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Savings Option for Qualified Individuals with Disabilities

By Chris Rodriguez, Director of Public Policy, National Disability Institute. 


According to the Oxford Dictionary, transformation is a “marked change in form, nature or appearance.”

There are many reasons that the impact of the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and, by extension, ABLE accounts, will be transformative to millions of individuals with disabilities and their families.For children, youth, and working-age adults with disabilities, there are multiple reasons to recognize the power and potential of ABLE.

Since June 2016, when the first ABLE program opened in Ohio (STABLE Accounts), more than 10,000 individuals with disabilities have opened ABLE accounts, which are now being offered in 23 states. More than $25 million has been contributed to accounts, which are now growing through selected investment choices. Yet, there are an estimated 10 million eligible individuals with disabilities and their families who have not yet moved forward and taken advantage of this transformative policy change.

There is a marked need for a massive education and outreach campaign to explain the benefits and the power of an ABLE account to transform expectations, thinking, goal setting, and behavior. To meet that need, the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) is launching #ABLEtoSave, a multidimensional marketing and informational campaign that will run throughout August. The ANRC is joined in this effort by more than 20 national disability organizations, the 23 state ABLE programs, multiple federal agencies, financial institutions, and investment companies.

Each week in August, ABLE-eligible individuals with disabilities, their families, circle of support, and all other ABLE-related stakeholders will have the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of an ABLE account, who is eligible, what funds can be used for to cover qualified disability expenses, and the essentials of how to open, manage and grow the accounts.

Webinars will be held each Wednesday in August, and will feature ABLE experts and individuals and families who have opened accounts. #ABLEtoSave social media will introduce people with disabilities throughout the U.S. who have opened ABLE accounts.

For those of you new to ABLE, we’ve outlined three reasons why the ABLE Act has the potential to transform the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

  1. The ABLE Act of 2013 was introduced in the 113th Congress by a bipartisan, bicameral set of Congressional Champions. For the first time, Congress responded to the overwhelming evidence of additional and significant costs associated with living with a disability. Members of Congress across the political spectrum approved fundamental changes to the tax code designed to encourage savings accounts that allow contributions to grow tax-free through a choice of investments as a means of financial relief to individuals with disabilities and their families. On December 19, 2014, President Obama signed the ABLE Act into law.
  2. The approach to determine eligibility to opening an ABLE account is the second transformative change. In establishing eligibility criteria for individuals not receiving Social Security benefits, there is, for the first time, the decoupling of the dual-pronged test of severe disability and inability to work that currently determines eligibility for Social Security (SSI and SSDI) benefits.

To be eligible to open an ABLE account, the individual does not need to meet the “inability to work” criteria of Social Security. A post-Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generation of youth and young adults with disabilities want to work, earn income and advance their self-sufficiency. An ABLE account is a means to achieve greater financial stability to complement earnings by becoming a saver and investor.

  1. The third area of transformative impact is the exclusion of ABLE accounts from being counted as a resource in determining eligibility for federal means-tested programs and benefits. The current limit of assets at a $2,000 level for an individual to remain eligible for SSI and Medicaid benefits creates significant disincentives to work, income production, saving and longer term financial goal setting. The ABLE account becomes a down payment on freedom and active community participation. It becomes the rainy day fund to deal with unexpected healthcare costs, unmet transportation needs, and the sudden need to replace or repair assistive technology that stops working effectively. With the absence of the current challenge to stay under the resource limit of multiple means-tested federal benefits and programs, there is new hope and enthusiasm for discovering and setting life changing goals that transform and lift self-confidence through social and economic participation.

Today, as you help us spread the word about #ABLEtoSave, expectations will change, the number and size of ABLE accounts will grow and lives of people with disabilities will be transformed. Please share with a friend, a family member, a co-worker or anyone else you feel would benefit.

Please check the ABLE National Resource Center website frequently throughout August for updates on #ABLEtoSave campaign activities, including webinars and videos, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to use the #ABLEtoSave hashtag when sharing posts on the campaign.

We hope the #ABLEtoSave campaign gives you, or someone you know, the incentive to take that first step and open an ABLE account.

On behalf of the ABLE National Resource Center, we thank you for your support!

3 reasons why the ABLE Act holds potential to transform the lives of people with disabilities and their families >

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