Disability rights attorney for Indiana’s Protection and Advocacy Agency. ABLE funds are being saved for durable medical equipment and a down payment on a house.
Emily Munson’s Highlight from the September 2019 AchievABLE Newsletter
Emily Munson is a 35-year-old disability rights attorney with Indiana’s Protection and Advocacy agency. She is also an ABLE account owner and champion for ABLE accounts for other working-age people with disabilities who, like herself, can use these tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover qualified disability expenses and “Achieve a Better Life Experience.”
In her role at the Protection and Advocacy Agency, Emily leads the employment team. She teaches people with disabilities, their family members and support teams about leveraging work incentives to develop their market power as working people with disabilities who have money to spend. Emily practices what she preaches, or perhaps more appropriately, puts her money where her mouth is, by doing the Protection and Advocacy work that she loves, while living a life filled with international travel and cultural, gastronomic adventures that feed her foodie soul! This includes traveling and exploring mouth-watering menus in Morocco, sampling the local cuisines in Iceland and Brazil and planning a trip to Costa Rica next year.
Beyond her paycheck and benefits she receives as an attorney and employee of Indiana, Emily accesses the additional resources and supports that she needs to live, work and travel with her disability. These resources and supports include her state’s Medicaid Waiver and – importantly — her ABLE account. Emily says if ABLE accounts had been available years ago she would have been able to put money from the SSI checks she used to receive into her account and pay off her grad school loans years earlier. Emily’s current goals with her ABLE account are to 1) be able to save for long-term goals such as building a wheelchair accessible home of her own and to 2) cover qualified disability expenses such as personal care attendant support during the travel adventures that she embarks on with her favorite disability touring adventures company.
Emily says that what frustrates her when the conversation turns to ABLE is that there just aren’t that many people taking advantage of ABLE accounts yet. She reports that, from her experience, she sees a lot of misconceptions about the ABLE Act, ABLE programs and how an ABLE account can be used. “I speak to people all the time who complain about not wanting to lose benefits, or who only want to work part-time. I don’t understand why those people aren’t opening ABLE accounts. I think it’s because there are still a lot of misconceptions about them, like that you need a lot of money – like in a Special Needs Trust – to open one. That’s just not true. Even if people don’t have a lot to put in their account, that money adds up over time.”
When asked what her ultimate advice to others would be, Emily says: “OPEN AN ABLE ACCOUNT! It could be beneficial to you. It’s actually a way for people with disabilities to earn interest. Even if it’s just $20 a month. If you have that deducted from SSI (Supplemental Security Income) or your paycheck every month it can lead to financial independence over time.”