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7/7/2017

Circleville Herald: Pickaway Co. man benefits from STABLE Account for disabled

Circleville Herald
By Steven Collins
July 7, 2017

CIRCLEVILLE — The Ohio Treasurer’s Office is seeking to reach more individuals with disabilities who might benefit from STABLE Accounts. The tax-free savings plans are a tool for people with disabilities to save more money and gain greater independence.

Mandi Merritt, press secretary with the Treasurer’s Office, said the STABLE Accounts were first launched in June of last year, and more than 3,500 people have enrolled so far.

“Ohio was the first in the nation to launch STABLE Accounts,” she said. “They are tax advantage savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. There is a limit in place where individuals with disabilities cannot save more than $2,000 without losing their healthcare. With STABLE Accounts, it’s protected, and you’re able to save up to $14,000 a year and still keep your benefits.”

Doug Jackson, STABLE Account deputy director with the Treasurer’s Office, said people with disabilities used to lose all of their support when they reached a certain amount of savings.

“Literally, at $2,001, you lose your Medicaid which pays for transportation, doctors, in home supports,” he said. “When you lose all of that, you lose all of your independence and you lose your Supplemental Security Income, which is your income you use for housing and food. So you’ve lost everything at $2,001, and this takes away that problem.”

Jackson said millions of people nationwide qualify.

“You can save $100,000 before Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is affected and $445,000 before Medicaid is affected; it’s vastly different,” he noted of a STABLE Account. “It’s not just for people with developmental disabilities, which is what the board serves. You have to broaden your definition of disability to include mental health, addictions, wounded warriors, as well as many medical conditions. Oftentimes, when we come to a board of DD, people know they’ll qualify for it, but it’s much bigger than that.”

Merritt said having a STABLE Account meant that individuals with disabilities can now focus more on working and being a part of the community and not having to make sure they don’t have too many assets.

“You can be empowered to work more hours, put your money from a job in there and contribute to society in ways you couldn’t before,” she said. “You can really have a more normal life.”

Jackson said part of the benefit of the STABLE Accounts is allowing individuals with disabilities to spend their money how they want.

“People had jobs but they were worried about how much they earned because they were worried about that asset limit,” he said. “If you didn’t have a need to spend it right away, without a stable account you had to find a way to spend it. We hate the term ‘spend down’ because it’s a waste of someone’s personal resources, but now they can keep those resources.”

Travis Dresbach, who is a receptionist and self advocacy representative at the Pickaway County Board of Developmental Disabilities, is benefiting from his account.

“I got my account the day it was rolled out,” he said.

Dresbach said signing up for an account took about 30 minutes and the only hard part was choosing his investment options.

“That was the hardest part of the whole process of signing up,” he said. “I didn’t know whether to do high risk, low risk or what. I knew there were five options, so I just took it and put 20 percent in each option. It’s similar to a 401K and you just decide where to put your money.”

Jackson said they’ve gotten feedback on the overwhelming nature of all the choices.

“There’s a default option now,” he said. “We saw that people haven’t had to make these choices, so what we did was provide something that makes it easy on them; as they get more educated, they can change it.”

“That’s how we’re building this program is we’re taking feedback from families on this. It’s why we have the STABLE Card, too.”

Merritt said having a STABLE Card is just like a normal debit card and people can use it for basic living expenses, transportation, housing and education, among other things.

“With a STABLE Account, you can connect it to a personal bank account or a special needs trust or any other form of financial tools to make deposits to and from those tools,” she said. “Just as anyone uses their debit card anyone who gets a STABLE Card can use it just like that, and it’s very empowering.”

Merritt noted that there are people from 49 states, all but Wyoming, who are participating in STABLE Accounts and many are choosing to use Ohio’s program exclusively.

“Each state is able to enact their own version and there have been a few states, out of all the options they have, have chosen Ohio’s stable program as the best option for their residents,” she said. “We have partner states of Vermont, Kentucky, Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina. We’ve got these accounts in those states and it helps bring down the costs for Ohioans.”

Dresbach said he eventually wants to move out of his parent’s house and live on his own, something he can do with his STABLE Account.

“I could easily sit at home and collect government funds and do nothing,” he said. “That’s not who I’ve ever been. I’ve been one to go out and earn my part in the community.”

He’s encouraging more people to learn about the program by checking out the website, www.stableaccount.com, to see if they qualify.

“More people need to know,” he said.

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