Frequently Asked Questions

ABLE Act

Signed into law in December 2014, the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act authorized states to establish tax-advantaged savings programs for individuals with disabilities. 

In 2015, Virginia became the first state to approve and pass ABLE legislation after passage of the federal ABLE Act. This was particularly poignant because the idea for the ABLE Act was originally conceived by a group of Virginia parents. The Virginia ABLE bill directed Virginia529 to develop, implement and administer a new savings program for eligible individuals with disabilities and their families.

The ABLE Act created Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code. This is the federal legal framework that establishes the specific rules and requirements of an ABLE account.

ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible individuals with disabilities.

Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits for income, health care, food and housing assistance. Many of these benefits require meeting a means or resource test that limits the eligibility of individuals who report more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value.

For the first time in public policy, the ABLE Act recognizes the extra and significant costs of living with a disability. ABLE accounts allow Eligible Individuals the opportunity to save and fund a variety of Qualified Disability Expenses without endangering eligibility for certain benefits that are critical to their health and well-being, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

ABLEnow is a national ABLE savings program offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

ABLEnow is administered by Virginia529, an independent Virginia state agency that manages the nation’s largest college savings plan. PNC Bank supports ABLEnow as an account custodian.

PNC Bank is a registered mark of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. ("PNC").

ABLEAmerica is ABLEnow’s partnership with Capital Group, home of American Funds, one of the oldest and largest mutual fund companies in the country. Work with your financial professional to reach your ABLE savings goals.

Eligibility

ABLEnow accounts are available to eligible U.S. citizens and legal residents, regardless of state residency.

To open an ABLEnow account, the ABLE Act requires an “Eligible Individual” to have a qualifying disability that started before the age of 26. In addition, the individual must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Entitlement to benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) based on blindness or disability; or
  • Self-certification of a qualifying disability.

"Self-certification" requires an individual to certify and agree to the following statements during enrollment:

  • The individual has a written, signed disability diagnosis from a qualified, licensed physician (note: individuals do not have to provide a copy of the diagnosis during enrollment, but a copy of the diagnosis must be available upon request); and
  • The individual is either:
    • blind, as defined by the Social Security Act (SSA), or
    • has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in "marked and severe functional limitations" lasting for a continuous period of 12 months or longer or which can be expected to result in death.
  • Such blindness or disability started before the age of 26.

Enrollment is entirely online. You will not need to produce a copy of your disability diagnosis in order to open an ABLEnow account. However, a record of your eligibility or diagnosis must be readily available for verification.

You may use this optional Physician Diagnosis Form to obtain a written diagnosis for your records.

To qualify for an ABLE account, an individual must have developed the onset of their disability before their 26th birthday. However, an individual older than age 26 may open an ABLEnow account.

No. ABLEnow accounts are available to eligible U.S. citizens and legal residents, regardless of state residency.

Qualified Disability Expenses

Money in your ABLEnow account may be used to pay for Qualified Disability Expenses. An expense is “qualified” if:

  1. You incurred the expense at a time you were considered an “Eligible Individual;”
  2. The expense relates to your blindness or disability; and
  3. The expense helps you maintain or improve your health, independence or quality of life.

Each person is unique and the needs of individuals can vary depending on the disability, circumstances and specific treatment.

ABLEnow accounts may be used to pay a variety of expenses related to maintaining the Eligible Individual’s health, independence and quality of life. Examples of Qualified Disability Expenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Employment training and support
  • Assistive technology and related services
  • Health
  • Prevention and wellness
  • Financial management and administrative services
  • Legal fees
  • Expenses for oversight and monitoring
  • Funeral and burial
  • Basic living expenses
  • Other expenses approved by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

No. Money may be withdrawn from an ABLEnow account at any time and for any reason.

It is up to you to track how you spend the money in your ABLEnow account.

Each year, ABLEnow will report the total amount of distributions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of annual tax reporting. The IRS may investigate the distributions from an ABLEnow account to determine whether a withdrawal was for a Qualified Disability Expense.

In addition, ABLEnow will report to the Social Security Administration the date and amount of each distribution from an ABLEnow account. If the individual with a disability receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid, the Social Security Administration may investigate any distribution to determine whether the withdrawal was for a Qualified Disability Expense.

