Three Important Perspectives on The ABLE Act

Posted by Patty Manko on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 @ 12:40 PM



The Able Act was signed by President Obama on December 19, 2014.  This piece of legislation provides an opportunity for an individual with special needs to have assets over $2,000 in an account other than a trust account and not disqualify him or her for Medicaid Based benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  

The Able Act is an enormous boost to raising the awareness of families that they have to save and plan for their child with a disability. While the benefits to families provide a lot to be excited about and thankful for, families should be cautioned about the plan's shortcomings and be aware that it is not the solution for everyone.  

To read a description of the legislation, you may click these links from National Down Syndrome Society and Autism Speaks

There are many details about the law to be considered before you decide to use an Able account.  The following are 3 situations in which the plan may apply.

  1. Individuals with disabilities may save money for the long-term. Currently, an individual with disabilities is penalized if they try to save money for themselves. The Able act provides them the opportunity to build investments for the long term. Building off of similar legislation for 529 college savings plans, the Able accounts are investment accounts and will have expenses associated with the plan's administration. This account should not be used as a substitute for a checking or savings account.
  2. Eliminating the need for a “spend down”.  An Able account will be a great tool to use when an individual with disabilities is close to turning 18 and has greater than $2,000 in his or her name.  This is because at and over age 18, an individual cannot have greater than $2,000 in his or her name to qualify for SSI.  Currently there are two options: assets have to be “spent down” to get them below $2,000 or assets are transferred to a “Payback” Special Needs Trust.  Abruptly spending the money down can be wasteful. Unless the assets are somewhat significant, the expense of setting up the trust can offset the benefit.  Under the Able Act this money could be deposited in an Able Account.  However, if the assets are significant, a trust is likely the best option. 
  3. Parental awareness of savings limits and government reimbursement. The Able account may be used for parents to save for their child’s long term needs but there are trade-offs. There are limits on what can be saved annually and there are limits on the total that can be saved.  In addition, there is a clause requiring reimbursement of Medicaid benefits in the event the child passes away.  

We will keep you informed with updates about the  Able Act and its implementation to help you decide  how and when to incorporate the Able Accounts in your own personal planning. Please contact us with questions or for further discussion.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended as tax or legal advice. Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Prior to investing in an ABLE account investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's ABLE program. Please consult with your tax advisor before investing.




Tags: disability legislation

What The Shutdown Means For Disability Services

Posted by Patty Manko on Thu, Oct 03, 2013 @ 12:17 PM

disability absence management resized 600By Michelle Diament | October 1, 2013


As the first U.S. government shutdown in more than 17 years takes hold, some programs benefiting people with disabilities will continue with business as usual while others grind to a halt.

The shutdown, which began Tuesday, comes after Congress failed to reach a deal to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year starting in October. Under a shutdown, some services considered “essential” will continue operating while many other government activities will come to a standstill as 800,000 federal workers are sent home until a new budget takes effect.

Here’s a look at how the shutdown will impact programs that people with developmental disabilities rely on:

SOCIAL SECURITY Benefit payments will continue to be distributed on schedule to individuals receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. Local offices will be open, but only to perform select services.

MEDICAID Services provided by Medicaid will largely proceed as usual since an advance appropriation ensured that states receive funding for the program on Oct. 1. However, disability advocates say they are worried that the shutdown could exacerbate payment delays that providers of long-term services and supports are already facing. “The long delays have put many of our affiliates in almost untenable cash flow positions and further delays may cause some to cease Medicaid services,” said Katy Neas, senior vice president of government relations at Easter Seals.

HOUSING The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will not be able to provide further funding to local housing agencies during the shutdown. However, most local agencies already have enough money to fund rental assistance vouchers for the month of October, more than half of which help the elderly and people with disabilities.

SPECIAL EDUCATION Schools won’t see much impact immediately, with states receiving $22 billion in special education funds on schedule this month from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education said.

DISABILITY RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT The U.S. Department of Justice says that civil litigation, which includes the enforcement of disability rights laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, will be “curtailed or postponed” to the extent possible.

RESEARCH Developmental disability surveillance programs — which track the prevalence of such conditions — will come to a halt during the shutdown, said Barbara Reynolds of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health will not make any new grant awards for research.

Copyright © 2013 Disability Scoop, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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Tags: disability services, disability supports, supports for special needs, disability legislation, special needs services, government supports

Planning for Life after Special Education in Massachusetts

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Feb 14, 2013 @ 02:38 PM

Ten Key Takeaways  from “A Full Life Ahead”

Planning for Life after Special Education in Massachusetts

Presented by Pamela Coveney, Disability Law Center, Boston, MA

10 key points

  1. Goals in the IEP should be specific and concrete.
  2. Document everything and be as specific as possible. These specifics can be used to measure your child’s progress toward goals as well as make all parties accountable.
  3. When discussing transitions be sure to focus not only on the academic skills, but the social skills as well.
  4. Your child should be objectively tested in order to obtain an accurate assessment. 
  5. Transition will be based upon assessment of your child’s strengths, interests and challenges.
  6. Be sure to sign and date the application.
  7. Keep records of the supports you are providing for your child.Include the smallest details of support you personally provide which are essential to your child’s well being. This will be very helpful in determining the level of supports required.
  8. You are not required to sign the IEP at the meeting, however do not reject the IEP proposal. Rejecting the IEP will waive your right to receive services. Instead, check the box Accept in Part/Reject in Part as this will keep the process in motion.
  9. Always follow up in writing.
  10. A MUST: Download the Transition Services Online Manual produced by the Disability Law Center. This is a treasure chest of information including templates for letters requesting evaluations and referrals.
Click here for information  about upcoming events in MA    Contact us for  further information
This is for informational purposes only and is not provided by, nor endorsed by, LPL Financial.

