Do I Qualify for an ABLE Account?

To open an ABLE account, you must have a disability that began before you turned 26 and that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) standards for adults (or that meets SSA’s standards for blindness, which are different).

You definitely qualify for an ABLE account if you get benefits from programs that use SSA’s disability standards. This includes Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Disabled Adult Child (DAC), Medicaid if it is based on your disability, or Freedom to Work.

Example

Karen is first hospitalized with schizophrenia at 16. She starts getting SSI at 24 when her illness makes it impossible for her to keep working full-time. At age 30, Karen is able to work part-time for a few hours a week while keeping her health benefits under Freedom to Work.

Karen opens an ABLE account, which lets her save some of her earnings each month without affecting her benefits. Her parents deposit another $200 a month into Karen’s ABLE account, also without affecting Karen’s benefits. At the end of 12 months, Karen has $4,000 in her ABLE account. Karen can keep that money in her ABLE account and let it continue to grow or spend it on disability-related expenses, like housing, training, or transportation.

If you don’t get disability-based benefits, you can still qualify for an ABLE account by “self-certifying” that your disability meets SSA’s standards. To do this, a doctor must document the fact that your disability meets SSA’s standards, but with one major difference. Instead of saying that your disability limits your earnings, for self-certification for an ABLE account, the doctor must verify that your disability causes “marked and severe functional limitations.”

Generally, this means that your disability must be on Social Security’s List of Impairments or be at least as severe as an impairment that is on that list. Conditions on Social Security’s list of Compassionate Allowances Conditions also usually qualify.

Example

At 25, Carlos is hit by a car and becomes quadriplegic. He has some savings in the bank, so he doesn’t qualify for SSI benefits. Carlos wants to invest some of his money in an ABLE account to take advantage of the tax benefits, so his doctor documents the fact that Carlos meets the SSA adult disability guidelines.