ABLE Act to Bring Greater Financial Independence to Mentally Ill

February 13, 2015

A groundbreaking thing happened in Washington, DC, just a few weeks before the New Year; Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014.

This is great news for New Yorkers with psychiatric disabilities because ABLE will help many of them achieve their dream of going back to school, living more independently, working, and even retiring with a decent income.

This legislation will allow New York State to create ABLE accounts, enabling eligible people with psychiatric disabilities to save much more than the current $2,000 SSI and Medicaid resource limit without affecting their cash and health benefits. The passage of this legislation means that many people with psychiatric disabilities (for example, many individuals receiving SSI or SSDI and others with significant disabilities) will be eligible to save contributions from their own income – as well as contributions from families or friends— towards eligible expenses. What was once unattainable – to save for education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services – will soon be within their reach. Once the ABLE accounts are established in the upcoming months, they will allow annual contributions of up to $14,000, and save up to $100,000 in total before affecting SSI and Medicaid eligibility.

The New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence (CECC) believes financial stability goes hand-in-hand with emotional and physical well-being. The Center is collaborating with several organizations to bring economic empowerment to people seeking mental health services. Together with Network Plus of Baltic Street, AEH.; the Mental Health Peer Connection of Western New York Independent Living; and New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS); the Center is helping to assess the financial capability of New Yorkers with psychiatric conditions, and develop a Peer-Supported Economic Empowerment intervention in order to improve access to asset- building resources. These include mainstream financial services, tax credits, saving programs, work incentives, and the accounts that the ABLE legislation will engender.

“This new legislation will open the doors of economic empowerment for many people with psychiatric conditions in New York State,” said Roberto Lewis-Fernandez, MD, Director, NYSPI CECC.

“We look forward to working with peer-run organizations across New York State to develop effective strategies to help New Yorkers with psychiatric conditions take advantage of ABLE accounts once they become available as well as many other underutilized asset-building services,” said Oscar Jimenez-Solomon, MPH, Research Scientist at the NYSPI CECC.

To hear more about improving the financial capability of people with psychiatric disabilities, listen to Columbia Psychiatry’s BlogTalkRadio show with Oscar Jimenez-Solomon and Peggy Swarbrick.


Departmental News, InPsych