For this reason, we strongly recommend that you keep records and receipts on how you are spending the money in your ABLEnow account.

If money is withdrawn from an ABLEnow account to pay a non-qualified expense, the earnings portion of the withdrawal will be treated as income, taxed at the designated beneficiary’s tax rate, and will be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. In addition, any state tax deductions or credits taken in previous years related to contributions may need to be recaptured. Please check your state tax department for more information on recapture requirements.

Additionally, any non-qualified funds you withdraw could be counted against you for purposes of determining your eligibility for means-tested public benefits programs.

Opening an Account

The Eligible Individual may open and manage an ABLEnow account independently if they are over the age of 18.

If the Eligible Individual is a minor under the age of 18, is unable to open the account, or chooses to open an account but not exercise signature authority, an individual authorized to act on their behalf may open and manage the account as the Authorized Representative.

An ABLEnow account may be established by the Authorized Representative of an Eligible Individual in the following order of priority:

  • Agent under a Power of Attorney, or if none, a
  • Conservator or Legal Guardian (of the person and/or property),
  • Spouse,
  • Parent,
  • Sibling,
  • Grandparent, or
  • Representative payee appointed for the Account Owner by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

By opening an Eligible Individual’s ABLEnow account, the Authorized Representative is self-certifying that there is no other individual with a higher priority who is willing and able to open and manage the ABLEnow account as the Authorized Representative.

Eligible Individuals who require the assistance of a trusted service provider also have the option to designate a Care Representative as their agent with authority to open and manage their account using a Durable Limited Power of Attorney for the specific management of the ABLEnow account.

An Authorized Representative may neither have nor acquire any beneficial interest in the account during the Account Owner’s lifetime and must administer the account for the benefit of the Account Owner.

ABLEnow offers group enrollment options for providers wishing to open and manage three (3) or more ABLEnow accounts on behalf of eligible clients. Visit ABLEnow.com/Group to contact an ABLEnow group enrollment specialist and obtain an onboarding guide.

No. Eligible Individuals may only have one ABLE account at any time.

Open an ABLEnow account online at ABLEnow.com. Simply complete and submit the application by following the step-by-step instructions.

For the Eligible Individual with a disability, the following is required:

  • Personal information: name, date of birth, address, Social Security Number, email and phone
  • Basis of eligibility under the ABLE Act
  • Category of disability under the ABLE Act

If a person other than the Eligible Individual with a disability is opening the account, the following additional information is required from the Authorized Representative:

  • Relationship to Account Owner
  • Personal information: name, date of birth, address, Social Security Number, email and phone

Authorized Representatives opening an ABLEnow account as the Legal Guardian, Representative Payee, Care Representative, or Attorney in Fact acting under Power of Attorney for the Eligible Individual are required to upload the appropriate legal documentation electronically before being able to contribute or withdraw funds from an ABLEnow account or use the ABLEnow Card:

  • Legal Guardian: Submit a copy of the court order or other documentation issued by your state of residence establishing legal guardianship over the person or estate/property of the Designated Beneficiary.
     
  • Representative Payee: Submit a copy of your letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) notifying you of your appointment as Representative Payee for the Designated Beneficiary.
     
  • Power of Attorney: As an individual who has been granted authority under a Durable General Power of Attorney, submit a copy of the document that grants you the legal authority/powers to manage the banking and other financial institution transactions of the Designated Beneficiary.
     
  • Care Representative: Submit your own Durable Limited Power of Attorney document for specific management of the ABLEnow Account or consider using this Durable Limited Power of Attorney Form provided on the ABLEnow website.

There’s no enrollment fee to open an ABLEnow account.

There is no minimum initial contribution amount or minimum subsequent contribution amount. However, if an ABLEnow account balance remains $0 for several months, the account may be closed due to inactivity.

The monthly account service fee is $3.25. If the Account Owner or Authorized Representative chooses to invest some of the funds in the ABLEnow account, there are also asset-based fees between 0.36% and 0.39%, depending on investment selections.

