Meet our 2020 ABLE NRC Ambassadors

Jessica Sahlman

Jessica is a young, working-age adult and self-advocate who has Down syndrome.
Weatogue, CT
ABLE Program: Ohio STABLE

Jessica is a self-advocate with Down syndrome. She is a Special Olympics basketball athlete who enjoys participating in local theater productions. Jessica is working and saving to become financially independent and has a goal of using her ABLE account to save for a driverless car.

Jessica speaking at a podium
Jessica baking cupcakes
Jessica Sahlman standing in front of a bus

Jessica Sahlman, is a 23-year-old who is back working two days a week at her beloved job at Beanz and Company with new safety protocols in place, after being off work during the spring due to COVID-19. She is a self-advocate who strongly believes that ABLE accounts are a great tool for her community of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). She believes this so strongly that she testified twice to the Connecticut State Legislature, asking them to open an ABLE program in her home state. She was invited to participate in the CT ABLE Program launch two months ago in October 2020. Her photo with Connecticut State Treasurer, Shawn Wooden is highlighted below.

Jessica, who has Down syndrome, did not want to wait for Connecticut to open their program before she could start planning and saving for her dream life, and she didn’t have to. Two years ago, she opened her ABLE account with one of the ABLE programs available to out-of-state residents, the Ohio STABLE Program. After the first year, she transferred her account to the PA ABLE Savings Program. Her ABLE account has allowed her to save her money rather than needing to “spend it down.” Like many other young adults, Jessica had been living with her parents and was excited to move into the next more independent phase of her life. She is making that dream happen with the help of a system of supports, including her ABLE account.

Jessica’s case manager, Erik Madsen, with the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS), introduced Jessica and her parents to the ABLE account. One condition for eligibility to receive DSS services is that the person receives a Social Security benefit. When he’s speaking with his clients about benefits, Erik tells them that, “Setting up an ABLE account is a great way to not lose benefits, but still be able to put money aside to pay for wanted or needed items.”

Jessica is doing just that! She is moving out of her parents’ home and into a new state-of-the-art supported living apartment complex, fitted out with assistive technology, in early January. Instead of living with her parents, she will be living 10 minutes away from them with a roommate and getting 20 hours of support services a week. Jessica’s long-term goal for her ABLE account is to save enough to purchase a driverless vehicle, once they are offered to the public, to build even more independence into her life.

Strategically, Jessica has a monthly transfer of funds from her regular bank account to her ABLE account so she can save regularly while staying within benefit resource limits. Her father, John, is helping Jessica keep her focus on long-term investments and earnings within her ABLE account to meet her goals for increasing independence. Now that Jessica’s father has retired, Jessica receives additional SSDI income, based upon his earnings record, which she can deposit into her ABLE account. Jessica’s case manager, Erik, continues to help by evaluating and layering in additional work supports such as the Medicaid Buy-in Program that allows for greater earnings and resources while retaining Medicaid coverage. All of these resources help Jessica to earn and save more within her ABLE account, helping her achieve a better life now and into the future.

Jessica Sahlman with Connecticut State Treasurer

Pictured: Jessica Sahlman and Connecticut State Treasurer, Shawn Wooden