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Bridges Blog Financial Resources Series: ABLE Accounts, April 2021

Who Qualifies for an ABLE Account, and How Can Funds Be Spent?

The second in a four-part series: ABLE Accounts—Are They for Me? Series.

This month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explores ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts so that you can decide if they would work for you and your needs. In this second installment of the series, we learn about who can have an ABLE account and on what ABLE funds can be spent.

April: ABLE Accounts—Are They for Me? Series

Part 1: What are ABLE Accounts, and What Are the Benefits? (April 6)

Part 2: Who Qualifies for an ABLE Account, and How Can Funds Be Spent? (April 13)

Part 3: How Much Can Go into an ABLE Account, and How Can I Set One Up? (April 20)

Part 4: Other Important Information about ABLE Accounts (April 27)

Who qualifies for an ABLE account?

ABLE account eligibility and SSI eligibility are different. Many people will qualify for both, but there are people who will qualify for one but not the other.

Eligibility for an ABLE account requires the following:

  1. Age of disability onset
    1. Must have met the disability requirement before reaching the age of 26
    1. If older than 26, must prove that disability occurred before 26th birthday
  2. Disability
    1. Uses Social Security definition of disability
      1. If you receive SSI or SSDI and meet the age of onset requirement, you are qualified.
      1. If you would qualify for SSI or SSDI based on disability (but do not meet other requirements for those programs)
    1. Alternatively, “For the current tax year have filed a valid disability certification with the Secretary of the Treasury.”
  3. Authorized to open the account
    1. A beneficiary age 18 or older OR
    1. An Authorized Legal Representative (ALR) for the beneficiary
      1. If the beneficiary is older than 18, must be an individual who has been appointed as “Power of Attorney, Legal Guardian, or Conservator for the Beneficiary.
      1. May be a parent if beneficiary is younger than 18

How can I spend money in my ABLE account?

Qualified Distribution Expenses (QDEs)

ABLE account funds can be spent on a wide variety of items, such as:

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Employment training and support
  • Assistive technology and related services
  • Personal support services
  • Health
  • Prevention and wellness
  • Financial management and administrative services
  • Legal fees
  • Expenses for ABLE account oversight and monitoring
  • Funeral and burial
  • Basic living expenses

Expenses that fit into any of these categories are considered qualified disability expenses (QDEs). ABLE account distributions for QDEs are tax-free and do not affect SSI eligibility.

Getting money out of your ABLE account

Different state ABLE accounts provide different ways of withdrawing your ABLE funds for QDEs. Most plans offer withdrawals by check and electronic transfer to a bank. The Maryland ABLE account offers several methods for withdrawing funds, including electronic transfers to a bank account or for automatic bill pay, prepaid cards, and checks. Please note that some of these methods have fees associated with them, so you’ll want to determine which method is best for you.

ABLE distributions are not income

There are strict limits on the amount of income an individual can receive while receiving SSI. However, distributions from an ABLE account are not included as income. It doesn’t matter whether it is a qualified distribution or not; ABLE account distributions are NOT income for SSI purposes.

SSI considers ABLE account distributions a change in resources. The rules are quite specific and the type of expense is part of the determination of whether the distribution counts as an SSI resource. To find out more, please reach out to the Free Bridges Transition Helpdesk for more information.

Next week, we nail down the details of ABLE accounts in the “How Much Can Go into an ABLE Account, and How Can I Set One Up?” Tuesday Transition Tip from the Free Bridges Helpdesk.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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