kids and pregnant women may be qualified for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”). Currently, there are approximately 400,00 Texas kids and pregnant women enrolled in CHIP. Health care services in Texas include prescriptions and post-partum care.

CHIP was created in 1997. Texas adopted the program a couple of years later and since then, over one million children have been enrolled in the health insurance plan and able to obtain proper medical treatment.  For a child to be eligible for CHIP, a family of two can earn income up to 200% of the federal poverty level, around $32,000 a year or $2,666 a month.  According to a July 2017 article in the Business Insider, the average monthly rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Houston, Texas is $1,088.  After paying rent, there is not much money to cover food, clothing, utilities and transportation, much less private health insurance premiums. CHIP is crucial for low-income working-class families.

On September 30, 2017, Congress failed to renew the authorization for CHIP funding. There is limited hope that six months worth of federal CHIP funding may be authorized prior to the holiday break, however, this would cover October 2017 through March 2018.  If Congress fails to authorize temporary funding, states will fund CHIP without their federal partner.  According to recent reports, Texas only has funds to keep CHIP active until February 2018 in the event the federal government chooses to discontinue the program.

Have an ARD Meeting Soon? Be Prepared.

In the next week weeks, many parents of children who receive special education services under the federal IDEA Act will be invited to their child’s public school to attend an Admission, Review and Dismissal (“ARD”) meeting.

At this meeting, the ARD team will review the current Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for the student and propose recommendations for the child’s education plan –

To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. – IDEA (§300.1) 

At the ARD meeting, parents can agree or disagree with some or all of the proposals. If there is a disagreement with the proposed IEP, the ARD team can take a recess, negotiate terms, and reconvene (in ten days typically).

Preparing for such a meeting can be stressful for parents based on fear and anxiety for possibly failing your child by not protecting their rights or not demanding proper education services.

Parents who are engaged with the IEP process can find success by reading up on the following:

  • school records (including daily reports),
  • assessments from school and private sources (and knowing which new assessments should be requested), and
  • education laws.

U.S. Supreme Court provides guidance in the recent  Endrew F.  case that a student offered an educational program providing “merely more than de minimis” progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all, setting the floor for the application of the holding in the Rowley case that the school must confer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.

At the ARD meeting, show up with your questions and notes and if you are considering agreeing to a new service or the removal of a service that you are not comfortable with but are willing to try out the situation temporarily, agree to try it out and have a follow-up meeting in a month to re-assess the situation. Under IDEA, the ARD meeting can occur annually or a often as needed allowing a parent to request a meeting in writing.

Take your time at the ARD, listen to suggestions, and stay on track with your goals for the meeting.

Have an Upcoming ARD?

Fall semester school obligations have begun. Parents of students in general ed have probably had their 15 minute one-on-one meeting with the teacher. For the rest of us, we are preparing for upcoming ARD meetings. ARD stands for Admission, Review and Dismissal. For my son, I am at the review stage of the ARD process. We have an individualized education program (“IEP”)  in place from the last school year. The IEP is a contract and all the services described in the IEP must be provided by the school district.

In my situation, at the next ARD meeting, there will be a review of the prior IEP terms and suggested revisions based on my son’s new education needs. One example of what will probably be discussed is the reduction of support. Some members of the ARD committee have informally signaled to me that they will be requesting less paraprofessional in-class support time for my son during his inclusion in his general education classes. When I first heard of this potential change, I was frightened.

Parents involved in the ARD process may suffer an emotional toll.  In my situation, I have a concern that once I agree to reduce in-class support, my son may never get the support back when he really needs it. In contrast, I do want my son to gain independence and have an opportunity to blossom without the support of a SpEd professional. Will my decision short-change my son’s educational experience? To make an informed decision, pre-ARD actions need to be taken. I will review my son’s daily reports, his classwork and homework grades, and interview the special ed professionals that observe him in the general ed classroom.

As my son’s advocate, preparation for the ARD meeting is time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. To assist with organization aspect of the preparation, I will update my IEP binder with daily reports, progress reports, copies of communications with the school, therapist and doctor reports, and previous IEPs. For those of you who are preparing an IEP binder, if you discover that you are missing school records, give your school a written request for the records, as you are allowed under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”).  The IEP  binder will help you decide on IEP goals and provide you with evidence to support your arguments during the ARD meeting, if needed.

Being a present and contributing member of the ARD team can be hard work, but your child will need your involvement to get the most out of his or her public school experience.

Tired of Being Denied Government Services – Sign Your Child Up For Medicaid Waiver Programs

Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities (“DADS”) was the agency that, for many years, parents with children with disabilities reached out to for government assistance of support and services. Texas programs were administered by DADS until its abolition on September 1, 2017.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (“HHS”) is now charged with protecting vulnerable Texans. HHS administers programs formally serviced by DADS, including:

Community Living Assistance and Support Services (“CLASS“)

Deaf Blind with Multiple Disabilities (“DBMD“)

Home and Community-based Services (“HCS“)

Medically Dependent Children’s Program (“MDCP“)

A common complaint I hear from parents who are in search of help from the government is that their family fails to qualify for support due to household income.  Although income is not necessarily a factor for eligibility for benefits from these Medicaid Waiver programs, waiting on an interest list for can take years.


As of July 31, 2017, tens of thousand of Texans are on interest lists. HCS has 86,989 people on its interest list, CLASS has 61,926 people on its interest list, and MDPC has 18,867 people on its interest lists.  Parents should contact HHS and their local benefits provider, such as the Harris Center, to begin the application process.

More Children in Need, Less Resources?

Although the Center for Disease Control issued their assessment in 2014 that 1 in 68 school-aged children are on the Autism spectrum, federal funding for the care of these Americans is in jeopardy. A person diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or diagnosed with any of the many other related conditions may qualify to receive disability-related Medicaid benefits.

Analysis from Avalere predicts that Medicaid, which provides supports and services to  disabled children and adults, could see a reduction funding of up to $215 billion should the Graham-Cassidy bill be passed.

Three Republican senators and all Democratic senators vowed to vote against the latest attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, stalling the vote. The effort to change healthcare laws is not over. Parents and advocates of children and adults with special needs must get educated and involved in the healthcare debate. The Affordable Care Act has many problems that need to be addressed, but if you or a loved one is the recipient of Medicaid benefits, speak out to block a disaster and offer a solution.

Nearing Retirement?

If you or your spouse are nearing retirement, take a couple of minutes to look at the details for this upcoming class.

Retirement 101

Attorney Leona E. Filis will join the class and discuss legal aspects of Texas Estate Planning that will assist you in meeting your retirement needs.

Was Your House Damaged by Hurricane Harvey?

If your home was damaged by Hurricane Harvey, start registering with government programs to get assistance.

Carpet from flooded house now in the front yard

For our neighbors who have property damage from #Harvey, 1st – register with FEMA; 2nd – look at qualifying for loan through the Small Business Administration even if you are not a business; and 3rd – contact Texas Health and Human Services (Other Needs Assistance 1-800-582-5233) for help with expenses like moving and storage.

If Hurricane Harvey damaged your house, you might be eligible for rental assistance. Check the following:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, 1-800-525-0657
US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Affordable Apartment Search, 866-641-8102
US Department of Agriculture