5 Little Known Facts: The ABLE Account and Social Security

Posted by Haddad Nadworny on Wed, Jun 05, 2019 @ 06:00 AM

The Special Needs Financial Planning Team John Nadworny, CFP, CTFA | Cynthia Haddad, CFP | Alexandria Nadworny, CFP,  CTFA

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  1. May Social Security benefits be deposited into an ABLE account? 

    • adult-blazer-cellphone-2_1081230Social Security Income (SSI) is a means-tested program. SSI is intended to pay for living expenses for individuals with disabilities who would otherwise have a difficult time paying for food & shelter. It makes sense to segregate the SSI in an account used to pay for living expenses and not deposit into the ABLE account. One exception might be If the recipient is getting close to having $2000 in resources, they may choose to deposit some funds into their ABLE account.
    • Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is an entitlement (not means-tested) program based upon the beneficiary’s earnings record. You may deposit SSDI into an ABLE account.
  2. What happens when a child has a disability under age 18, receives SSI and opens an ABLE account, and then becomes gainfully employed after age 18?

  • The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. The Social Security Administration has a two-part definition and you must meet both parts to get benefits.

    1. If a person of any age is able to earn Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), which is currently $1,220 gross per month, they will not be eligible to receive benefits from Social Security.
    2. The person must have a physical or mental condition expected to last 12 months or result in death that prevents them from earning SGA.

  • While this person may lose their SSI benefit, they may continue to contribute to their ABLE account- in fact, the ABLE to Work Act allows them to potentially contribute more! They may contribute the $15,000 annual limit PLUS their adjusted gross income or $12,140- the current federal poverty level, whichever is less, meaning they may contribute up to $27,140 in 2019. There is one caveat:  they are not allowed to participate in ABLE to Work and also participate in a workplace retirement or 401K plan.

  1. What is the status of child support and the ABLE account?

    • Child support is considered unearned income. Unearned income including pension, 401K, worker’s compensation payments, unemployment compensation, veteran’s benefits, rental income and child support payments can be deposited into an ABLE account. These income sources also follow the usual income counting rules for the public benefits program and cannot qualify you for additional benefits.
  1. Can you use the ABLE account to pay for housing expenses and avoid in-kind supports?
    • You can draw money from an ABLE account for housing expenses without it being considered an illegal transfer of funds. This would allow a parent or other family member to deposit money into the ABLE account to help pay living expenses.  If the money is given to the account holder directly, it is considered an In-Kind Support and may impact SSI.

  2. What is the status of Medicaid payback in Massachusetts and other states?

  • The Medicaid payback provision varies from state to state.
  • In Massachusetts, the state “may or have the potential” to claw back a portion of the proceeds an individual received from Medicaid from their ABLE account if they have one(minus any premiums they paid). In terms of ABLE, this claw back exists only during the period the ABLE account was in existence before their death. If they received Medicaid prior to the ABLE account-that portion is not included in the claw back- only the time period during the ABLE account applies. Before the claw back takes place, when an ABLE account owner passes away, the money in the ABLE account goes to the person’s estate. Prior to the claw back, the estate can pay funeral/burial expenses and any outstanding disability related expenses with the ABLE account however.  A person who receives Medicaid over a lifetime is likely to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars- with a smaller claw back potential.  Any potential claw back can be weighed with the benefits of ABLE overall.
  • Medicaid payback may only be avoided with a third-party special needs trust. Upon the beneficiary’s death, the proceeds will go to the secondary beneficiaries.

Read ABLE Basics, Strategies & Case Studies


MEFA, Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, Attainable Account

Fidelity Investments, Attainable Account

Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, https://aspe.hhs.gov/2019-poverty-guidelines







Tags: disability supports, Government Benefits, ABLE Account, Social security income

ABLE Account Contributions and Social Security Income (SSI)

Posted by Haddad Nadworny on Sat, Aug 18, 2018 @ 08:00 AM

The Special Needs Financial Planning Team  Cynthia Haddad, CFP | John  Nadworny, CFP | Alexandria Nadworny, CFP

We are committed to presenting complimentary educational workshops to  organizations and parent groups. We are currently booking presentations for Fall 2018/Spring 2019 season. Please click here to email Alex Nadworny or call 781-756-1804 . 

ABLEThe analysis and case study below are excerpted from a Case Summary series offered by the National Disability Institute's ABLE National Resource Center(ABLE NRC).  John Nadworny met Chris Rodriguez of the National Disability Institute at a meeting prior to the ABLE's passage and has worked with Chris and the ABLE NRC on a number of presentations and webinars educating the public about ABLE. We share below information from the case studies presented by ABLE NRC. The case serves to illustrate the impact of the ABLE Account on Social Security and Social Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. 

