New savings accounts protect disability benefits

by Joseph Dits South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND (August 23, 2017) — Indiana officials have launched a new savings program that will save people with disabilities from an old issue: Losing out on Medicaid and Social Security benefits once they accumulate more than about $2,000 in their accounts.

The new INvestABLE account was born out of federal law created under President Barack Obama, then adopted last year under former Gov. Mike Pence. It allows those who qualify to deposit up to $14,000 per year, with a maximum balance of $450,000. Also, savings under $100,000 aren’t considered as part of their limits for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

On Tuesday, 3-year-old Asher Reed of Edwardsburg became a sort of poster child. He was a blur. After state Treasurer Kelly Mitchell announced the new program at the nonprofit Logan Center, Asher was on his feet. He orbited around a reporter, then played with his three sisters and then, when he needed to communicate with his family, tapped a grid of symbols on a special iPad.

With a range of disabilities, from autism to hearing loss and cysts in his kidney, his mom, Emily Carroll doesn’t know what kind of future she and her husband will save financially for Asher. Will he live on his own in an apartment? Would this bright kid go to college? And if he got a job, she said, would it cover all of his living expenses?

Carroll had quit her job as a case manager for the Department of Child Services to tend to Asher’s needs, knowing that “those early years are important for development.” That means they rely on income from her husband, Josh Carroll, who works as salad bar manager at Martin’s Super Market.

But they are also dealing with present-day costs — the iPad, the feeding tube and medical formula Asher uses for food, orthotics and medical bills — which is why, Carroll said, they appreciate help from Medicaid and Social Security.

State officials estimate that about 80,000 to 100,000 people would be eligible for the new savings account, but Mitchell, the state treasurer, said it’s hard to predict how many will tap into it. INvestABLE is for people who’ve had the onset of a disability before age 26 and who qualify for Social Security benefits.

The program became available in Indiana on July 27. The Indiana General Assembly has approved spending more than $255,000 to run the INvestABLE this fiscal year and nearly $236,000 in the following year, though officials expect it continue after that, said Catherine Seat, communications director for the treasurer’s office.

Several other states have signed on to it, as well, including Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky, as the list continues to grow, said Amy Corbin, Indiana’s ABLE project manager.

Mitchell said officials hope to hear feedback in the first year or two so they can improve how they communicate and get the word out.

 The structure of the program, though, is set by federal guidelines.

INvestABLE provides an investment account where the federal taxes on earnings are deferred. It has options for checking and debit cards.

Withdrawals from the account are tax free as long as they are used for certain expenses to improve a person’s quality of life, ranging from education to health, housing, transportation, legal fees, financial management, job training and support, basic living expenses, assistive services, funeral and burial.

Withdrawals that don’t qualify, though, could be subject to a federal income tax and 10 percent federal penalty fee, along with state and local income taxes.

More about INvestABLE

To set up an account or get details, call 888-609-3457 or visit in.savewithable.com. Or write to INvestABLE Indiana, P.O. Box 219342, Kansas City, MO 64121-9781.

jdits@sbtinfo.com

Story printed in the August 23 edition of The South Bend Tribune. 

 South Bend Tribune Photos by Joe Dits

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