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How the ABLE Act Is Going to Help Me Succeed as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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In the 113th Congress in 2014, both houses of Congress passed the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act for short. This piece of legislation amended Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to create tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities.

Each state will be able to open their own ABLE savings program. An individual with a qualifying disability may save up to $14,000 annually, without losing access to means-tested benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. A maximum amount of $100,000 may be saved in an ABLE account before Social Security begins to count the amount against the asset limit for SSI. The money in these accounts may be withdrawn tax-free for use for qualifying disability expenses.

As a person who is on the autism spectrum, I want to work. I currently work part-time at Home Depot as the garden loader. Currently, I’m purposefully limiting myself to working no more than six hours a week; if I worked any longer than that, I would be at risk of losing my SSI and Medicaid benefits. SSI has a $2,000 asset limit for single disabled adults. In some states, the Medicaid asset limit is even lower than this. I am forced to choose between working more or losing access to the healthcare benefits and support I receive through Medicaid.

I saw an article late last year about Ohio’s ABLE Account program called STABLE Accounts. Ohio’s STABLE Accounts are open to anyone with a qualifying disability, nationwide, not just in Ohio. I opened my STABLE account recently, and I plan on funding it with some of the money I make from Home Depot. Next year, when I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, I am hoping to work a lot more than I do now that I have the security of the STABLE Account.

With my STABLE Account, I am optimistic that I will be able to work at least 20 hours a week, put some of that money away in my STABLE Account, and still keep my Medicaid benefits. My STABLE Account money will be there for me when I have a disability expense that needs to be paid for. I am incredibly thankful that Congress and the Ohio Treasurer’s Office made the STABLE Accounts possible. I now know that I will be able to work, and save, and achieve the independence I’ve always dreamed of having.

Follow this journey on Michael’s Portfolio.

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Thinkstock image by Chalabala

Originally published: April 11, 2017
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