ABLE United FAQs: Floridians with disabilities, read this!

ABLE United Logo ABLE United FAQs: Floridians with disabilities, read this!

ABLE United sponsored this post, but all thoughts are my own.  

Attention Floridians with disabilities or those who have loved ones with disabilities living in Florida!!!  ABLE United launched over the summer and is a fantastic program for helping people with disabilities financially plan for the future.

I worked with at risk children and families for years. I adopted a child from the foster care system who has special emotional needs.  I’ve met hundreds (maybe thousands!) of parents of children with a wide variety of special needs through adoption groups, writing about parenting and working in the fields of social services and education.

All parents stress about their child’s future.  But the parents I just mentioned?  I stress times ten.

Our kids need us so much more – and might always need that extra help.

ABLE stands for “Better Life Experience” and that’s just what it does.  It helps families take some of the financial burden away.  There’s so much more to life than money, but money (or lacking it) sure does overshadow on all the the other stuff sometimes.  Financial security means a better chance for a higher life quality.

Here’s what you need to know about ABLE!  The folks at ABLE have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the program.  Here’s the scoop.  Learn more at www.ableunited.com.  They have an eligibility wizard to help you determine if you or your loved one might qualify.

Frequently Asked Questions About ABLE United

Q: What is the ABLE Act?

The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, a federal law enacted in December 2014, authorizes each state to establish a program that offers tax-free savings and investment options to encourage individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support health, independence, and quality of life. Money contributed to an account in one of these programs is generally disregarded when determining eligibility for federal benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.
In July 2015, the state of Florida created the ABLE United Program which launched on June 8, 2016.

Q: What is the ABLE United Program?

The ABLE United Program is the qualified ABLE program offered by the state of Florida. The Program is administered by Florida ABLE, Inc. a direct-support organization of the Florida Prepaid College Board (Board). The Board, established in 1987, oversees approximately $15 billion in collective investments in the Stanley G. Tate Florida Prepaid College Program and the Florida 529 Savings Program.

Q: What is an ABLE account?

An ABLE account is a tax-free savings and investment account established to support qualified disability expenses for an individual with a disability, including living expenses. Money in an ABLE account is generally disregarded when determining eligibility for federal benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.
The ABLE United Program is the qualified ABLE program offered by the state of Florida. ABLE accounts in the ABLE United Program are referred to as ABLE United accounts.
Eligibility

Q: Who may open an ABLE United account?

There are three eligibility criteria for opening an ABLE United account:

  • (1) Disability Severity Criteria
    The individual must be blind or have a disability that meets the disability and severity requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
  • (2) Disability Onset
    The onset of blindness or disability must have occurred before the individual’s 26th birthday. Current age is not considered when opening an ABLE United account – except that the account must be opened by an adult 18 years of age or older.
  • (3) Florida Residency
    The individual must be a Florida residential the time of application.

Q: Does my condition meet the eligibility requirements for an ABLE United account?

An individual meets the disability and severity criteria to open an ABLE United account if at least one of the following are true:

  1. The individual receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  2. The individual has a condition on the List of Compassionate Allowances Conditions maintained by the Social Security Administration.
  3. The individual has a diagnosis from a physician that the individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitation(s), and which can be expected to result in death, or has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

The Internal Revenue Service categorizes eligible disabilities as follows:

  • Developmental Disorders: Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Developmental delays and learning disabilities
    Intellectual Disability: May be reported as mild, moderate, or severe intellectual disability
  • Psychiatric Disorders: Schizophrenia, Major depressive disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anorexia Nervosa, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), Bipolar Disorder
  • Nervous Disorders: Blindness, Deafness, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida, Juvenile-onset Huntington’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Severe sensorineural hearing loss, Congenital cataracts
  • Congenital Anomalies: Chromosomal abnormalities, including Down Syndrome; OsteogenesisImperfecta, XerodermaPigmentosum, Spinal muscular atrophy, Fragile X Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome
  • Respiratory Disorders: Cystic Fibrosis
  • Other: Includes Tetralogy of Fallot, Hypoplastic left heart syndrome, End-stage liver disease, Juvenile-onset rheumatoid arthritis, Sickle cell disease, Hemophilia, and any other disability not listed

Q: How will an ABLE United account affect my federal and state benefits?

An ABLE United account is disregarded when determining federal and state benefit eligibility with the following two exceptions for individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI):
1. For the purposes of determining eligibility for SSI, money in an ABLE United account in excess of $100,000 is considered an asset to the individual with a disability and may cause SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended. An account balance up to and including $100,000 is disregarded.
2. A withdrawal that will be used for a housing expense but that is not spent in the same month will be considered an asset of the individual with a disability and may cause SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended.
There is no impact on Medicaid benefits, regardless of how much money is in the ABLE United account, even if SSI benefits are reduced or suspended due to the ABLE United account.
To determine whether your specific state benefits may be impacted, please contact your provider.

Q: How do I access funds in an ABLE United account?

Money in an ABLE United account may be withdrawn at any time and for any reason via electronic transfer or check. If the money is spent on one of the following Qualified Disability Expenses, which are intended to include “living expenses” and are not required to be medically necessary, the earnings on the money withdrawn is tax-free:
– Health
– Education
– Housing
– Transportation
– Legal Fees
– Financial Management
– Employment Training and Support
– Assistive Technology and Personal Support Services
– Oversight and Monitoring
– Funeral and Burial
– Other expenses approved by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

Q: Do withdrawals require approval from the ABLE United Program?

No. The ABLE United Program does not approve withdrawals from an ABLE United account. Money may be withdrawn from an ABLE United account at any time and for any reason.

Q: Who determines whether my expense is a Qualified Disability Expense?

Each year, the ABLE United Program will report the total amount of distributions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of our annual tax reporting. The IRS may investigate the distributions from an ABLE United account to determine if a withdrawal was for a Qualified Disability Expense.
In addition, the ABLE United Program will report the date and amount of each distribution from an ABLE United account to the Social Security Administration monthly. If the individual with a disability receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Medicaid, the Social Security Administration may investigate any distribution to determine if the withdrawal was for a Qualified Disability Expense.
In general, we recommend that documents and information adequate to justify each expense as qualified be retained by the individual or person administering the ABLE United account on their behalf.

Q: How do I open an ABLE United account?

You may open an ABLE United account quickly and easily online at ableunited.com. Enrollment may be completed by the individual with a disability or someone with legal authority over the individual, such as a parent or legal guardian.

Q: Who may contribute to an ABLE United account?

Anyone may contribute to an ABLE United account on behalf of the individual with a disability, including the individual, an employer, friends and family. Contributions are considered a completed gift.

Q: Is there a limit to the amount of money that may be contributed to an ABLE United account?

The individual with a disability and others contributing on their behalf, may contribute up to $14,000 in total to an ABLE Account each year.
Contributions are not allowed if and when the account balance is at, or above, $418,000.

Q: Who owns and manages an ABLE United account?

The individual with a disability is the owner of the ABLE United account and may manage the account independently. However, if the individual is not able or chooses not to establish or manage the account, a parent, legal guardian or someone authorized by the individual may establish and oversee the account.

Q: How are the funds in an ABLE United Account invested?

The ABLE United Program offers multiple savings and investment options with varying degrees of investment risk. An individual with a disability, or an authorized person on their behalf, may choose the most appropriate option(s). The underlying savings and investment products for each investment option are managed by professional investment management firms selected by the ABLE United Program based on investment philosophy and strategy; performance history; and organizational experience and financial stability.

Ready to find out if you qualify?  Visit the eligibility wizard to get started.

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