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New law seeks to help disabled individuals save for expenses


The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monetary assistance to people with low incomes who are also either blind, disabled or at least 65 years old. However, people in this position typically need help from other resources, besides SSI benefits, to handle their living expenses. The same may be true for many Houston parents who are caring for a young person who is blind or disabled.

A new law that will soon take effect aims to further help families who are caring for minors and young adults suffering from severe disability or blindness. The law allows families to set up accounts to save and invest, without any tax liability, to fund future eligible expenses for certain disabled individuals. These savings and investment vehicles are called Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts, and are available to families who are caring for minors or young adults who have a severe disability or blindness before the age of 26.

One of the most important aspects of ABLE accounts is that they do not undermine the family's ability to also qualify for SSI benefits. In other words, if a family in Houston is already receiving SSI benefits to help support a blind or disabled youngster, taking advantage of an ABLE account will not affect those benefits.

The main idea behind ABLE accounts is that they give parents or guardians a way to set aside some money that can grow tax-free. The parent or guardian can then use that money to help the disabled beneficiary with future educational or other qualifying expenses. A disabled beneficiary can have as much as $100,000 in an ABLE account, while still qualifying for SSI and other benefits.

People in the Houston area who are caring for a younger person that is blind or otherwise disabled may want to look into their options for setting up an ABLE account. Like all other issues involving SSI and Social Security, however, it is important for people to fully understand the applicable law before taking any steps that could impact their benefits.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "New investment account aims to help young disabled individuals," Steve Rosen, Feb. 21, 2016

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