Release from the West Virginia State Treasurer:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The future is uncertain and we embrace it the best we can.
For people with disabilities, take the uncertainty and multiply it. Whether developmental or physical or some combination thereof, people with disabilities face health, financial and social obstacles which throw even more difficulty into the challenge of life. Parents are often the ones fretting in the wings.
That is the story of Steve Slack, wife Sandy and daughter Sophie, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Hurricane Middle School who has Down Syndrome. The couple is also raising two boys.
As they navigate life, the Slacks, of Putnam County, are feeling a bit better about what it may hold for Sophie.
“What’s going to happen when we’re gone?” Slack wondered aloud recently. “The ability to start saving now for her future is huge. Before this law was passed, we weren’t able to save up for these things – no way to easily access money for emergencies. This gives a huge relief to us.”
Slack, 50, refers to the 2014 federal ABLE Act, which stands for “Achieving a Better Life Experience.” Under the law, individuals that developed their disability before the age of 26 can now save more than $2,000 without losing eligibility for government benefits such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
State Treasurer John Perdue’s office has led the way in setting up such a savings program in West Virginia, known as WVABLE. WVABLE launched here less than a year ago. Treasury staffers have been educating the public about the program since, to both parents of children with disabilities as well as adults with disabilities.
“Our Treasurer, Mr. Perdue, has been such a supporter of this and such a supporter of individuals with disabilities,” Slack said. “As a dad, it gives me a huge amount of hope. It makes me very grateful and humbled that the Treasury Department is supporting this program.”
The ABLE act supplements but does not replace benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, SSI, employment and other sources. With WVABLE, individuals with disabilities can save up to $15,000 annually, and up to $27,060 if employed.
The process to sign up for a WVABLE account is very simple. Account set up and enrollment may be done online at www.wvable.com. The account comes with a loadable debit card and has features similar to a checking account.
Slack says his daughter will now be able to save money to cover household expenses, health care and unanticipated emergencies.
“At our house, for instance, when something goes wrong with plumbing or you need an electrician, my wife and I have a rainy day fund to dip into,” Slack said. “Until this law was passed there was no easy way for individuals with disabilities to access money for emergencies. This gives us a huge lift.”
WVABLE gives people with disabilities not just an immediate but long-term future, Slack said.
“Right now, obviously, our daughter is not going to have to pay for her own housing or clothes,” Slack said. “We’re taking care of that. But this gives us a lot of comfort toward the future. We can use that money for educational opportunities, which is something quickly coming upon us.
“Some are using the money to start businesses. Just to have an amount of savings my daughter can use and not lose the Medicaid waiver she desperately needs. . . It’s a burden off of us.”
Slack says WVABLE transcends providing more financial latitude for people with disabilities.
“Having ABLE is a huge, huge point for human rights in our country. Anytime futures are improved for a particular group of people because they have access to things others have — it’s truly a human rights triumph.”