The ABLE Account offers an individual with a disability, which began before age 26, an opportunity to save funds in a dedicated account to meet " qualified disability expenses" that will allow them to improve health, independence and quality of life.  To view the benefits, limitations and rules related to the ABLE Account, see ABLE Accounts:10 Things You Need to Know

SSI is based on financial need and therefore impacted by any income received by the SSI beneficiary.  Note: SSDI is not a means-tested benefit and is not impacted by the ABLE account. In 2018, the maximum SSI federal benefit is $750/month with states supplementing this amount at their option. Unless income exclusions apply, any income received by the SSI recipient will effect the SSI monthly payment amount. The maximum countable resources a beneficiary is allowed is $2000. If resources go above $2000, the right to an SSI payment may be suspended.  If resources remain above $2000 for 12 months, the SSI is terminated.  

ABLE Account & SSI

A summary of SSI policies regarding ABLE: 

(Source: POMS SI 001130.740, https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0501130740.  )

 Contributions of the designated beneficiary to the ABLE account, from his or her monthly income (i.e., income other than SSI), will still count as income for SSI (subject to any income exclusions) and may result in a reduction to the SSI payment. Contributions from all others are excluded and not counted as income of the beneficiary.

• Earnings from the ABLE account are excluded and not counted as income or against SSI resource limits.

• Up to $100,000 of the account balance is excluded by SSI and not counted toward the $2,000 SSI resource limit.

• When the value of an ABLE account exceeds $100,000 and the amount above $100,000, combined with other resources, results in countable resources above $2,000, SSI payments are indefinitely suspended.

 Unlike the general SSI rules related to excess resources, SSI eligibility is not terminated after 12 months of excess resources related to the ABLE account. SSI payments will be restored once the overall countable resources are reduced to $2,000 or less. Under SSI’s ABLE policy, two years or several years could elapse and the beneficiary can return to SSI payment status when countable resources are again below $2,000.

 • When the SSI payment is suspended due to excess ABLE account resources, Medicaid eligibility will continue.(Note of caution to readers that while the cited policy does allow Medicaid to continue despite an ABLE account balance of more than $100,000, since Medicaid eligibility will be tied to SSI status in 41 states, we believe countable resources (other than the ABLE account) must still be below the $2,000 SSI resource limit in those states. In the remaining nine section 209(b) states, that opted to determine Medicaid eligibility separately, the ABLE account should still be an exempt resource but the person will have to meet any state-specific resource test to keep Medicaid. POMS SI 01715.010.)

 A Case Study of SSI being Impacted by an ABLE account

Source: ABLE National Resource Center


Mario has $101,500 in his ABLE account and $1,500 in his checking account. Since his countable resources are now $3,000 ($1,500 from ABLE account + $1,500 from checking account), his ABLE account has caused him to exceed the resource limit and his SSI payments are indefinitely suspended.

Mario continues putting money in his ABLE account for 24 more months and his indefinite suspension continues. Then, with the account balance standing at $107,000, he takes a $21,000 distribution to purchase a new car (a Qualified Disability Expense), dropping his account balance to $86,000 at a time when his checking account balance stands at $850. Since the ABLE account balance is below $100,000 it is once again exempt and his only countable resource is the $850 in his checking account. Mario’s SSI payments will be restored without the need for a new application. Mario had Medicaid eligibility continue when his SSI payments were suspended for 24 months based on excess resources caused by the ABLE account.

To read a more detailed case study and analysis, see ABLE National Resource Center. 

 The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide
specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended to be a substitute for specific
individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified
tax or legal advisor.

Prior to investing in an ABLE account investors should consider whether the investor's or designated beneficiary's home state offers amy state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such states's ABLE program.  Withdrawals used for qualified disability expenses are federally tax free.  Tax treatment at the state level may vary.  Please consult with your tax advisor before investing. 


Tags: disability supports, government supports, ABLE Account, Social security income

The 18.5%

Posted by Patty Manko on Fri, Nov 22, 2013 @ 03:12 PM

Anatomy of a Special Needs Child

Source: Anatomy of a Special Needs Child

Tags: disability services, disability supports, supports for special needs, special needs services

Welcoming Art Lovers with Disabilities

Posted by Patty Manko on Fri, Nov 01, 2013 @ 11:33 AM


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This article from the New York Times features the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Science, both in Boston, as having multimedia and multi-sensory resources for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the art alongside their family and friends without disabilities.

 Below, volunteer Annie Leist guides Mercedes Austin, 17, at the MFA in Boston.

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October 25, 2013

Welcoming Art Lovers With Disabilities


ON a recent Friday night, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York held its first public exhibition of original art made in its “Seeing Through Drawing” classes. Participants — all blind or partly sighted — created works inspired by objects in the museum’s collection that were described to them by sighted instructors and that they were also allowed to touch.

In another gallery, a tour in American Sign Language was followed by a reception for deaf visitors. And on select Fridays, new “multisensory stations” invite all guests — including those with a range of disabilities — to experience exhibits though scent, touch, music and verbal imaging, or describing things for people with vision impairment.

