Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act) was a success in many ways that enabled Pennsylvanians with disabilities to save and invest without the risk of losing important federal benefits.
However, advocates and government officials said the program can help more residents and is working towards widening eligibility. A move that they say could help younger veterans and more people who develop disabilities later in life.
Since its inception four years ago, the ABLE bill has passed the $ 50 million mark, and proponents say it is time for the bill to expand.
The ABLE Act is an austerity program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of the Treasury that provides people with disabilities and their families with the ability to save up to $ 100,000 without sacrificing eligibility for key government benefits such as Safety Income or Medicaid.
It also allows withdrawals from these accounts for qualified expenses related to their disabilities without owing federal or state taxes. The accounts are also exempt from state inheritance tax.
The average PA ABLE account is worth more than $ 10,000, which is $ 8,000 more than an account holder without an ABLE account could save to affect eligibility for other benefit programs.
According to the Treasury, that means nearly 5,000 Pennsylvanians with disabilities are so much closer to economic self-sufficiency.
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“It is an enormous accomplishment that the PA ABLE program has been so successful over the past four years,” said Stacy Garrity, Pennsylvania State Treasurer. “… This program has a positive impact on thousands of Pennsylvanians who work for their own and loved ones financial stability.”
Currently, the program is only available to people who have suffered a disability before the age of 26. Further requirements are:
- Eligibility for Additional Safety Income (SSI) benefit due to blindness or disability; or
- Entitlement to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits due to blindness or disability; or
- Self-certification of a similarly severe disability if there is no entitlement to SSI or SSDI. Demonstrated by:
- Blindness as defined by the Social Security Act (SSA); or
- A medically identifiable physical or mental impairment with pronounced and severe functional impairment that lasts or is likely to last for at least 12 consecutive months or leads to death; and
- Have a doctor sign a written diagnosis related to a disability.
Senator Bob Casey, author of the ABLE Act in 2014, recently introduced the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which raises the age threshold for tax-privileged ABLE accounts from 26 to 46 years.
“People with disabilities are less employed, more likely to be underemployed and twice as likely to live in poverty than their working age peers,” Casey said. “With fewer income opportunities and significant barriers to prevent this.” People with disabilities and their families are often in a difficult financial situation. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would help more than 1 million disabled veterans open ABLE accounts and help anyone acquiring disabilities between the ages of 26 and 46 achieve financial independence and economic stability. “
Caitlin Chasar, executive director of the Bucks County’s Center for Independent Living, described the original ABLE Act program as a trailblazer, especially for people with social security.
“It gives them an opportunity to save money if they couldn’t before. You can add up to $ 15,000 per year to the account as long as the person developed the disability before the age of 26 and is currently covered by social security.
“It gives people more opportunities to become more financially dependent, have more security, and buy things like a car, a house, or pay for rent,” added Chasar. “It really helps the disabled population. I think it’s a great program.”
Chasar pointed out the benefits of the program, which include the fact that the account is freely open and does not affect Medicaid or disability insurance.
The Bucks County Center for Independent Living offers a variety of services for people with disabilities in Bucks County free of charge.
And while the disability community in general celebrated the $ 50 million milestone, it also recognizes that more needs to be done.
Chasar said raising the eligibility age to 46 would help those who were not born with a disability or who developed their disability later in life, such as through an accident at work, to open an account in the future.
“We hope that this bill will be issued,” said Chasar. “My network is very supportive.”
Casey’s bill also received bipartisan co-sponsorship from nine colleagues and was also endorsed by Pennsylvania lawmakers.
“We believed from the start that this investment program was a constructive way to help families in difficult situations anticipate and meet their needs,” said State Senator Lisa Baker, D-20, problems and challenges facing the life-threatening emergencies if left unresolved. “