October 2018 AchievABLE Newsletter

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

2019 ABLE Advisor Application Announcement

The ABLE National Resource Center, a collective group of leading, national disability organizations united to help realize the promise of the ABLE Act, seeks to identify nine (9) ABLE account owners to participate as an Advisor Group to the Center in 2019.

We are looking for parents and working-age adults with disabilities that represent a diversity of experiences in terms of their reasons for opening an account, their short and long-term financial goals related to the account and how they hope the account will help increase their health, independence and/or quality of life. We are also looking for diversity represented by selection and participation in different state ABLE programs, type of disability, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity.

ABLE Advisors will receive a $500 contribution to their ABLE account at the end of the year, based on full participation in the Advisor program. This includes attending all meetings, regularly scheduled interviews and submission of pictures that will be used to define the ABLE experience.

ABLE Advisor Profile: Meet Sarah Perez

Sarah Perez, smilling, showing samples of her artwork on a laptop and hanging up.Sarah Perez, 36, is a mixed-media artist building her small business. An ABLE account owner with the Michigan ABLE Program, MiABLE, she is ABLE-eligible due to a mental health disability. Sarah and her parents are contributing to her ABLE account to improve her overall quality of life.

While Sarah lives in Michigan now, she wasn’t living in Michigan when her mom helped her open up her ABLE account two years ago. Due to a series of events that seemed unfortunate at the time, a change in her relationship status and not meeting eligibility for needed benefits in the state she had been living in, Sarah decided to move back home to the Irish Hills area of Michigan. She’s really happy with this move and feels she has turned a corner in her life. It’s been the definition of crisis turning into an opportunity. Her parents and extended family, who are incredibly supportive, still live in the area. Sarah has fully re-engaged with her hometown, spending time at the lake and being active in the social scene. She is volunteering with a local Girl Scout troop and also running for election this fall for a position on the school board.

A major weight is being lifted off her shoulders now that Sarah is finally in a position to get out debt! She’s on a payment plan and making good progress paying down some large medical bills that weren’t covered in her previous state of residence. Her ABLE account is the vehicle she is using to make all of this happen. She’s also using her ABLE account to offset medication costs moving forward, in addition to using her account to build her photography business. The ABLE funds she invests in her business (e.g. purchasing equipment, exhibiting at local arts events) will give her the ability to earn and put more money back into her ABLE account. Sarah has also been in job search mode for a day job while she gets her photography business off the ground. Such is the life of the artist!

Sarah is being smart about building her business and her day job exploration. Understanding that earnings will have an impact on her benefits, Sarah has met with a certified benefits advisor to better understand the work incentives and supports she can access through SSA’s Ticket to Work program. Her job search and trips to her benefits advisor are supported by her ABLE account, which helps her pay for gas to and from these activities. Sarah is working hard, being smart and having fun on her path to achieving a better life experience.

“I want everyone to have an ABLE account who is eligible. For me, it was a way to get out of debt in a way that was stress free. Plus, you don’t have to contribute a lot to it, but whatever you contribute is well taken care of and you know it’s there if you need it.” – Sarah Perez

ABLE Advisor Profile: Meet Lauren Hughes

Lauren Hughes, sitting with her husband and two young sons, outside, with pumpkins and hay surrounding them. Lauren Hughes is the mother of 10-year-old Steven, an incoming fifth-grader at Lakevue Elementary School and an ABLE account owner. Since there is currently no ABLE program in Idaho where they live, Lauren and her husband, Stan, registered Steven for his ABLE account through Oregon’s ABLE for All program for non-residents.

Steven was the Hughes family’s “Million Dollar Baby” when he was little, due to complications from his Trisomy 9 Mosaic Chromosomal Disorder that resulted in emergency flight for life services to the tune of $77,000 to get him from where they lived in Alaska at the time to a hospital in Seattle, Washington. Nowadays, Steven loves elementary school and enjoys bowling, camping and accessible fun runs. Steven has places to go and things to do, which gets us to his ABLE goal.

Currently, Lauren and her family are depositing contributions from family, along with a chunk of their SSI payment every month, into their ABLE account. They are using the account solely as a savings/investment vehicle for a new wheelchair accessible van. Their old van, which they are still driving, is not just high in miles and rusting out. Lauren and Steven’s toddler sister, Aubrielle, had the harrowing experience of having a small electrical fire in it a few months ago after dropping Steven off at school. This is an experience they are not looking to repeat! While Steven’s DD waiver will cover the labor and cost of installing a new lift to the vehicle, they need upwards of $40,000 to purchase a new vehicle. They are on track for this savings goal, which Lauren attributes to not pulling ABLE funds for regular small expenses. As part of her saving strategy, they have foregone the debit/prepaid card option. However, the debit card is an option she plans to look into after their big-ticket ABLE van purchase.

