Why the ABLE Act is so Critical for the I/DD Community
November 2, 2018 | Stevie Mays, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (PL 113-295) amends the federal tax code to create a new option for eligible people with disabilities to save money in a tax-exempt account for qualified disability expenses, while not affecting their eligibility for federal public benefits. This authorization did not call for all states to adopt such a program; however, with massive bipartisan support, 37 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to establish an ABLE Account program. The account can be set up and accessed for a wide range of disability-related expenses: anything related to the beneficiary to maintain or improve their health, independence, or quality of life, no pre-approval for spending necessary.
Currently, to be eligible for an ABLE Account, you must have a disability acquired at or before the age of 26 and be eligible for and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability benefits (Title XVI or Title II of the Social Security Act). Another criteria for an ABLE Account is a disability certification signed by a physician confirming that the individual meets the functional disability related to the severity of disability described in Title XVI or Title II of the Social Security Act. Assets in and distributions for qualified disability-related expenses will be disregarded or given special treatment when determining eligibility for most federal means-tested benefits (including Social Security and Medicaid). Multiple individuals may contribute to an individual’s ABLE Account with a $15,000 annual limit, some states even offer tax refunds. ABLE Accounts can be funded by post-tax dollars, and gains made with accounts are tax free and tax exempt. Qualified expenses include: education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, funeral and burial expenses and basic living expenses.
Enrollment is convenient and can be completed online. However, enrollment for ABLE Accounts was dramatically lower than anticipated; with millions eligible but only tens of thousands enrolled, the program is at risk of being shut down due to low turn out. To help boost enrollment, the age of onset of disability is attempting to be reformed in bill ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/ HR 1874). To contribute, enroll yourself or a loved one at: www.ablenrc.org.
Please share this information with others and allies who also qualify for the program to increase enrollment.
In addition, elected officials on both the state and federal level need to know this program is important to the disabled community. Contacting them and letting them know why the ABLE is important will improve the chances of this program’s longevity.
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Stevie Mays was a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. Stevie interned at the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.