There may be other fees (such as a returned check fee) based upon account activity. See the Account Fee Schedule for details.

To transfer (rollover) your ABLE account from another state’s program to ABLEnow, open your ABLEnow account. Complete and submit the Direct Program-to-Program Transfer Request Form following the form’s step-by-step instructions.

ABLEAmerica is ABLEnow’s partnership with Capital Group, home of American Funds, one of the oldest and largest mutual fund companies in the country. Work with a financial professional to build an ABLE savings plan that meets your specific needs.

Contributing to an Account

Money added to an ABLEnow account is called a contribution. There are several ways to contribute to your ABLEnow account:

  • One-time bank transfer
  • Regular, scheduled bank transfer
  • Direct deposit
  • Check mailed with the Contribution Form

Anyone can contribute to an ABLEnow account, including the account owner, family, friends, and organizations.

Annual contributions to an ABLE account are currently limited to $16,000. This amount is tied to the federal annual gift tax exclusion limit and may be adjusted periodically to account for inflation.

Working account owners who do not participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan may be eligible to contribute above the annual ABLE contribution limit. Learn more about the ABLE to Work Act.

The cumulative ABLEnow account value limit is currently $550,000.

A bank transfer (sometimes called an electronic funds transfer) is a transfer of money between two accounts. Generally, most banks send the money through ACH (Automated Clearing House), a U.S. financial network that transfers money electronically without using paper checks, credit card networks, wire transfers, or cash. Typically, bank transfers are free and take several business days to process. See the ABLEnow Program Description for specific ABLEnow processing times.

To link your bank account and ABLEnow account, log into your ABLEnow account and navigate to the contribution page. Select “Add Bank Account” in the “Create Transaction” section. You’ll be asked to provide the account number, routing number, and account type (checking or savings) of your bank account. ABLEnow will verify the information you provide to link the accounts.

After linking your bank account to your ABLEnow account, you’re able to easily make a one-time contribution or schedule a regular contribution to your ABLEnow account. Log into your ABLEnow account, navigate to the contribution page, and follow the instructions.

  1. Create a transaction
  2. Select your linked bank account
  3. Select the frequency of your contribution
    • One-time contribution
    • Schedule a future one-time or regular contribution
  4. Enter the contribution amount and submit

Regular contributions from your bank account to your ABLEnow account will begin according to the schedule you set up. You can change or stop your regular contribution at any time.

You can initiate a one-time contribution to your ABLEnow account from an external bank account. To make a bank transfer, log into your bank account and follow your bank’s instructions. You’ll be asked to provide the ABLEnow account number and ABLEnow routing number with the amount that you would like to transfer.

Generally, funds contributed by bank transfer will be available in an ABLEnow account five (5) business days after the day you initiate the transfer.

With direct deposit, your paycheck, Social Security income or other recurring electronic payment is automatically deposited into your ABLEnow account.

Follow these instructions to set up a direct deposit to your ABLEnow account:

  1. Request a direct deposit form and instructions from your employer, government agency or other contributor providing the payment.
  2. Complete the direct deposit form. Usually, you will need to provide the name of the ABLEnow account owner or their Authorized Representative, ABLEnow account number and ABLEnow routing number, and the type of account (savings or checking). ABLEnow is considered a savings account.
  3. Submit the completed direct deposit form to your employer, government agency or other contributor providing the payment.

Generally, funds contributed by direct deposit will be available in an ABLEnow account on the business day ABLEnow receives the funds.

To contribute to your ABLEnow account by check, write your check payable to: PNC Bank FBO (ABLEnow account owner or their Authorized Representative’s name and ABLEnow account number). Mail each check with a completed Contribution Form, following the instructions on the form.

Generally, funds contributed by check will be available in an ABLEnow account one (1) business day after ABLEnow receives the check and Contribution Form.

<p>To find your ABLEnow account number, log into your ABLEnow account. Under the &ldquo;Accounts&rdquo; tab, click on &ldquo;Account Summary.&rdquo; You will see your account number preview on the right-hand side. Click &ldquo;View&rdquo; to see the full account number. Your ABLEnow account number is 12 digits and starts with 7.</p>
 

Gift Contributions

Yes, anyone can contribute to an ABLEnow account. Gift contributions can be made online or by check.

