Living with a disability often comes with a lot of extra expenses. Millions of people with disabilities and their families rely on public benefits as their sole source of income. Historically, individuals receiving public benefits couldn’t report more than $2,000 in savings without losing their benefits, such as SSI and Medicaid. So, to remain eligible for these essential programs, an individual must remain poor.
Five years ago, this standard way of living changed. It was on this date, December 19, 2014, that the Achieving A Better Life Experience Act, better known as the ABLE Act, was signed into law. For the first time in public policy, the extra cost in living with a disability is recognized. That means, that for the first time, eligible individuals and their families will be allowed to save money without affecting their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other means-tested programs such as FAFSA, HUD and SNAP/food stamp benefits.
The ABLE Act amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code (the same code that makes SMART529 College Savings Plans possible) to create tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. With ABLE, the beneficiary of the account is the account owner, and income earned by the accounts will not be taxed.
Contributions to an ABLE account can come from many sources (the account beneficiary, family, friends) however, the contributions must be made using post-taxed dollars and will not be tax deductible for purposed of federal taxes. Effective May 30, 2019, if you are a West Virginia resident or tax payer with a West Virginia ABLE Account (WVABLE), you may take a state income tax deduction equal to your total contributions for the year.
A common misconception with ABLE accounts is that you have you have to be younger than 26 to be eligible for an account. ABLE account owners can be any age, as long as the onset of your disability occurred before your 26th birthday. There is proposed legislation before congress requesting that the age of onset be raised to the age of 46, which would open up eligibility to ABLE accounts to millions more across the country. Still not sure if you are eligible to open an ABLE account? There is a simple online eligibility quiz to help you find out!
Once you’ve established your ABLE (or WVABLE) account, your savings can be used to cover disability-related expenses from medical care, housing and transportation, to education and job training. Most importantly though, this savings vehicle will ease the financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities, bringing peace of mind to them and their families.