Who Wouldn’t Want a Better Life for Someone Special?

Who Wouldn’t Want a Better Life for Someone Special?

Recent enhancements to the ABLE Act for Kansas residents is a victory for families!

For people living with special needs, financial planning has long been restrictive and complicated. Those who receive benefits through the government are severely limited in their personal finances. In order to continue receiving those benefits, they will typically have a $2,000 resource limit, which means they can never have more than that amount in their personal accounts, rendering them virtually impoverished.

Imagine what it must be like for a young person with a disability, growing into adulthood and never being able to truly save and make long-term financial plans.

That’s why my family and I were very proud to witness some important enhancements to the ABLE Act for Kansans in May 2018. ABLE stands for “Achieving a Better Life Experience,” and it’s a program that provides accounts that people disabled before age 26 can save money beyond that $2,000 limit. It’s a nationwide bill that was passed in 2015, and then administered by each state accordingly. Now in Kansas, a contributor to an ABLE account will be able to deduct up to $3,000 per year from their state income, $6,000 for a married couple.  In addition, they have waived the “Medicaid Clawback” upon death, which would have caused the family to pay back any Medicaid support that the individual received during their life, assuming there was a balance left in the account.

Now, those with disabilities are no longer restricted to live solely on government support.

This is life-changing legislation for people like my daughter, Lily, who has Down syndrome. Now we can make contributions to Lily’s ABLE account, as little as a $25 per month or as high as $15,000 per year. Today or in the future, we can use these funds for expenses that her disability benefits wouldn’t be able to cover.

This is so important, because young people living with disabilities have more opportunity than they’ve ever had growing up in today’s environment. They’re far more likely to go into higher education and/or work than those with disabilities in previous generations. Without this new program though, that might not be an option.

Think of it this way. The ABLE account is like a retirement plan for your child that starts now. Parents of children with special needs used to have to use their primary funds to make sure they could care for their child into adulthood, but ABLE allows families to start planning far in advance, greatly benefiting their entire family.

One of my favorite things about ABLE is that anyone can contribute to someone’s account. When our neighbor, Rachel, who also has Down syndrome, graduated from high school this past year, she passed out a link to her ABLE account and asked friends and family to make contributions. She’s already using it wisely to provide for a better future.

Rachel and her family were instrumental in getting the ABLE act passed on the federal level, and invited my family to advocate in Kansas. I can’t express how much of an honor it was to be present for the signing of the updated bill in Kansas with Lt. Governor Jeffrey Colyer, and to see Lily smile as she represented her community of people with Down syndrome.

While Lily doesn’t completely understand how much this means for her future, she does understand that someday she’ll now be able to work in an office, like her dad, and make her own paycheck. She’s made that part very clear to me!

If you know someone with a disability, help ensure that they know about this new opportunity. And if you’re a parent or grandparent, start contributing to your relative’s ABLE account now.

Wondering if you qualify? Those who were disabled before age 26 are generally eligible, but give us a call and we’ll help you sort it out. At Sound Stewardship, we’re more than happy to serve families who are blessed with kids with special needs.

Finally, I’d like to invite you to join me at the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City on the evening of August 23 for a brief presentation discussing the features and benefits of the ABLE accounts. Learn more here.

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