News from Idaho SILC

ABLE Accounts and Independent Living

Many Idahoans with disabilities are caught between needing federal and state benefits, like SSI and Medicaid, and asset restrictions inadvertently work to keep these people living in poverty. Asset restrictions prevent people from saving money for future goals or unexpected expenses, penalizing those who save more than $2000 by cutting benefits. ABLE accounts are a financial tool that can help level the financial playing field and expand independent living opportunities for Idahoans with disabilities.
    An ABLE account allows eligible individuals to accumulate more than $2000 in assets without losing federally-funded, means-tested benefits. Fund in this account are not taken into consideration when determining eligibility for these programs.
    In Idaho, several thousand individuals and their families depend on public benefits for health care, food, utility, and housing assistance. The passage of the  Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE) provides the opportunity to save money beyond typical resource limits in order to purchase qualified disability goods and services that will help them gain independence and choice without losing the assistance they need.
    Anyone who has a significant disability with a documented onset before turning 26 years of age is eligible to open an ABLE account. Eligibility can be established by a letter of certification from a doctor documenting a disability with functional limitations; receiving Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance; or by being medically eligible for SSI or SSDI benefits.
    A qualified disability expense is any expense related to an individual as a result of living with a disability, including education, housing, transportation, training and support, assistive technology, ramps, eye glasses, personal assistant services, health care expenses not covered by insurance, financial management services. Currently the IRS has ruled basic living expenses, including food, clothing and utilities, also qualify.
    The annual contribution for a single year is $15,000, which is also the maximum amount you can gift to a person without reporting it to the IRS. You can also contribute an amount equal to the amount of your current year gross income, up to $12,140, in addition to the annual standard contribution. The limit is $100,000 before your SSI cash benefit is suspended, but you do not lose Medicaid eligibility. If the ABLE account owner passes away, the state Medicaid program may file a claim against the account to reclaim expenses.
    While Idaho does not offer an ABLE program, eligible Idahoans may sign up for out of state programs. A group is currently working to see if Idaho should establish its own ABLE program. If you are interested in helping advocate for this contact the Idaho State Independent Living Council at 208-334-3800.