June 11, 2019
Who is eligible for an ABLE account?
A person of any age, who has a significant disability onset prior to age 26, can open an ABLE account. This includes infants, youth, college students and working or retired adults. People who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits, or people who never received SSI and/or SSDI and people who work and no longer receive SSI and/or SSDI, may also be eligible. Other eligible individuals may include people who have a guardian or representative payee, people who live in the community, in foster care or a residential group home for individuals with disabilities, people who have Section 8, a housing subsidy or own their own home or seniors who live in an assisted living facility or are in hospital care.
Individuals who never received SSI and/or SSDI, or who began receiving benefits after age 26, need to request a Disability Certification from their physician (M.D. or D.O.) indicating that the significant disability onset was prior to age 26. Any supporting information will help the physician make their decision. For information on how to open an ABLE account, visit the Roadmap to Enrollment.
I receive SSI and SSA is asking for proof of what I spent my ABLE savings on. How do I do that?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may ask ABLE account owners who receive SSI to prove that they use their SSI to pay for housing and food. ABLE funds can be used to pay for extra housing expenses when SSI is not enough to cover all housing costs. Get a receipt for every item paid for or purchased using ABLE funds. Keep those receipts on file for at least three calendar years.
ABLE funds may only be used on qualified disability expenses (QDE) which increase the health, independence or quality of life of the ABLE account owner. As a best practice and to avoid issues with public benefits, ABLE funds should not be used to reimburse someone who lent the ABLE account owner money. Learn more about monitoring your account by visiting How Do I Manage My Account?
Summer is here. Can I use ABLE funds to go on a vacation or to camp? What is a qualified disability expense?
Qualified disability expenses (QDE) are expenses for items or services related to the blindness or disability of the beneficiary that assists him/her in increasing and or maintaining their health, independence and/or quality of life. If the vacation or camp expense meets this definition, it may be a QDE.
Paying for a vacation is a gray area for ABLE. If ABLE funds are used to pay a personal care assistant who accompanies an ABLE account owner on the vacation, the personal care assistant’s wages are QDEs. If a student has an individualized education plan (IEP) that includes developing money management and socialization skills, a trip to Disney World may be a QDE. If a camp or vacation program is designed specifically for people with a disability, those expenses would be QDEs.
If a person wants to go on a vacation but is not sure if those expenses are QDEs, they could use their extra SSI, SSDI or other income to pay for their vacation, rather than using ABLE savings. Remember to pay for food from another source, rather than using ABLE funds, since food is also a gray area for ABLE funds and QDEs. Check out the Case Summary Series to learn more about QDEs.