• By Miranda Kennedy, Director, and Marlene Ulisky, Social Security Subject Matter Expert, ABLE National Resource Center
On December 19, 2020, we celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which allows eligible people with disabilities to create tax-free savings and investment accounts. On November 19, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service released final ABLE regulations.
The ABLE Act enables people with disabilities to have savings accounts while receiving benefits. Prior to the availability of ABLE accounts, saving money proved challenging for many people living with a disability because programs often have income and resource limits. People with disabilities, have on average, 28% more costs associated with disability-related expenses than those who do not have a disability. ABLE plans allow people to save for those extra costs associated with having a disability, while maintaining public benefits, such as SSI and Medicaid.
Since the first ABLE program opened in 2016, ABLE account holders have saved over $550 million—with more than $100 million spent on disability-related expenses. As of the third quarter of 2020, over 75,000 people with disabilities had opened an ABLE account, with an average of over $6,000 saved and invested in each account. Those numbers demonstrate the ability of ABLE account owners to save for their future needs.However, less than one percent of ABLE-eligible individuals have opened an account.
ABLE accounts can provide funding for qualified disability expenses that supplement, but do not replace, benefits otherwise available through private sources, employment, public programs, or other sources.The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not restrict the usage of the ABLE funds, leaving it open to items or services that relate to the unique needs of each individual, including those related to COVID-19.
Individuals eligible for ABLE accounts may need assistance opening their account and understanding how to get the maximum benefit from it. The IRS authorizes a priority of order, regarding who may open an account on behalf on an eligible individual:
- A person selected by the eligible individual.
- An agent under a power of attorney, conservator, or legal guardian.
- A spouse, parent, sibling, or grandparent.
- A representative payee (individual or organization).
An account opened by a representative payee that we appoint must meet all of the Social Security account rules and requirements.
ABLE accounts promote independence for people with disabilities. Please review the ABLE National Resource Center summary to read more highlights from the final regulations.
There are 45 ABLE plans available and their savings/investment limits range from $235,000 to $529,000. To learn about ABLE accounts and the ABLE plans available to choose from, please visit the ABLE National Resource Center at www.ablenrc.org, managed by the National Disability Institute.