Empire Justice Center July 31, 2020

Congress established ABLE accounts (Achieving a Better Life Experience) in 2014 as tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible individuals to save money that could be used to pay for qualified disability expenses without jeopardizing eligibility for various government assistance programs.  In the October 2017 edition of the Disability Law News, we outlined the provisions of ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts, which are available to New York residents.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued clarifying POMS in 2018, which we described in our May 2018 edition.


In March 2020, SSA revised POMS SI 01130.740 governing ABLE accounts. The new provisions provide additional information to adjudicators about the types of expenses on which an ABLE account’s proceeds can be spent while still retaining the qualified disabled beneficiary’s eligibility for Medicaid and other means-tested public benefits, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Section 8 housing benefits, heating assistance (LIHEAP), and food stamps (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)).


In particular, the new guidance clarifies that food purchased with an ABLE account’s proceeds can be a qualified disability expense. The distribution from the ABLE account, to the extent used to purchase food, will not be considered in kind support and maintenance (ISM) and therefore will not place the individual in excess of the SSI income limit. The ABLE account beneficiary will not be disqualified from SSI benefits or be subject to a reduction of the SSI benefit amount due ISM.