“The Met has a long history of accessibility for people with disabilities,” said Rebecca McGinnis, who oversees access and community programs. As early as 1908, the museum provided a “rolling chair” for people with mobility issues, and in 1913 held talks for blind public school children, she said. Today, there are programs for people with disabilities nearly every day.

Such efforts by museums are likely to increase. In 2010, about 56.7 million people, or 18.7 percent of the population, had some level of disability, according to the Census Bureau. And both the number and percentage of disabled Americans are expected to increase in coming years because of the aging of the population, greater longevity and more cases of certain types of learning disabilities, said the Open Doors Organization, a nonprofit group in Chicago serving disabled people.

“Museum designers have used a great deal of imagination, much more than is required by law, and do remarkable things,” said Lex Frieden, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and director of one of the regional centers to help compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Mr. Frieden, whose spinal cord injury after a traffic crash in 1967 left him a quadriplegic, said museums made commitments to accessibility before the 1990 law and even earlier federal legislation. The Smithsonian Institution has long been a leader in the field; its definitive guidelines to accessible exhibition design are used globally, he said.

Early adaptations to overcome barriers to sight were mirrors on ceilings, video screens at varying heights and lowered pedestals and cases “to a sweet spot of visual field” for all users, including wheelchair users, said Beth Ziebarth, director of the Smithsonian’s accessibility program.

Innovations continue. A new program allows families with children on the autism spectrum and cognitive disabilities to arrive before opening hours and to receive materials in advance to get familiar with the building and exhibits.

In a crowdsourcing effort, the Smithsonian last year began inviting visitors to provide audio descriptions on mobile devices of the nearly 137 million objects in its collection — an example of how measures primarily to help people with disabilities can often benefit the public.

Museum of fine arts boston      met
 Mobile Multimedia guide at the MFA Boston   Students at the Met in 1922 


Similarly, when the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston opened its Art of the Americas wing a few years ago, it took a universal approach to its mobile multimedia guide. Hannah Goodwin, the manager of accessibility, said if a person with a vision or hearing disability is visiting the museum with a nondisabled friend, “you use the same devices, with access to the same content.”

In Manhattan, the Whitney recently introduced vlogs — video tour blogs — whose segments are recorded by deaf hosts in American Sign Language. But since they are also captioned in English, they have become popular even among people without hearing impairments.

“It’s a brave new world out there” said Larry Goldberg, director of the National Center for Accessible Media, a research and development department at WGBH in Boston. “There is such a range of new technology, and museums are taking advantage of it.”

For example, the Art Institute of Chicago plans to experiment with 3-D printing to reproduce artworks and allow visitors, like those with Alzheimer’s disease, to explore the texture, scale and other sensory elements of objects in ways not otherwise possible.

The Guggenheim’s mobile app includes closed-captioning for videos; enlarged-text capability, verbal description tours and advanced screen-reader technology that enables full navigation through touch and voiced description of everything on the screen.

Indoor navigational services are coming to museums, Mr. Goldberg said, that are ideal for people with visual impairments. For example, ByteLight software translates location signals from modified LED lights to smartphone apps to help visitors interpret exhibits or navigate within the museum.

The Museum of Science in Boston expects to broaden its testing of ByteLight technology in coming months. “For indoor location awareness technology, it is the most promising,” said Marc Check, the museum’s director of information and interactive technology. “Technologies like GPS are effective outside, but much less precise inside.”

The museum is also experimenting with interactive touch-screen technology. It has built a large touch table, like a giant iPad, that will give people with visual and fine motor skill limitations access to content by swiping and gesturing. A prototype, Mr. Check said, is expected to be in place at an exhibit in the next few months.

Smaller museums are offering services for the disabled, too. In the summer the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., joined with local mental health agencies in a program for adults with mental health or substance abuse issues. The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh recently added nine newly acquired Rodin bronze sculptures to its touch tours. The Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida conducts off-site programs for residents of nursing homes and retirement centers who can’t visit the museum.

For exhibitions and performances at museums and other sites, the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., advises on things like assisted-listening systems or how to stage sensory-friendly productions. When Eric Lipp, executive director of Open Doors, wanted to improve accessibility at Chicago cultural institutions through its “Inclusive Arts and Culture Program” several years ago, he turned to the exchange.

Since then, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago has enhanced its services and outreach. Live audio description and American Sign Language interpretation during performances have improved in quality and are offered at more performances. New services have been introduced, like touch tours that allow blind and low-vision guests to go on stage before shows to become familiar with the space.

The Steppenwolf and others “go above and beyond,” said Mr. Lipp, who is partly paralyzed. “And they’ve done it for no other reason except the social benefits.”





Tags: disability supports, supports for special needs, Individuals with disabilities and the arts

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

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