INVESTING IN MYSELF – AN ABLE ACCOUNT OWNER SPEAKS OUT
Wendy Settles is a young professional who works as a housing specialist for Impact Center for Independent Living in Alton, IL. She helps individuals with disabilities get out of nursing homes and into integrated community living. Wendy opened her ABLE account about a year ago.
“At first I thought ABLE was too good to be true. But I now know that having an Illinois ABLE account means financial security. I work most of the time, but there are times when I am not working, so I have to go back to being on SSI. I lost my work for 9 months when a grant I was working under was pulled and for most of that I was on unemployment, but for the last few months I had to go back on SSI. It would have put me at ease if I could have had an ABLE account, but they didn’t exist then.
Now, if I get laid off from my job, and I hope I won’t, I will have some savings to help get me through until I land a new job. If I live only on SSI, it barely covers my rent. I don’t know what I would do without ABLE. It reduces stress and I don’t have to worry as much because of my Illinois ABLE account.
Right now I use the checking account option. It’s there as my safety net. I've already reached my first goal which was to save enough money for a down payment on an accessible vehicle. Eventually, I would like to buy a house. And I would like to work toward my master’s degree in public administration. I have a long way to go, but I am saving for it.
Once the people I serve get out into the community, ABLE will play a role for them too. It was so easy to set up and now I try to explain to others who feel the way I felt. I talk about it all the time because it is such an awesome program.
I don’t understand the age restriction for something like this because disability can happen at any age. I was born with my disability, but I know a lot more people with acquired disabilities than with disabilities from birth. That age restriction is arbitrary. I don’t understand it. It’s very discriminatory.”
Thanks Wendy! We are working right now with lawmakers in Congress to raise the age qualification limit to 46 from 26.
DO YOU QUALIFY FOR ABLE?
Tips to get the most out of “A Better Life Experience” accounts
If the symptoms of your disability were present before age 26 and your disability meets the definition of used by the Social Security Administration, you qualify to open an ABLE Account. If your disability was diagnosed after 26 but you have a written certification from a physician that it was present before age 26, you qualify to open an ABLE account.
For example, Mary is an adult with a mental health disability. Her symptoms were present during her teens, but she received her written diagnosis from a doctor when she was 28. Her doctor noted that her symptoms were present starting at age 14 and that her disability meets the Social Security definition of ABLE. Mary can open an ABLE account!
You can open an ABLE account even if you are not receiving federal means-tested benefits, such as SSI, as long as you meet the age and disability qualifications, and you have documentation for your physician.
If you are unable or uncomfortable managing your own ABLE account, an authorized individual can open and manage your account for you. To learn more visit Illinois ABLE.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ILLINOIS ABLE!
More than $1.3 million have been invested in Illinois ABLE in the first year of this groundbreaking program that fosters greater financial independence and quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families!
Through the Illinois Achieving a Better Life Experience program, individuals, families and friends can contribute a total of up to $15,000 each year into a an account owner’s ABLE account and the account balance can reach $100,000 without causing the account owner to lose, or lose access to, federal means-tested benefits such as SSI. AND, if you are an ABLE account owner who is working and earning money you can deposit more than $15,000 maximum annual limit when you deposit your earnings into your ABLE account. No more $2,000 SSI asset limit with an ABLE account.
For more information or to open an account, visit Illinois ABLE.
TRUE OR FALSE? I can only open an ABLE account in the state where I live.
FALSE – You can open your ABLE account in any state that has an ABLE program and that is available for enrollment by residents of other states. However, it is a good idea to look at your own state’s program first before choosing a program. That is because there may be benefits to you in your state’s program, for example a state tax deduction for contributions or lower account maintenance fees.