On April 3, 2017, Pennsylvania’s Treasury Department officially launched the ABLE Savings Program, which allows people with disabilities that started before age 26, and their families, to save money without jeopardizing eligibility for many public benefits programs. As noted in our March 2017 newsletter, individuals may deposit up to $14,000 per year in an ABLE account, which is a state-sponsored savings account. The entire balance of an ABLE account is not counted toward the resource limit to qualify for programs such as Medical Assistance (also called Medicaid), Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waivers, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Additionally, withdrawals from ABLE accounts are also not counted as a resource or as income, so long as the withdrawn money is spent on Qualified Disability Expenses (QDE). Qualified expenses include any expenses related to the individual’s disability which are made for the benefit of the individual, such as:
- Job training and support;
- Assistive Technology (AT);
- Personal support services;
- Health expenses;
- Legal fees;
- And more!
Most public benefits programs consider income as well as resources to determine who qualifies. Any increase in the value of an ABLE account due to interest or dividends is not treated as income when determining eligibility for these programs. In July 2017, DHS released Operations Memorandum #17-07-01 which provides guidance to county caseworkers on how to apply these income and resource rules when reviewing applications and renewals for these programs.
PHLP is pleased that Pennsylvania has taken this important step in protecting public benefits for the thousands of individuals with disabilities who have, up until now, been largely discouraged from saving money due to fear of losing their public benefits. Readers should also know that the Social Security Administration will not count up to $100,000 in an ABLE account as a resource when determining eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
For more information about setting up an ABLE account, visit www.PAABLE.gov or call 1-855-529-ABLE (2253). You can even set up an ABLE account online or by phone in a few simple steps. Please contact PHLP’s Helpline at 1-800-274-3258 for assistance if a County Assistance Office does not follow their policies about ABLE accounts or with further questions about how ABLE accounts impact eligibility for Medical Assistance and Waiver programs.