Many Missourians with disabilities are living with a parent or guardian and need some type of support for life. The ABLE act is a forward-looking solution to help these families prepare for the future care of their family members with special needs. Individuals with disabilities depend on services and benefits for their income, healthcare, food, transportation, housing, and other needs just to fulfill minimum living requirements. Today there are strict financial guidelines these individuals must adhere to in order to be eligible for assistance from public benefit programs, such as SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid. The financial limits and stringent rules placed on the benefits oftentimes can put these needy individuals in dire straits, or force them into severely destitute conditions.
It is reported there are 58 million disabled Americans in the U.S. today, and about 10% (or 5.8 million) of those individuals and their families will meet the eligibility requirements to establish an ABLE account. To set up such an account, individuals must have had their disability before turning 26 years of age. They must either have been born with the disability or have acquired it before their 26th birthday. Anyone who becomes disabled after this age will not be eligible, and documentation will be required as proof the disability was present before age 26. A major argument being voiced in opposition to the ABLE Act centers on the age requirement, as any person at any age can become disabled. Unfortunately, there are no age restrictions on persons becoming disabled.
Individuals meeting the age requirement and who are receiving government benefits are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account or have someone else establish it on their behalf. The total yearly maximum contribution (or gift) that any one person can make to that account, including from family and friends, is $14,000 annually. This is the amount that falls under the gift tax exclusion. The total contribution that can be deposited into an ABLE account without penalty or losing benefits is $100,000. If the ABLE account exceeds the $100,000, SSI benefits will be suspended and the disabled individual will no longer receive those monthly checks. However, they will still be eligible for Medicaid.
Responsibility lies with each state for creating an ABLE program for its disabled residents. If a state chooses not to establish such a program, there are still opportunities for disabled individuals to qualify for this program under another state’s program. Seven states already have the ABLE law in effect and are waiting on federal guidelines, while another 28 states have legislation pending. Kansas and Missouri only lack their governor’s signature.
Numerous disabled individuals are already dealing with significant handicaps, and strapping the existing restrictive regulations on them is not beneficial. The ABLE Act is designed to help ease some of that restriction and allow qualifying persons to have more of the much needed benefits to assist them in their daily living, work, and schooling. It is perhaps the first public policy that takes into consideration the cost of living for disabled individuals and their families. Overall reaction to the ABLE Act has been very positive, not only in Missouri but nationwide as well.