The November 2018 issue of our AchievABLE Newsletter contains stories on the following:
- New Webinar Open for Registration: Spotlight on the ABLEnow and ABLEAmerica Programs
- ABLE Advisor Profile: Regina Bradley
- ABLE Advisor Profile: Rachel Mast
- Arkansas Becomes 39th State to Launch an ABLE Program
- Blog: Top Three Questions for November
- ABLE Case Summary Series: ABLE Accounts Compared to Special Needs Trusts
New Webinar Open for Registration: Spotlight on the ABLEnow and ABLEAmerica Programs
The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) frequently conducts “ABLE Program Spotlight” webinars. These “spotlight” webinars feature a different ABLE program, or group of ABLE programs, allowing potential ABLE account owners, and all other ABLE stakeholders, an opportunity to learn the specific details and unique features about that program.
We are excited to announce that we will be hosting a “spotlight” webinar this month featuring the national ABLEnow and ABLEAmerica programs, both of which originate out of Virginia.
Topics will include:
- Brief summary of the ABLE Act
- ABLEnow, the largest independent ABLE program in the country
- ABLEAmerica, the first ABLE program available through financial advisors
ABLE Advisor Profile: Regina Bradley
Regina and the Bradley Family have big news to share! They sold their home this fall, renovated their 22-foot travel trailer, hit the open road and Regina and her husband, Kelly, started homeschooling their two six-year-old, pint-sized ABLE account owners, Ayden and Abby. The family is four weeks into their adventure and plan to travel the country for the next year. So far, they have visited Kansas, Colorado and Texas. Abby amazed other tourists at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, CO by climbing boulders like a pro. The Bradleys are currently in Missouri for the holidays with their oldest daughter, Dawna, and her kids before heading to Tennessee, the Grand Canyon and up the west coast to ultimately visit their other daughter, Kalyn, in Washington State in 2019.
The Bradleys will be living off of Kelly’s military retirement and disability pay while they are on the road. Reggie, as she likes to be called, shares that, “Now that we don’t have the cost of our home, and we’re on the road, we are saving money and able to put some of that savings into the ABLE accounts for Abby and Ayden. This experience of traveling the country opens a window for me to be able to talk to more people about ABLE.”
Before they headed out on their yearlong adventure, Reggie made sure to get new glasses and hearing aids squared away for both kids. This included using their ABLE funds to cover the co-pay on these items. She also used ABLE funds to purchase a second set of glasses for both kids. Ayden, in particular, has a history of being pretty rough on his glasses because he likes to take them off and throw them around. Now, they have a spare set to sacrifice at the Grand Canyon, if it comes to that.
ABLE Advisor Profile: Rachel Mast
Rachel Mast, 19, like many teenagers transitioning into adulthood, has been spending the fall semester attending community college and working at a restaurant. She is a student in the Johnson County Community College CLEAR (College Learning Experiences, Activities and Resources) program, working part-time as a hostess at Olive Garden to save money. Rachel and her mom, Jawanda, initially thought she might need a job coach to help with her employment training, a qualified disability expense under ABLE. However, the manager at Olive Garden and his team felt confident that they could support Rachel without a job coach. According to Rachel, they have been awesome, providing support and accommodations that include a laminated map of the numbered tables for Rachel to carry to help her seat patrons. United States Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), with whom Rachel and Jawanda worked closely to pass ABLE legislation in Kansas, along with his family, even came into the restaurant recently to see Rachel and to enjoy the unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks.
In January 2019, Rachel will be starting a two-year, five-semester inclusive college program with Missouri State University’s (MSU) Bear POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Work, Education and Resilience) program, designed for students with intellectual disabilities. The program is focused on maintaining academic standards through modification of coursework while preparing students for employment. Rachel went to a homecoming event at MSU this fall where she met up with Rachel Heinz, the director of the Bear POWER program. While she was on campus, she spotted a Mac Airbook laptop at the campus bookstore that comes with a student discount. Realizing that it was a good deal for something she needs for her coursework, she plans to make this purchase using her ABLE funds. She will also be using her ABLE account to pay for her books and for student and activities fees.
Rachel received a “Ruby’s Rainbow” scholarship along with a scholarship from the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City. These will assist in covering her tuition and part of her Bear POWER program fees for her first semester. However, moving forward, Rachel will use her ABLE account funds to help cover tuition payments, program fees and other college-related expenses. She will continue to use her Supplemental Security Income (SSI) funds to pay for food and housing, bypassing her ABLE account as a best practice.
Rachel is using her platform as an ABLE Advisor to show other students with disabilities how they can use their ABLE account to support their transition into adulthood, continued education and employment.
Arkansas Becomes 39th State to Launch an ABLE Program
The ABLE National Resource Center, managed by National Disability Institute (NDI), is excited to congratulate the state of Arkansas on being the most recent state to launch an ABLE program. The Arkansas program, named “AR ABLE”, is a member of the National ABLE Alliance, and will be administered by the Office of the Arkansas State Treasurer and managed by Ascensus College Savings Recordkeeping Services, LLC. AR ABLE Accounts will offer enrollment to all ABLE-eligible individuals regardless of residency.
