Missouri parents are at risk of losing federal benefits for their children with disabilities if they put too much money into a savings account for those kids. The State Treasurer’s Office administers a program called MO ABLE, to help these families save up to $16,000 per year, tax-free, without the fear of losing benefits like social security and Medicaid.
State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick says some people with disabilities can work and they can save some of that income through a MO ABLE account.
“But because of the means testing requirements and the fact that essentially they have to be able to access these benefits, Medicaid is important for a lot of these folks, that means testing means that they’re not allowed to keep the money that they make. So, they either have to spend it on things they may not want or need in order to stay under the asset limit or try to hide that money, which is not a position you want to put these individuals in it,” says Fitzpatrick.
Chris Guyer, of southwest Missouri’s Springfield, says the program has given his family a sense of relief.
“If they do get on disability, it isn’t considered an asset and that is by far the first and foremost thing that’s important,” he says. “It’s 100% guaranteed, but it’s also non countable asset wise. Like you said, the biggest relief that I received from knowing that I’ve got money banked in for their future when their expenses get larger, especially once they leave the house.”
Guyer says the program has been a safe investment to store money for his two children with autism.
“This is the real deal,” Guyer says. “Nobody’s out there to take your money because there’s a lot of things out there that people want to help you to be able to take cash away from your kids.”
Nearly 3,000 other Missouri families see a value in having a MO ABLE account. After five years of existence, Missouri has one of the largest ABLE programs in the country.
To qualify, the individual must have a marked or severe physical or intellectual
disability. The onset of the disability currently must occur prior to the age of 26. Fitzpatrick says he is working with Congress to change the federal age limit to 40.
“There are a lot of disabled veterans who fought in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who became disabled through their service in the military. That maybe happened after they were 26 years old. And there’s a lot of other people who aren’t veterans that had some sort of life event that caused the onset of a disability to occur after the age of 26. And so, we’d like to see that expanded to where more people can use it,” he says.
Guyer says understanding how the program works can be a bit of a challenge, but he says the State Treasurer’s Office has been helpful.
Fitzpatrick, who has two sons with autism, says the public can call his office for more information.
“One thing that I think can be a hang-up for some people is anybody that has kids with special needs or that have been through this process understands that navigating all the resources out there and it’s sometimes can feel like a house of cards when you get everything in place. A lot of people are hesitant to change anything or do anything new because they don’t want to mess anything up in terms of causing themselves or their family member to become ineligible for some of these things that they have to have to survive. And MO ABLE, it does work. It does provide that protection. You can have up to $100,000 in a MO ABLE account before it’s a countable resource at that point.”
The money can be invested in a variety of ways. Anyone who contributes to one of these accounts gets a tax deduction.
To listen to the Show Me Today interview, click below.
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