The ABLE Youth Transition Toolkit

Youth Service Providers

As a service provider for students and young adults with disabilities, you have a unique opportunity to provide greater awareness of ABLE accounts in the following ways:

    • By informing family members of ABLE accounts through early intervention programs;
    • By including ABLE accounts in Individual Education Program and Employment Plans (IEPs, IWP, IPE, ISP, 504 plans); and
    • By informing customers of ABLE accounts and savings opportunities through Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) and vocational rehabilitation (VR) benefits counseling services and including them in the Benefit Summary & Analysis.

Review the Individual Education Program and Employment Plans and vignettes to learn how you can incorporate an ABLE account into one or more plans of the student or young adult with a disability:

An Individualized Education Program is also known as an IEP. The purpose of an IEP is to ensure that a student with an identified disability who is attending an elementary or secondary educational public institution (including charter schools) receives specialized instruction, supports and related services to succeed in school. By the age of 16 (and earlier in some states), the IEP identifies transition services that are needed to help the student prepare for life after school. The IEP is developed by a team of individuals from various educational disciplines, the child with a disability, family members and/or designated advocates.

Youth Transition Vignette:

June and Her Individualized Education Program (IEP)

June, a junior in high school, shares with her IEP team that she is interested in finding a summer job. June has never worked before and is unsure what kind of job would be a good fit for her. Edmond, her transition counselor, suggested that she investigate their local workforce summer works program. This program would allow June to try out a variety of jobs and would even pay a stipend at the end of the summer. The stipend clinched the deal as June was interested in saving money for a car.

With Edmond’s support, June set up a meeting with a WIOA youth counselor at her local American Job Center/One-Stop Center. During this meeting Edmond and June:

  • Confirmed June’s eligibility for the program.
  • Coordinated with her transition team at school and the local vocational rehabilitation (VR) office’s liaison to make sure June would get needed support as she participated in the program.
  • Edmond also suggested that June and her parents visit the ABLE National Resource Center website to learn about ABLE accounts and how they might allow June to save for a car, or any disability-related expense, without impacting her vital means-tested benefits.

Through the planning and collaboration of June’s IEP team, her summer was an amazing success.

  • She was able to try out several types of jobs; she even found that she had an interest in the medical industry.
  • She put her employment earnings into her new ABLE savings account to purchase a reliable car to drive to college and/or an apprenticeship job upon high school graduation.

The Individual Work Plan (IWP) is an agreement between an SSA beneficiary and a Ticket to Work Employment Network (EN) outlining the specific employment services, vocational rehabilitation services and other support services that the two parties determine are necessary to achieve the beneficiary's stated employment goal and provide a roadmap for financial independence.

If state vocational rehabilitation  prepares this agreement, it is called an Individualized Plan for Employment or IPE. If a beneficiary is being placed on a wait list under an Order of Selection, they may choose to receive services from another provider while waiting for services from VR. If there is a cost to the services and other programs cannot cover the cost, an ABLE account may be used vs postponing the achievement of transition goals.

Youth Transition Vignette:


Alex, a 16-year-old high school sophomore with cerebral palsy, is working with his high school transition coordinator, Sarah, as he sets his sights on going to college and getting a job after graduation. In their transition planning meetings, Sarah and Alex identify key areas such as:

  • career exploration,
  • academic accommodations,
  • possible career and technical education credentialed pathways, and
  • independent living skills.
  • They reviewed the Decision Guide: Ready and ABLE to Work and Save.

As a part of transition planning, Sarah discusses resources with Alex and introduces him to ABLE accounts. Sarah reviewed the Decision Guide, Benefits, and explained how ABLE accounts can be used as a tool to save money without affecting eligibility for critical government funded services. She emphasizes the flexibility of ABLE accounts, explaining that the funds can be used for qualified disability expenses like:

  • transportation,
  • assistive technology, and
  • job training programs.

As Alex approaches graduation over the next two years, he works with Sarah to connect with the resources that will support him in transitioning into his education and employment goals.

  • Alex is determined eligible for vocational rehabilitation services and also connects to WIOA services at his local American Job Center/One-Stop Center.
  • Alex works with his VR counselor to create an IPE. Through his IPE, Alex is connected to benefits planning.
  • Sarah also works with Alex and his family to consider opening an ABLE account to save for anticipated vocational expenses and, when the time comes, help him to identify supports which are available as he begins to earn income from a job.
  • Their review of the Decision Guide, ABLE Accounts and Working People with Disabilities, allowed them to identify how to maximize use of the ABLE account while maintaining eligibility for public benefits for a period of time.

A Section 504 plan is a legally binding document that outlines specific accommodations and services a student with a disability needs to ensure they have equal access to education. It is named after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. These educational institutions may be colleges, universities, vocational schools and other postsecondary institutions. Unlike the Individualized Education Program (IEP), a Section 504 plan may extend beyond high school.

Youth Transition Vignette:

Joseph and His 504 Plan

Joseph is a 19-year-old high school senior who experiences mobility issues and receives accommodations through a 504 plan. Joseph currently uses a manual wheelchair at school. He wants to begin to use an electric wheelchair which will significantly increase his independence and mobility. He can access funds to purchase the wheelchair through a local nonprofit and his vocational rehabilitation counselor has offered to pay for a modification of a vehicle as a part of his Independent Plan for Employment (IPE), but Joseph still needs to purchase a vehicle to modify. Joseph has some money saved in his ABLE account though not enough to buy a vehicle suitable for wheelchair lift modifications.

