ABLE accounts are a new tool to help disabled individuals receive support while still maintaining eligibility for government benefits. ABLE accounts derive their name from the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act enacted in December 2014. As of September 2016, 47 states, including Missouri, and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to allow for ABLE accounts. The accounts are modeled after 529 college savings accounts and are also known as 529A accounts.
In order to be eligible for an ABLE account, a person must be disabled or blind before the age of 26. The standard for disability is either “marked or severe functional limitations” or legal blindness. This is the same disability standard for disability and blindness based Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
As of September 2016, four states have started their ABLE programs: Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, and Tennessee. In general, eligible individuals may enroll in an ABLE program in any state, however, the Florida program is open to Florida residents only. Each state may also have additional requirements and regulations that go beyond federal regulations. Wisconsin and North Dakota have no plans to launch their own ABLE programs and are encouraging their eligible residents to enroll in out-of-state ABLE programs.
ABLE accounts are limited to one ABLE account per disabled individual. Contributions must be monetary and not exceed $14,000 per year. The total amount in the account must also remain under $100,000 in order to maintain eligibility for SSI.
The disabled individual is considered the owner of the ABLE account. If the disabled individual cannot exercise control, then a parent or legal guardian may act on their behalf.
ABLE accounts may be used for a wide variety of expenses that relate to the individual’s blindness or disability, including, but not limited to, education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive services, health and wellness, financial management, legal fees, and basic living expenses.