In 2014 Congress passed the ABLE Act enabling families of disabled children to save for long term care expenses for their children without penalty. ABLE qualifying accounts are tax exempt and do not count against individuals when applying to government programs. As expected the ABLE Act 2014 comes with some strings attached. There are saving and spending limits for qualifying accounts as well as penalties for funds used for unapproved expenses.
Now a bipartisan update to the original 2014 version of the ABLE Act, called ABLE 2.0 is in the works. The idea of ABLE 2.0 is to transform the current ABLE Act 2014 into what would essentially be government run estate planning.
The ABLE 2.0 package includes three bills. The ABLE to Work Act allows individuals and families to save more money — up to the federal poverty level — in their accounts if the beneficiary works and earns income. The ABLE Financial Planning Act allows families to roll over savings in a 529 college savings plan into an ABLE account and prevents these funds from being trapped or fined if a child is born with a disability or acquires one later in life. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act raises the age limit for ABLE accounts from 26 to 46, helping people whose disability or disease develops later in life.
Some are excited about this development, “Let’s enable parents of special-needs kids to set money aside for lifetime care” believing that it will open up estate planning to the less “well-to-do.”
In the past, this kind of long-term disability planning generally required complicated and expensive trusts, and was thus the sole province of the well-to-do.
On its face, ABLE 2.0 looks to be a good development for Americans with disabilities allowing families to save more, be more flexible with how they save, and recognizing that disability can happen at any time during the life span. Having utilized government programs designed to help the poor and the less “well-to-do” I’m cautious about extending more government control over the finances of individual Americans than it already has. Government programs like this tend to become bloated, difficult to access, and are more of a burden than a help.
Americans can already do what ABLE 2.0 proposes to help Americans do. Having gone through the “complicated and expensive” process of setting up a trust it isn’t that complicated. It did cost and it was worth every penny we saved to pay for the process. I recommend every family with disabled loved ones research their estate planning options before tying themselves to government options. Go to a free legal clinic for advice on how to get it done. Check the local library for resources on estate planning. There’s always google as well. Estate planning doesn’t have to be the “sole province of the well-to-do” in the information age.
Suspending a student because of behavior related to their disability is illegal. Despite this fact suspension is still the go-to response for many schools and school districts. School districts have been penalized for disproportionately suspending students with disabilities and thus violating their rights. If your school/school district is known for routinely suspending students with disabilities over behavior it is up to parents and guardians to hold them accountable for these illegal actions. If students with disabilities are routinely suspended over behavior it means that schools have failed, and failed spectacularly, at meeting their legal and moral obligations to students.
So how do we help our students experiencing behavior challenges at school? Any student with behavior challenges at school is due a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA). FBAs are a part of federal and state education regulations (see resource list below). The purpose of a FBA is to identify behaviors that pose a challenge to a student’s learning, identify what in the student’s learning environment precedes or triggers the behaviors, and what follows from the behaviors. FBA can also identify behaviors that help support a student in their learning environment.
This post is part of the series Examining the Use of Medical Marijuana for ASD Treatment.
As written the current New York State medical marijuana law does not include ASD in the list of conditions that may be treated with medical marijuana. The following are the only conditions for which medical marijuana use is approved in New York State:
· positive status for HIV or AIDS
· Parkinson’s disease
· multiple sclerosis
· damage to the nervous tissues of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
· inflammatory bowel disease
· Huntington’s disease
Included in the New York state legislation is a provision that this list may be amended at will. The legislation also spells out other conditions not necessarily specific to a disease that may be treated with medical marijuana. These include:
· cachexia or wasting syndrome
· severe chronic pain
· severe nausea
· severe or persistent muscle spasm
Again there is the provision that this list may be amended at will. Furthermore, there is a provision to consider adding the following conditions to the approved medical marijuana conditions list after 18 months:
· muscular dystrophy
· post-traumatic stress disorder
· rheumatoid arthritis
The law does not provide any guidelines as to how to evaluate a given condition for potential inclusion in the approved medical marijuana conditions list.
Patients and providers will be required to be certified and to register in order to prescribe, dispense, and use only those medical marijuana products approved by the state. Certified patients will be required to carry registration cards identifying themselves as certified users of medical marijuana or they will risk prosecution pursuant to existing laws regarding illegal drugs. There is enumerated in the bill regulations for those designated as caregivers of certified patients.
There are also provisions in the law requiring manufacturers and providers to register to manufacture and to provide medical marijuana products. The law also requires these companies to submit their products to laboratory testing in labs approved by the state. It is not clear what standards regarding reporting of levels of active ingredients, content labeling, and reporting of adverse effects manufacturers will be subject to.
While the current legislation does not require insurers to cover medical marijuana the cost of various medical marijuana preparations will be set by the state rather than the manufacturers producing the medical marijuana products. The majority of the language of the bill deals with managing the potential revenue generated by the manufacture and sale of medical marijuana products in New York state.
For more information see ASD and Medical Marijuana References.