What Is ABLE, and How Do I Qualify?

In December 2014, the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law. The ABLE Act authorized states to establish tax-advantaged savings programs for individuals with a disability. The ABLE program has been seen by many special needs and disability advocates as the most expansive piece of legislation geared toward helping disabled individuals since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990.

Here at the Woodsmall Law Group, we understand how difficult it can be to navigate through the various programs available to individuals with special needs. Though it is a relatively new program, ABLE accounts can be an incredibly useful benefit to you and your family.

If you are not sure how to apply for ABLE, or not sure if you qualify, call the Pasadena office of Woodsmall Law Group at (626) 440-0028 and see how our experienced legal team can help.

How Do ABLE Accounts Help?

Countless people with disabilities and their families rely on public benefits for assistance in healthcare, food, housing, and income. Many of these benefits require that the individual recipient does not possess over $2,000 in a bank account, retirement funds, or items that may hold significant value.

Luckily for disabled individuals and their loved ones, the ABLE Act recognizes the expenses that come hand in hand when a person is living with a disability. ABLE accounts allow those who are eligible to save for and fund a variety of Qualified Disability Expenses without jeopardizing their eligibility for benefits that are imperative to their health and well-being, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Who Qualifies for ABLE?

ABLE is available to eligible U.S. citizens and legal residents, no matter the state in which the individual resides. To be eligible, individuals must have developed the onset of their disability before age 26 and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be entitled to benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) based on blindness or disability under Title II or XVI of the Social Security Act.
  • Must self-certify that they have a disability listed on the Social Security Administration’s List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions and have a signed qualifying disability diagnosis from a licensed physician.

In order to open an account based on the self-certification statute, the individual must have a signed doctor’s diagnosis of blindness or of a physical or mental impairment that leads to “marked and severe functional limitations” that lasts for a period of 12 months or longer, or an impairment that can be expected to result in death. Though the signed diagnosis from the doctor is not necessary when filling out the ABLE account application, it must be readily available for verification if asked to be presented.

Will ABLE Impact My Federal Disability Benefits?

An ABLE account is not considered when deciding certain federal benefit eligibility, with the following two exceptions for people receiving Supplemental Security Income:

  1. For the purposes of establishing eligibility for SSI, money in an ABLE account in excess of $100,000 is considered an asset to the individual with a disability and may cause SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended. An account balance up to and including $100,000 is disregarded.
  2. A withdrawal that is intended for a housing expense but is not spent in the same calendar month will be deemed an asset of the individual with a disability and may cause SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended.

There is no impact on Medicaid benefits, no matter the balance that is in the ABLE account.

Woodsmall Law Group Can Help!

Understanding the ins and outs of ABLE accounts is imperative to guaranteeing that your loved one receives the services and accommodations he or she needs. The special needs attorneys at the Woodsmall Law Group help clients navigate the complicated world of disability benefits on a daily basis. Don’t let hurdles regarding eligibility and how the ABLE account can affect existing benefits stop you from getting your child all the aid they need.

Contact us online or over the phone at (626) 440-0028 to schedule a free consultation.

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