The Arkansas AR ABLE program will allow qualified individuals with disabilities to save up to $15,000 a year in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means-tested benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. The funds in these accounts can be used for disability-related expenses that assist the beneficiary in increasing and/or maintaining his or her health, independence or quality of life.
Like other ABLE programs across the country, the AR ABLE program will focus their efforts to ensure minimal costs associated with establishing and maintaining an ABLE account (which can be completed online). The AR ABLE program has an initial contribution fee of $25 and each account is charged an account maintenance fee of $15 each quarter. This fee can be discounted by $3.75 if e-mail delivery for statements and confirmations is chosen. This fee can be discounted by another $1.25 if the Account Owner or Authorized Individual is a resident of Arkansas. Fees associated with investment options range from 0.34% – 0.38%. There is a debit card/purchasing card available with the AR ABLE program with a $2.00 monthly fee associated with this option, however the fee can be waived with an average daily balance over $250 or if enrolled in electronic statement delivery at Fifth Third Bank.
For more information on the AR ABLE program and how to enroll, please visit: https://savewithable.com/ar/home.html
Blog: Top Three Questions for November
How Do I Decide Which State ABLE Program Is Right for Me?
The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) has tools to help you easily compare characteristics of each state ABLE program nationwide to find the right program for you! Follow the instructions below to download or save the results for your review.
- Start on the “Homepage” of the ANRC website. On the menu bar, hover your mouse over “Choose a State” and then click on “Compare States.”
- You will arrive at the “Shop the States to Choose the Best ABLE Program for You” page. Select your state from the drop-down menu and check both of the characteristics shown.
- State programs that match your results will be shown on your screen.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page to either download or save the information shown on your screen. You can also download or save a csv file containing all state data.
With so many ABLE programs to choose from, it is important to understand how to determine which program is best for you. The Choosing the Right ABLE Program fact sheet will help you as your review the information and have narrowed your choices down to three or less. Once you do that, you can use the Comparison Tool to compare program characteristics and find the right fit.
Can Supplemental Security Income Be Deposited into an ABLE Account?
Yes! A variety of questions have come into the ANRC involving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and whether they may be deposited into an ABLE account. Some individuals have asked how a beneficiary who receives a means-tested benefit meant to provide for day-to-day needs for food, shelter and basic living expenses would have income to save. Many SSI recipients also receive other means-tested benefits and supports, such as housing assistance, energy assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits or food stamps.
After a SSI recipient’s needs are met, when there are remaining funds, they may be used to contribute to an ABLE account. The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides policy guidance to their internal staff in their “Program Operations Manual System” (POMS). This policy states that “Title XVI benefits must be used for the immediate or reasonably foreseeable needs of the beneficiary. Any remaining benefits must be conserved or invested for the beneficiary.” Other SSI-related POMS references address a variety of other savings tools or options which may or may not count as a resource.
An ABLE account is a savings account which allows an SSI recipient to save over the $2,000 resource limit. The first $100,000 in the account is disregarded. If the account exceeds $100,000, the SSI cash benefit would be placed in a state of suspension until such time that the account balance falls back below $100,000. This, however, has no effect on Medicaid or any other federally-funded means-tested benefits.
Note: The Federal Benefit Rate for an individual in 2018 is $750 or $1,125 for a couple when both members of the couple are disabled. This increases to $771 and $1,157 per month in 2019. Some states, but not all, pay a small state supplemental payment.
What Happens to ABLE Account Funds when the ABLE Account Owner Dies?
If the beneficiary did not receive Medicaid-funded services, any assets remaining in the account pass to the estate of the account owner and are distributed under the provisions in the individual’s written will.
When an ABLE account holder dies and did receive Medicaid-funded services, at any time beginning when the account was opened, the state in which the beneficiary lived may file a claim to all or to a portion of the funds in the account. The amount of Medicaid payback excludes outstanding qualified disability expenses, such as funeral or other expenses, and amounts paid by the beneficiary as premiums to a Medicaid buy-in program. Any assets remaining after repayments to Medicaid pass to the estate of the account owner. Some states have passed state laws that would prohibit this Medicaid payback provision. When enrolling, we encourage you to ask if your state has passed such laws or not.
ABLE Case Summary Series: ABLE Accounts Compared to Special Needs Trusts
The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) is pleased to bring you a series of “ABLE Case Summaries” that articulate and illustrate ways to benefit from an ABLE account that complement continued eligibility for selected public benefits and programs and/or use of special needs trusts.
The purpose of the series is to help ABLE-related stakeholders, including current and future account holders, better understand the possibilities of an ABLE account complementing other strategies to improve health, independence and quality of life.
This month, we continue the series with ABLE Case Summary – ABLE Accounts Versus Trusts