Tags: Special Needs Events in MA, disability legislation

Planning for Life after Special Education in Massachusetts

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 @ 03:19 PM

spec needs teen

A Full Life AHEAD

Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC), in partnership with Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC), will host a series of monthly workshops for parents and guardians of young adults with a disability.  The series will focus on transition, employment, housing and other topics that will help to give them interdependent full lives in their community.

Please join the first workshop on

Wednesday, January 30, 2013  

     “Planning for Life after Special Education

 in Massachusetts”


                                                          7:00 – 9:00 PM

MDSC Office 

20 Burlington Mall Road -- Suite 261

Burlington, MA 01803


Pamela Coveney Senior Attorney, Co-Team Leader of the Disability Law Center (DLC) Education Team, will discuss the several substantial topics included in the latest edition of “Planning for Life after Special Education in Massachusetts”.  Read and download this free manual at


This workshop will identify specific suggestions on how to develop comprehensive post-secondary vision statements, IEPs and transition plans, developing appropriate transition services for students, knowing various diploma options, best practices for family involvement and more.

Please RSVP to

** Mark your calendars** 

The next two workshop dates will be scheduled for February 20 and March 20.


Tags: Housing, Special Needs Financial Planning, friendship, disability legislation

Getting People With Disabilities the Jobs They Need

Posted by Patricia Manko on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 @ 04:57 PM

flag disabilities resized 600by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Last week, the U.S. Senate defeated the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). It was yet another brutal disappointment for Americans with disabilities. Sadly, despite the fact that America passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) twenty-two years ago, Americans with disabilities are no more likely to be employed todaythan they were before the ADA was the law of the land.

Billions in both private and public sector dollars were spent post ADA to fix sidewalks, transportation, and entrances to buildings so that people with disabilities could have access to the American dream -- education and job opportunities. However, only 27.6% percent of working age people with disabilities are actually working. This iscosting hundreds of billions in tax dollars each year for disability payments.

What's wrong, and why isn't more being done to end this crisis?

Thirty- seven years ago, America passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA mandated to state and local governments that children with disabilities had a right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that prepares them for further education, employment and independent living. Since then dedicated public education professionals -- teachers, therapists, superintendents of Public Instruction and others have gone to Herculean efforts to provide services for children with special needs.

Likewise, children with disabilities themselves, with strong support from parents, have gone enormous lengths to prepare for work and independent lives. The result is that many of today's young adults with disabilities have been able to accomplish vital academic and life skills and are ready for work. Additionally, because of breakthroughs, people who are blind or are unable to speak on their own can now use technology to succeed in ways previously only imagined.

Still, at age 22, when services for young Americans with disabilities run out, many can find themselves like a player in a game of musical chairs where when the music stops and there simply aren't enough jobs for them. They're out. Only this isn't a game. It's life.
With urging from Congressman George Miller, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently identified and evaluated 45 federal government programs that are intended to support employment for people with disabilities. Bottom line, our government's solutions for helping Americans with disabilities achieve the American dream -- work and independence -- are a mess. Coordination, performance metrics and transparency are desperately needed.
Thankfully, a talented bipartisan group of elected officials are now really bringing to focus on these issues. Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the HELP committee, is leading the way in the Senate with ranking member Senator Mike Enzi. In the House of Representatives two prominent Republicans, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Pete Sessions, both of whom have children with Down syndrome, are considering solutions through the prism of fiscal conservatism. The White House issued an executive order to hire a 100,000 qualified people with disabilities for open government jobs over time. Still, President Obama has yet to personally address this issue in a public forum. He can do much more.

At the state level, however, Gov. Jack Markell, Chair of the National Governor's Association, has made solving these challenges into his chair's initiative. His exciting work, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities, focuses on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities. He is bringing together public, private sector and non-profit leaders to come up with creative and bipartisan solutions that can enable people with disabilities to go from being dependent to independent.
Academic groups and healthcare providers, including the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, are also doing their part to learn how to prepare young people with disabilities for jobs and independence.

Today millions of Americans with disabilities who are educated, capable and willing are relegated to a life of miserable payments from the federal treasuries whose coffers are already bare. However, what they really need instead are transitional supports and an employer willing to see their ABILITIES, and not just their disabilities. As has been shown by Walgreens, Specialisterne and other companies that have hired people with disabilities, these employees can be exceptionally reliable, talented and profitable workers.

America can't afford financially or morally to pay people to stay home when supports to accommodate their special needs can enable them to work and be independent. There is a long way to go to solve these challenges and it cannot be done by the government alone. But enabling Americans -- including those with disabilities -- to achieve the American Dream is a goal worth fighting for.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who has a disability, is the co-founder of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Trust and is also the Founder & President of Laszlo Strategies. Mizrahi does not have a financial stake in this topic. Her firm and her charitable trust work to further causes related to medical science and disabilities.

Tags: disability legislation

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