December 2018 AchievABLE Newsletter

The December 2018 issue of our AchievABLE Newsletter contains stories on the following:

Celebration of ABLE: Reflections from the 2018 ABLE Advisors

The Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, better known as the ABLE Act, was signed into law on December 19, 2014. To celebrate four years of ABLE, the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) asked our 2018 ABLE Advisors to reflect on how ABLE has impacted their lives so far, how they envision ABLE impacting them in the future and to share examples of how, as ABLE Advisors, they have helped others benefit from ABLE. Here are some highlights:

Describe how ABLE has impacted your life so far.

“I helped to pass the ABLE Act. I opened the first Kansas ABLE account. Friends give me money for my ABLE account as gifts. I can use the money to help me go to college and live in my pink house.” – Rachel Mast

“ABLE has provided me with some security for my retirement, given that my employer does not have a retirement plan.” – Al Elia

“Our ABLE account has given us the means to accumulate savings for our son beyond the SSI limitation of $2,000.” – Larry Angeli

“Not only do I have a way now to build savings for the future, but I have a sense of independence that I did not have before. I can plan. I can make decisions about how I want to use my account to get the best quality of life for myself. When I was first put on disability, I thought many financial opportunities had been removed from my life. Now, with an ABLE account, I feel as if for the first time in my adult life, I can save and plan for my future like most people my age are starting to do.” – Sarah Perez

How do you envision ABLE impacting your life in the future?

“Two years ago, my husband established a special needs trust on my behalf so that loved ones could leave me portions of their estate without jeopardizing my eligibility for long-term services. While I can’t interact with the trust, a case study published by the ANRC confirmed that monies from a trust can be deposited into the beneficiary’s ABLE account. This means that once a distribution from my trust is granted, the Ohio ABLE program’s debit card will allow me to quickly purchase approved services without having to go through the bank that holds the trust.” – Katy Oliver

“ABLE will help us explain to our family and friends that giving our kids money in their ABLE accounts will better serve them as they age. Gifts are great, but independence for Abby and Bud is greater.” – Regina Bradley

Give a specific example of how, as an ABLE Advisor, you helped someone learn and benefit from ABLE.

As a parent member of Rethinking Guardianship, I coordinated having NC ABLE present at our meeting. Rethinking Guardianship is comprised of a variety of persons within the disabilities, health and eldercare fields, including administrators, direct care service providers, individuals and family members. The questions asked showed that people wanted to know specifics and needed clarity on things they already knew. One person picked up two brochures for her neighbors.” – Cheryl Walfall-Flagg

A mother of an adult child with disabilities was online asking for suggestions for equipment people have found helpful because she needed to spend down her adult son’s SSI. I let her know she needed to research an ABLE account because I felt it may be the answer to her son’s needs. I also gave her the link to the ANRC so she could make sure her son met the requirements and pick which program was best for him. She was thrilled to learn of ABLE.” – Lauren Hughes

On July 18, 2018, I had the once in a lifetime experience of testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in Washington, D.C. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The “Supporting Economic Stability and Self-Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities and their Families Age” hearing focused on policies that make it possible for people aging with disabilities to save for retirement and disability-related expenses, and for aging parents or other relatives, to help save for special-needs individuals in order to help them live in their own home and work. Speaking before the Centers on Aging Commission was a huge honor and I’m glad I was able to speak on my own personal experiences and the great work that ABLE accounts are doing to help individuals with disabilities on their paths to independence.” – Edward Mitchell

New Webinar: Qualified Disability Expense Fundamentals

The purpose of this webinar is to educate individuals with disabilities, their families, providers and advocates on how an ABLE account can provide options and choices to maintain or improve their health, independence and quality of life. Savings in an ABLE account may be used tax-free on a variety of qualified disability expenses (QDE) such as housing, transportation, assistive technology and more. The webinar will discuss examples of QDEs and address questions such as:

* What are QDEs?
* What will happen if I use ABLE distributions on non-QDEs?
* Are there strategies I should consider when deciding whether or not to use my ABLE account for items or services?

