February 2019 AchievABLE Newsletter

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

New Webinar: Strategies for Funding an ABLE Account

As the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) continues to provide consistent, reliable information, this webinar will: review basic rules for funding an ABLE account and cover strategies that could be used to ensure that contributions are easy to make, occur automatically when possible and are available to the ABLE account owner. It will also provide some “tax time” information related to ABLE accounts to enhance your ABLE contributions.

The webinar will cover the following information:

  • The basic rules on contributions to ABLE accounts
  • Identifying money to put in an ABLE account; Methods for making contributions
  • Real-life examples from our ABLE Advisors and ABLE NRC Ambassadors

This webinar will take place on Thursday, February 28, 2019, from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. ET, and will be moderated by Miranda Kennedy, Director, ANRC. Panelists include:

  • Marlene Ulisky, Disability Benefits Expert, ANRC
  • Members of our 2018 ABLE Advisor Team and 2019 ABLE NRC Ambassadors

ABLE NRC Ambassador Highlight: Denise Gehringer

Denise Gehringer is a mother of four whose youngest son, Jacob, is a 23-year-old intern training as an office assistant at the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Jacob has Down syndrome. Together, Jacob and Denise helped to bring about the establishment of their state’s Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) program, and Jacob was the very first ABLE account owner in Nebraska’s Enable program, opening his account in June 2016.

Jacob and Miller, his dog.As one of our nine 2019 ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) Ambassadors, Denise is more than Jacob’s mom. She serves as his guardian and conservator, in addition to her day job as Assistant Director at Sheltering Tree L’Arche Omaha, which builds affordable housing communities for people with developmental disabilities, and her work as a legislative advocacy agent for parent groups. Denise is very savvy about ABLE, having consulted with Nebraska First National Bank in the early stages of their Nebraska Enable program development, planning and throughout the entire launch process.

Prior to his internship, Jacob worked as a part-time pre-school aide and regularly deposited his earnings into his ABLE account. Just to be clear, Jacob isn’t using his ABLE account to shelter income or to reduce his countable income, since ABLE accounts don’t do that. Putting funds from his part-time job into his ABLE account allows Jacob to save and invest in his own future.

To date, Jacob has made two purchases with his ABLE funds. One has been a modified bike that he hopes to use as independent transportation to work one day. He also used his ABLE funds to pay for travel expenses to audition to be on the runway at the Global Down Syndrome Foundation “Be Beautiful Be Yourself” Fashion Show in 2017. He won that audition.

Other than these two qualified disability expenses (QDEs), Jacob has been diligent about saving money in his ABLE account. Just like every other individual in their early 20s who lives with their parents, Jacob can’t wait to move out of mom and dad’s house! His ultimate goal is to purchase a house of his own with a yard. He needs the yard for his dog, Miller.

Jacob Gehringer, Runway Global Be Beautiful Show with Model Amanda BoothDenise opened and also contributes regularly to Jacob’s ABLE account because, As a parent, I want to make sure that the resources are available for Jacob to live as independently as possible. Additionally, when the time comes for his siblings to become his primary support, when my husband and I are no longer able, we want to make preparations so their lives will not be burdened financially.”

As one of our new 2019 ABLE NRC Ambassadors, Denise has a running head start on this role, sharing that, “Through my many connections to the disability community, I assist families supporting individuals with diverse needs, and thus I keep current on all ABLE information. I take advantage of the ABLE National Resource Center webinars and refer families I advise to the ANRC as the ‘go-to’ for information about ABLE.”

In early February 2019, Denise accessed the ANRC to learn details about other states that have successfully enacted legislation to waive Medicaid Claw Back Provisions. She then used this information to provide testimony at an ABLE hearing in front of the Revenue Committee of Nebraska’s Unicameral State Legislature on February 6, 2019. (Note: Nebraska is the only state that has a combined Senate and House of Representatives – “Unicameral”). Her hope is to repeal the Medicaid Claw Back in Nebraska and help more families, like her own, take advantage of the promise and opportunity ABLE provides.

Top Three Questions: February 2019

Can I have a special needs trust (SNT) AND an ABLE account?

The good news is that you can have both a special needs trust (SNT) AND an ABLE account. There are no restrictions! There are lots of advantages to an SNT and to an ABLE account. They are different but can be used to complement one another.

If you are an ABLE-eligible individual and you meet any applicable state residency requirements, you can easily open an ABLE account. You may wish to compare state options and view your choices across the country by using the state comparison tool on the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) website.

ABLE account owners and ABLE-eligible individuals can also open an SNT, but it is important to consult a trained professional who can talk to you about both planning tools, the advantages and disadvantages of each and how these two tools can work well together.

To learn more, view our January 31, 2019 archived webinar, “ABLE Accounts and Special Needs Trusts,” and review Attorney Jim Sheldon’s ABLE Case Summary “ABLE Accounts Compared to Special needs Trusts.

If I have an “in trust for” representative payee account for my child at a bank, is this a special needs trust account, and will it affect means-tested benefits?

Yes, it will affect means-tested benefits because it is not a “special needs trust.” A representative payee is someone who manages the Social Security benefits of an individual who has been determined to be incapable of handling their own benefits. While the title of the savings or checking account may suggest this, the actual account owner is the beneficiary even though he or she does not have control over the account. The funds in this type of account are counted as a resource for that beneficiary.

My disability began before the age of 26, and I do not receive public benefits. I would like to find a list of diagnoses to see if I am ABLE-eligible. Can you point me in the right direction?

A diagnosis alone may not indicate that you qualify for an ABLE account.

The ABLE Act contains two requirements for eligibility:

1. Your disability must have an onset prior to the age of 26 AND

2. You must be receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

If you are not receiving SSI or SSDI, you must have a disability certification document from a licensed physician, a M.D. or D.O., that indicates that you have a qualifying physical/mental disability or blindness which results in marked and severe functional limitations and has lasted, or can be expected to last, for at least 12 months or results in death.

Your level of severity must “meet, medically equal or functionally equal” a listing in the Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of 20 CFR Part 404. The listings categorize impairments by body system, and they contain the criteria needed to satisfy that listing.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a list of “compassionate allowance conditions” which are so severe that they are deemed to meet the requirements of an impairment sufficient for a disability certification, provided the condition was present before age 26.

Webinar Archive: ABLE Accounts and Special Needs Trusts

A recording of January’s webinar, “ABLE Accounts and Special Needs Trusts,” is now available.