In addition to using the ABLE National Resource Center’s Comparison Tool to land on the Oregon ABLE for All program, Lauren says her favorite thing is listening to ABLE NRC’s webinars while she’s cleaning. She says she always learns something new, including recently finding information to share with Steven’s grandparents around ABLE accounts and Special Needs Trusts for future estate planning.

As an ABLE Advisor, Lauren wants other ABLE-eligible individuals and their families to know that, “For years I waited in hopes that a change would come about in the ability to save and have financial freedom for those with disabilities. My advice is to take control of you or your child’s financial future. As a parent, ABLE has given me peace of mind in knowing I can set my son up financially for his current and future needs, without risking benefits. Creating an ABLE account is not time-consuming and very easy to do from the comfort of your own home. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even small contributions, over time, can have a significant impact on quality of life!”

Webinar Archive Now Available: ABLE Success in the Real World: Meet Three ABLE Advisors and Hear Their ABLE Stories

A recording of September’s webinar, “ABLE Success in the Real World; Meet Three ABLE Advisors and Hear Their ABLE Stories,” is now available.

Blog: Top Three Questions from September’s Webinar

During the September 27, 2018 ABLE National Resource Center webinar, ABLE Success in the Real World: Meet Three ABLE Account Owners and Hear Their ABLE Stories, more than 250 people heard the stories, experiences and lessons learned from three ABLE account owners. We received some great questions from the audience, and today we are answering the top three questions that were asked to help you learn more about ABLE accounts and how they may help you on your path to financial stability.

Can I open an ABLE account in any state and why would I want to do so?

Regardless of where you live and whether or not your state has decided to establish an ABLE program, you are free to enroll in any state ABLE program provided that the program is accepting out of state residents and you meet the requirements for opening an account. You may find the comparison tool on our website helpful to make your decision easier.The Roadmap to Enrollment is also helpful and contains step-by-step information from eligibility to enrollment to help you understand ABLE accounts better.

In addition to looking into your state program, we encourage you to explore other state ABLE programs. There are a variety of reasons for taking this extra step. Some ABLE programs provide residents with a state income tax deduction on contributions made to ABLE accounts opened in that state (although all contributions are made with after-tax dollars). Other states may offer debit card or checking account options that can make it easier to use ABLE account assets for qualified disability expenses. For helpful information and resources, visit the ABLE National Resource Center website.

Are there limits to how much money can be put in an ABLE account?

The total annual contributions by all individuals—family, friends, an employer or a 529 rollover—for the 2018 tax year is $15,000. This amount was increased from $14,000 in 2017 and may be adjusted again in the future. The total amount that the ABLE account can grow up to is subject to the individual state and its limit for education-related 529 savings accounts. You can find up-to-date information on the total amount for a state ABLE program by using our state comparison tool.

For individuals with disabilities who are recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the ABLE Act sets some further limitations. The first $100,000 in an ABLE account is exempt from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If and when an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary’s SSI cash benefit would be suspended until such time as the account falls back below $100,000. It is important to note that, while the beneficiary’s eligibility for the SSI cash benefit is suspended, it has no effect on their ability to receive, or be eligible to receive, medical assistance through Medicaid.

What happens to funds in an ABLE account upon the death of the account holder?

Some states have passed state laws commonly called “clawback” provisions that would prohibit Medicaid payback, while other states have a payback provision in place. This is a state decision. The disclosure document on each state ABLE website will contain this information. For more information on this topic, visit the ABLE National Resource Center website to view the archived webinar, Understanding ABLE Program Disclosure Documents. If you still cannot locate this information, we encourage you to contact the state program administrator for your ABLE program.

(For NY State Residents) ANRC Partner Webinar: NY ABLE: Financial Empowerment and ABLE Accounts

Please join ABLE National Resource Center’s partner, EmpoweredNYC, for the webinar, “NY ABLE: Financial Empowerment and ABLE Accounts,” on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET. During the webinar, attendees will learn about:

  • What are ABLE accounts
  • Eligibility criteria to open an ABLE account
  • How much a person with a disability can save in an ABLE account
  • The impact of having an ABLE account on SSI, SSDI and Medicaid
  • Who can contribute to an ABLE account
  • The NY ABLE program