Joseph’s VR counselor refers him to an Alternative Finance Program


These programs provide the following services:

  • Referrals for grants or funding to purchase assistive technology that may include hearing or vision devices;
  • modified vehicles or home accessibility modifications, equipment; and
  • affordable loans that are available with favorable lending terms.

His VR counselor also points out how this may be a credit building opportunity for Joseph, who is over 18, and how getting and paying for this type of loan leverages other resources by helping a person, who pays on time each month, to develop a good credit history. An Alternative Finance Program would also allow for coordination with funding from VR, an ABLE account and/or use of SSI/SSDI work supports.

Joseph opened his ABLE account on his 18th birthday and deposited the money his family gifted him there. He currently has $1,800 which is enough to make modest monthly payments on a car loan until he begins receiving wages from the job he is working on with his 504 transition team. Supported with this information, and accessing these resources, Joseph feels like he is taking real steps toward the independence both he and his family want for him.

Visit Frequently Asked Questions on the ABLE NRC website for more information.

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Learn About an Integrated Resource Team as a Strategy:

An Integrated Resource Team (IRT) is an informal, customer level, resource coordination strategy that brings together all of the service providers engaged with an individual customer to improve communication and collaboration that results in enhanced coordination of services and supports for a job seeker with a disability. IRTs are organized around an individual job seeker with a disability who experiences multiple challenges to employment. IRT team members may be a part of a circle of support.

Youth Transition Vignette:

Savannah and Her Integrated Resource Team (IRT)

Savannah began working with vocational rehabilitation when she was 18 and had just completed high school.

  • She struggled with learning and experienced anxiety while in high school.
  • She was barely able to graduate and didn’t think college was a possibility.
  • The one thing she did know was that it felt overwhelming, and she needed some help to begin.

Mary, Savannah’s counselor, discussed the ways that VR could help. She emphasized that, even though she would help Savannah to get a job, a VR plan was an opportunity to do more than that. Mary explained that, by using an Integrated Resource Team, Savannah could build a team of providers to help her find and keep a job that would work for her.

With Mary’s help, Savannah began to reach out to providers that had the resources and expertise she would need to begin her career. She learned about many of the supports available by reviewing the Decision Guide, ABLE Accounts and Working People with Disabilities. Savannah connected with:

  • The local American Job Center/One-Stop Center to discuss training and placement services.
  • With the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) program in her state to discuss benefits planning.
  • With the local behavioral health provider to help Savannah learn strategies to minimize the impact of her anxiety.

Mary also shared with Savannah how she could use an ABLE account to save money and pay for a variety of employment-focused qualified disability expenses without impacting her means-tested benefits. They reviewed each benefit Mary received in the Understanding ABLE Account Savings and Public Benefits Decision Guide to ease Mary’s anxiety.

With a team behind her, and an ABLE account in place, Savannah began to feel less anxious and was planning for a future where she would be able to prosper independently.

  • Her IRT will help her to address many challenges to employment.
  • Her ABLE account will be a valuable tool to help her save for qualified disability expenses, manage her income and maintain her needed benefits as she does until the time that she decides that she no longer needs public benefits.

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Review and use the following ABLE resources and strategies with the students and young adults with disabilities and/or their families who you serve:

  • An ABLE NRC Flyer provides the basics on ABLE accounts. Include this flyer in your meetings with students, young people and their families and caregivers and IEP, IPE, IWP, ISP and 504s.
  • The Youth Service Provider Presentation, “Securing the Future for Students and Young Adults with Disabilities with an ABLE Account,” is designed for you to use to present information on ABLE and ABLE resources to Parents, Caregivers, Young Adults and Students with Disabilities.
  • The Service Provider Toolkit includes additional strategies, tools and resources to introduce and explain basic information.
  • The ABLE Account Decision Guides explain ABLE accounts at a deeper level. The content in the guides may be shared during intake, presentations, within service plans or integrated resource team meetings or within Individual Education Plans and Individual Employment plans when providing transitional services.
  • Find answers to frequently asked questions in categories such as:


      • How can an ABLE account help me pay for housing expenses without a reduction in my Supplemental Security Income payment?
      • Does the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) count an ABLE account as a resource when they consider my need for student aid?


      • Who is eligible to open an ABLE account?

Medical criteria, certifications, and improvement:

      • Which types of disabilities qualify someone for an ABLE account?
      • What happens if the account owner medically improves and is no longer disabled?
      • Does an SSI beneficiary continue to be eligible for an ABLE account if they have an age 18 redetermination and do not meet the adult definition of disability?


      • How do I open an ABLE account?


      • Who can contribute to the ABLE account and what are the limits?
      • What is countable income?

Qualified Disability Expenses (QDE):

      • What can funds be used for and is the purchase of a vehicle or other transportation a QDE?
      • Are food and housing QDEs? (related question under “general”)

Other considerations:

      • Can someone have an ABLE account and a special needs or pooled trust?
      • How can funds be rolled from a 529 college savings account to ABLE?
      • Can someone be selected to take ownership of the ABLE account once the account owner passes away?
      • What changes occur with the ABLE account when a minor reaches the age of legal adulthood?
      • How can a state agency or other provider that serves as a Social Security Administration (SSA) representative payee (RP) or guardian prepare youth for managing their benefits and money so they may not need a representative payee or guardianship when they attain the age of majority?

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