This webinar will include a panel of ABLE-related stakeholders and experts, including:

* James Sheldon, Supervising Attorney of the Disability Law Unit, Neighborhood Legal Services, Buffalo, New York
* Marlene Ulisky, Disability Benefits Expert, ABLE National Resource Center, Washington, D.C.
* Members of our 2018 ABLE Advisor Team

Fourth Anniversary of ABLE Social Media Campaign

To help us celebrate the fourth anniversary of the signing of the ABLE Act, the ANRC, managed by National Disability Institute (NDI), wants to hear from you!

In 100 words or less, please tell us what you are saving funds in your ABLE account for and how it will positively impact your life. Please send a high-resolution photo of yourself and your savings goal as well, if possible. Uploaded photos will be shared on ABLE NRC and NDI social media.

Individuals who complete this survey must be ABLE account owners.

Give the Gift of Independence to an ABLE Account Owner

Thousands of ABLE account owners nationwide are able to save for the first time without losing public benefits. A Gift of Independence gift card is a new way to honor, celebrate, reward or support a member of your family, a friend, a co-worker or a neighbor who has opened an ABLE account and set savings goals. Help an ABLE account owner and/or beneficiary by buying a Gift of Independence gift card to support them with a down payment on freedom. Freedom could be covering transportation costs, a home of their own, technology they need, higher education and employment assistance. This gift card can be used with any of the state ABLE programs.

Learn more and give the Gift of Independence.

Blog: Year-End Questions to Ask Yourself Regarding ABLE

It is almost the end of 2018! Before the year is over, and as you start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions over the next few weeks, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself in order to maximize your ABLE account now and in the future:

Maximize contributions:

  • Have I opened an ABLE account? Are there any cash assets that I should deposit before the end of 2018?
  • Do I have a plan to aggressively fund my ABLE account in 2019?
  • Have I reached my savings limit of $15,000, or if I work and do not have an employer-sponsored retirement account, have I saved up to an additional $12,060 from my earnings for a total of $27,060 for 2018?
  • Have I invited family and friends to contribute to my ABLE account for the holidays?
  • Is my employer interested in contributing to my ABLE account if I do not participate in the employer-matched retirement account?

Learn ABLE account management skills:

  • Have I reviewed the items listed in the Road Map to Independence?
  • Is there something more I can do to reach my financial goals for 2018?
  • Do I need to learn more about work supports that could help me increase my earnings and savings ability?
  • Would a Credit Counselor or a Financial Coach help me reach my goals of managing my money and saving for the future?
  • Have I reviewed and considered whether or not to re-balance my investment options in my ABLE account before the end of 2018?

Decide what qualified disability expenses (QDEs) ABLE funds will cover:

  • Will I save money by purchasing an item, like an efficient heat unit, now because I need warmth due to my disability?
  • Should I buy an item that will count as an Impairment Related Work Expense (IRWE) under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) now, or wait until I am earning more money?
  • Should I pay for 2018 out-of-pocket medical expenses before the end of the year?
  • If I work and have a tax liability, should I purchase something this month, in December 2018, that will qualify as a tax deduction or credit to lower my tax bill? Review Publication 907 (2017), Tax Highlights for Persons With Disabilities.
  • If I do not work at this time, should another person in my household consider paying for an item that I need instead of me using an ABLE disbursement? For example, if my mother pays for my attendant care so that she can work, could she list it as a tax-qualified expense when she files her income taxes? If I used my ABLE funds, she could not claim the tax credit and we would have to pool our money together for expenses.
  • Have I explored all the options which may pay for the item or service I need when I am deciding whether to use my ABLE contributions for a qualified disability expense disbursement?

Take the time to review the three areas above this month to make the most of your ABLE account in 2018 and to be set up to make the most of it next year in 2019. Financial awareness during this busy holiday season can provide you with the gift of financial wellness for years to come.

Webinar Archive Available: ABLE Program Spotlight Series Featuring ABLEnow and ABLEAmerica

A recording of November’s webinar, “ABLE Program Spotlight Series Featuring the ABLEnow and ABLE America Programs,” is now available.