The ABLE Act, or Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014, was signed by President Obama on December 19th, 2014. The Able Act allows individuals with a disability, or their family, to establish a tax exempt savings account to pay for certain qualified expenses. It’s a similar idea to a 529 College savings plan and, in fact, will be called a 529 – ABLE account. This is a huge win for families and individuals with disabilities.
Why was the ABLE Act needed?
Parents of a special needs child are told early on not to save anything for their child in their name, including assets or a savings account. As a parent of a special needs child, I can attest to this. The only method of creating some type of savings before now has been in a special needs trust fund. Currently, the child’s assets are taken into account for services and social security. The costs of caring for a child with special needs can be astronomical and many families rely on this assistance. In addition, parents of younger children don’t yet know what type of assistance their child may require as an adult. It’s a scary position to want to prepare and save for your child, but not be able to do so as you do not want to hinder their possibility of support as an adult.
A group of parents eight years ago decided to tackle this situation. Bipartisan politicians joined their plight to get the bill through the house and senate. Before this law, individuals with a disability could not have a tax sheltered savings account as others were entitled (i.e. for retirement or college savings).
Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc, has said, “The ABLE Act is about giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Families are looking for ways to finance things like an apartment, or a ride to work, or additional educational opportunities after high school that don’t jeopardize other necessary services provided by federal programs. This bill creates a tool for families that could lead to a more independent and fulfilling life.”
ABLE Act Details
Families may deposit up to $14,000 annually. They are limited to $100,000 without jeopardizing eligibility for public assistance (SSI). The ABLE Account can be used for “qualified disability expenses” including medical, education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, and also includes many other types of expenses.
Individuals only qualify if they became disabled before the age of 26. They also must either:
- receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)/SSI or
- file a disability certification under rules that the IRS will write
How do I sign up?
Not yet. The IRS will need to write regulations. Each state will then need to come up with their own regulations and establish ABLE programs if they choose. This is not going to happen overnight, but we should begin to see states taking action within the year. It would be advisable to speak with a financial advisor once your state opens up the program.
What does the ABLE Act mean for professionals?
The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) requires that our Certified Autism Specialists remain current in their knowledge in the field of autism. Certified Autism Specialists are individuals who have gone above and beyond professional licensing requirements in their focus on autism. Being current also means knowing what is happening in the legislation that affects the individuals with whom we work. The ABLE Program may be able to provide some relief to the families of your students or patients. Therefore, the ABLE Act is legislation that is important for you to understand. Furthermore, as a professional you are in the position to share this valuable information with the families in your care.
The ABLE Act sounds like a good start and the fact that bipartisan support worked together to pass the bill is refreshing. It’s a step in the right direction towards equality for individuals with disabilities. The ABLE Act also encourages savings, which all Americans should be able to do freely. The cost of having a disability far outweigh the expenses of the non-disabled. The ABLE Act will assist individuals with disabilities in being as independent as possible. Certified Autism Specialists are encouraged to stay current on the updates in their own state so that they can share this information with families as needed.
Written by: Michelle Killian, Director of IBCCES. The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), was established to meet the credentialing needs of professionals that work with individuals with special needs. In 2001, IBCCES first established the industry standards for a Certified Autism Specialist. Each year these standards are reviewed and updated by our board of industry professionals including BCBAs, researchers from leading universities, state level Special Education Directors, industry leaders, as well as clinicians in the fields of mental health, Speech and Language Pathology, School Psychology, Occupational Therapy, and parents. Our Certified Autism Specialist standards are now used by organizations all over the world to ensure the highest quality of care and training for professionals in the field of Autism.