Contributions from family and friends made directly into an ABLEnow account are not considered income to, or assets of, the individual with a disability when determining eligibility for certain disability benefit programs. This means that family and friends can provide financial assistance without endangering eligibility for benefits critical to the health and well-being of many with disabilities.

A bank transfer (sometimes called an electronic funds transfer) is an easy way to send a gift contribution to someone’s ABLEnow account. To make a bank transfer, log into your bank account and follow the bank’s instructions to transfer funds to an external account. You’ll be asked to provide the ABLEnow account number and ABLEnow routing number with the amount that you’d like to transfer.

Generally, funds contributed by bank transfer will be available in an ABLEnow account five (5) business days after the day you initiate the transfer.

To make a gift contribution to an ABLEnow account by check, write your check payable to: PNC Bank FBO (ABLEnow account owner or their Authorized Representative’s name and ABLEnow account number). Mail each check with a completed Contribution Form, following the instructions on the form.

Generally, funds contributed by check will be available in an ABLEnow account one (1) business day after ABLEnow receives the check and Contribution Form.

Because ABLEnow is the Virginia-sponsored ABLE savings program, Virginia taxpayers who contribute to an ABLEnow account may be eligible for an annual state income tax deduction of up to $2,000 per contributor.

Withdrawing from an Account

You can use your ABLEnow account to pay for Qualified Disability Expenses in the way that’s easiest for you:

  • Present your ABLEnow Card at the point of sale.
  • Use the online account portal to transfer funds from your ABLEnow account to a personal bank account.
  • Use online bill pay to pay a provider directly.

ABLEnow accounts may be used to pay a variety of Qualified Disability Expenses related to maintaining the Eligible Individual’s health, independence and quality of life. See the Qualified Disability Expenses section for more information.

ABLEnow account holders receive the ABLEnow Card—a debit card providing a simple, fast way to pay for Qualified Disability Expenses. There is no additional cost for the ABLEnow Card.

One ABLEnow Card will be issued upon establishment of the ABLEnow account. You may request up to one additional card issued to the person of your choice (“Authorized User”).

ABLEnow Cards are typically delivered to the address on record within seven to ten (7-10) business days of the account being established. Some ABLEnow Cards may take longer to arrive due to periodic service and mail delays.

Tax Advantages

Earnings grow free from federal taxes. In addition, ABLE account beneficiaries may qualify for the federal Saver’s Credit for up to $2,000 in contributions they make to their ABLE accounts.

States may offer state tax incentives too. In Virginia, earnings grow free from federal and state taxes. Virginia also offers an annual state income tax deduction of up to $2,000 per contributor for contributions to an ABLEnow account.

Yes. Because ABLEnow is the Virginia-sponsored ABLE savings program, there are tax advantages for Virginia taxpayers. In Virginia, earnings grow free from both federal and state taxes. Virginia also offers an annual state income tax deduction of up to $2,000 per contributor for contributions to an ABLEnow account.

Saving and Investment Options

ABLEnow makes it easy to save and invest at your own pace. The first $2,000 in your ABLEnow account will be automatically allocated to the FDIC-insured ABLEnow Deposit Account, which is linked to your ABLEnow Card.

Once the balance in the ABLEnow Deposit Account exceeds $2,000 (or a higher amount set by the Account Owner or Authorized Representative), you may opt to invest additional contributions into one or more investment portfolios.

Account Owners or their Authorized Representative may choose from three target-risk investment portfolios and one money market fund. You may choose to invest in one investment portfolio or allocate between or amongst the portfolios offered.

Each portfolio option is intended to address different goals, time horizon, and risk tolerances:

  • Aggressive Growth
  • Moderate Growth
  • Conservative Income
  • Money Market

To view details on these investment options, visit the Investments page.

Target-risk portfolios are a specific type of mutual fund that hold a diversified mix of stocks, bonds and other investments to meet a certain risk tolerance. Investors select a portfolio based on their time horizon and the amount of risk they prefer, such as conservative, moderate, and aggressive.

