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NY ABLE Open for Business

October 31, 2017

The New York State “Achieving a Better Life Experience” (NY ABLE) program began enrolling participants this past August. NY ABLE is the culmination of federal and state legislation allowing people with disabilities the opportunity to save money without losing essential benefits and services. Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, spoke about NY ABLE, a 529A savings plan, at a recent press conference. He estimates more than 700,000 New York State residents will be eligible to participate in the program. The program has already received deposits in excess of $175,000 from New Yorkers with disabilities who want to save for their future needs.

NY ABLE is administered through the Comptroller’s Office by the firm currently managing the state’s 529 College Savings Plan. NY ABLE is enrolling participants on its website at  Applicants may apply by phone or submit the paper Enrollment form.  The ABLE administrator handles inquiries and applications by email at or by phone at (855)5NY-ABLE, or Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To be eligible for NY ABLE, individuals must prove they are qualified beneficiaries and New York State residents, and they must deposit a minimum of $25.00.  A qualified beneficiary is one who is currently eligible for SSI or SSD because of a disability that occurred prior to age 26. If not currently eligible for those programs, individuals may still qualify by certifying (or having a parent or guardian certify) they meet Social Security’s standard of disability for children under 18. NY ABLE does not require proof of eligibility to open an account. Rather, participants are advised to maintain relevant documents such as doctors’ letters or reports with diagnoses in case proof of eligibility is required at a later date. Once enrolled, a beneficiary may save $14,000 per year up to a maximum of balance of $100,000 while maintaining eligibility for benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Prior to the ABLE Act legislation, people with disabilities could manage excess resources and maintain eligibility for benefits and services through qualified trusts. Without a trust to hold these excess resources, an individual could quickly meet or exceed a program’s resource limit. SSI recipients, for example, are limited to $2000 in resources. Family members who wanted to help with expenses were unable to do so without risking an adverse effect on their loved one’s benefits. NY ABLE offers an alternative to the formal structure of a trust.  A NY ABLE account is opened in the beneficiary’s name, and the beneficiary can access funds directly through a checking account or with a debit card. The money in the account can come from the individual or from family or friends.

Qualified beneficiaries may use their NY ABLE savings for qualified disability expenses (QDEs). The proposed IRS regulations and comments advise the definition for QDEs should be “broadly construed.” See 26 C.F.R. 1.529A-2 (h)(1) and comments, at 80 Fed. Reg. 35602-35620 (June 22, 2015). For example, unlike the beneficiary of a trust, a qualified beneficiary of an ABLE account may use the money in an ABLE account for housing and avoid an SSI reduction for in-kind support and maintenance. A complete list of QDEs is found on the NY ABLE website. If a qualified beneficiary deposits personal income into an NY ABLE account, it will be counted by Social Security under the rules for income; it will not count toward the resource limits. Contributions to 529A accounts are not tax deductible and may be subject to tax and penalties if the funds are not used for QDEs.

Under these basic provisions, NY ABLE can be used by individuals with disabilities, their families, attorneys, advocates, and service providers to provide for current and future needs. Thanks to Jennifer Karr of the Empire Justice Center for this introduction to the rules of the program.  Below is a list of resources that provide an in-depth look at the regulations of the program and how participation may affect an individual’s eligibility for other types of benefits and services. 

1)  “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts,” by James R. Sheldon, Jr., Esq.,  2)  Social Security Administration, particularly POMS SI 01130.740.  3)  The ABLE National Resource Center is a resource for information on the programs throughout the country.


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