Sunday, February 1, 2015

How the ABLE Act can help family caregivers of children with special needs

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Recently, the President signed the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act.  This will help parents of children with disabilities to be allowed to save funds for their child without risking the loss of benefits. 

How it Works
The ABLE Act uses plans that are similar to a 529 savings plan used for college.  Some families already have “special needs trusts’ which are used in the same way.  Typically families were only allowed to have up to $2000 in assets in their child’s name, or the child would lose eligibility for Medicaid and/or SSI (Supplemental Security Income.)  The ABLE Act allows families to deposit up to $14,000 yearly, for a total of $100,000 savings without affecting benefits.  Extended family members, friends, and the person with a disability would also be able to contribute funds to the plan.  Income earned by the account, and contributions to the account, would not be taxable.  The total annual contributions to any such account are $14,000. 

Who is Eligible
People with disabilities are eligible if they have a condition that occurred prior to age 26. In addition, the individual must meet the eligibility criteria for SSI or SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance.)  Please note that there can only be one ABLE account in the individual’s name.  It is also possible to have both a special needs trust and an ABLE account.  Please also see the Exceptional Parent magazine link below which discusses the interaction between ABLE and Medicaid. 

What Families Need to Know-Next Steps
It is possible that ABLE accounts could be open this year.  However, states need to develop regulations.  To encourage quick action, parents should contact the Governor in their state found at   

The ABLE Act will prevent children with disabilities from having to live in poverty in order to maintain benefits such as Medicaid and SSI.  Now, families can save for their child’s future.

Disability Scoop-Announcement:

Exceptional Parent magazine-ABLE & special needs trusts

National Disability Institute-Ten Things You Must Know About ABLE Accounts

Questions & Answers About the ABLE Act

Remain Hopeful, 


Lauren Agoratus is a parent/advocate who works for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and serves as the NJ Coordinator for Family Voices (, a national network that works to “keep families at the center of children’s healthcare” at or FB  She also serves as NJ representative supporting caregivers across the lifespan for the Caregiver Action Network (formerly National Family Caregivers Association) in a volunteer capacity at or FB


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