Target-risk portfolios are professionally managed to maintain their risk level over time. It’s good practice to periodically assess, and if appropriate, adjust investment choices with your current time horizon, risk tolerance, and objectives in mind.

Money market funds are a specific type of mutual fund that that invests in high-quality, short-term debt instruments, cash, and cash equivalents. Generally, money market funds offer low risk compared to other investments and historically lower returns.

Account Owners or their Authorized Representative can set up an investment profile and choose their funds through the online account portal. Click “Accounts” in the top navigation bar. If you have not yet established your investment selections, you will see the “Investment Account Setup” button. Click this button for a step-by-step guide.

Yes, federal rules allow you to change your investment selections two (2) times per calendar year.

Details on ABLEnow investment objectives, guidelines and performance standards are available in the Statement of Investment Policy and Guidelines (pdf).

Impact on Disability Benefits

An ABLEnow account is disregarded when determining certain federal benefit eligibility with the following two exceptions for individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

  1. For the purposes of determining eligibility for SSI, money in an ABLEnow account in excess of $100,000 is considered an asset to the individual with a disability and may cause SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended. An account balance up to and including $100,000 is disregarded.
  2. A withdrawal that will be used for a housing expense but that is not spent in the same calendar month will be considered an asset of the individual with a disability and may cause SSI benefits to be reduced or suspended.

There is no impact on Medicaid benefits, regardless of how much money is in the ABLEnow account.

ABLEnow is the Virginia-sponsored ABLE savings program. An ABLEnow account is disregarded when determining eligibility to receive benefits provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Residents of states other than Virginia should check with their state benefits agencies to determine if an ABLEnow account will affect any state-based disability benefits.

No. An individual does not need to receive disability benefits to be eligible to open an ABLEnow account. See the Eligibility section for more information.

Yes, an individual with a disability can work and have an ABLEnow account as long as the individual meets the Eligibility requirements for ABLEnow.

Unless required by federal law, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services may not pursue Medicaid recovery claims against the ABLEnow or ABLEAmerica accounts of Virginia residents. Learn more.

For customers who received Medicaid benefits outside Virginia during the time they had an ABLEnow or ABLEAmerica account open, that state’s Medicaid program can file a claim for some amount of repayment upon death. Before that happens, funds from the beneficiary’s ABLE account may be used by their estate to repay any outstanding qualified disability expenses, including funeral and burial costs.

Other Considerations

Yes, you can use your ABLEnow account in conjunction with other types of trusts and accounts.

Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many individuals and families, it may make sense to have both an ABLE account and a special needs trust.

The fastest way to report your ABLEnow Card as lost or stolen is the secure online account portal. Navigate to the “Tools & Support” tab for the link to report a missing card 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Yes, families who have a 529 college savings plan account can transfer funds to an ABLEnow account without incurring any tax or penalty. The amount transferred from the 529 account may not exceed the annual ABLE contribution limit, including any amounts previously contributed to the ABLEnow account. Both the 529 and ABLEnow accounts must have the same beneficiary or the new ABLEnow beneficiary must be an ABLE-eligible ”Member of the Family” of the 529 beneficiary as defined in Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. Note that 529 account to ABLEnow account transfers are available up until December 31, 2025 in accordance with current federal law. For more information, read Transfer 529 Funds to ABLEnow.

Yes, eligible individuals can transfer or make a rollover from an ABLE account to the ABLEnow program without incurring any tax or penalty. The amount transferred can include entire balance of your existing ABLE account as a rollover to the new ABLEnow account, but the original ABLE account must be closed. Both accounts must have the same beneficiary or the new beneficiary must be an ABLE-eligible “Member of the Family” (brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister) of the original ABLE beneficiary as defined in Section 529A of the Internal Revenue Code. Only one rollover is permitted for the same beneficiary every 12 months. For more information, read Transfer Your ABLE Account to ABLEnow.

Yes, account owners can name a Designated Survivor for their ABLEnow account. The Designated Survivor will receive the ABLEnow account assets in the event of the account owner’s death, following the payment of any outstanding qualified disability expenses, Medicaid claims and estate taxes of the deceased. For more information and instructions, visit Assign a Designated Survivor.