Author: Kathleen Baxter, Alabama State Comptroller
Two years ago on Christmas Eve, my family’s life changed dramatically. My youngest son, Hunter—then 20 years old—was in a horrific car accident. He was 10 minutes from our house when the car he was driving hydroplaned, spun several times and flipped through a culvert. Thankfully, he landed upright and out of oncoming traffic. He soon realized he couldn’t move, and thought he was pinned in the car. However, he was not pinned—he was paralyzed. His neck was broken and his spinal cord was severely damaged.
After a week in the intensive care unit at Baptist South Montgomery Hospital, and seven weeks at UAB Spain Rehab hospital, we were headed home. He could move some, but nothing worked like it used to. Life as we knew it had changed. A wheelchair was our new normal, and our son was totally dependent on others for his care.
While at UAB, the State of Alabama Department of Rehab Services visited us often, to help us grow accustomed to our new lifestyle. They assisted Hunter in applying for SSI through Social Security, but we were soon met with a hurdle: SSI caps assets at $2,000. Hunter’s grandparents had given him bonds to be used for education, so we cashed in some of those to help with expenses—putting the value below the $2,000 mark.
Hunter received his first SSI check in September 2016. That year, he was given Christmas money, and saved it along with birthday money to buy a special item. Without realizing what we were doing, Hunter had exceeded his limit by less than $20, and his entire SSI check was taken away. Since he could not work, drive, or do most things for himself, this check was the little bit of independence that he had. He was devastated.
From then on, we watched his funds closely. We needed to do something with his bonds, but I wanted to save them for his education as his grandparents intended. In March 2017, I saw an advertisement that the Enable program, Alabama’s version of the ABLE account, was now available through the Alabama State Treasury. I immediately contacted the Treasurer’s Office and was put in contact with Anita Kelley.
Anita provided me with the details for the Enable Savings Plan Alabama. By May, we were making direct deposits into Hunter’s Enable Alabama account. Next, Hunter cashed in his bonds and deposited them into his bank account. Then, we signed into his Enable Alabama account and transferred the funds from his bank account. It was simple! Within three days, the funds were available in his Enable Alabama account. Now, the money can be used for his education as his grandparents intended.
The Enable Savings Plan Alabama has given us the peace of mind that we will be able to save money for Hunter without jeopardizing his Social Security benefits. We do not know what the future holds for Hunter, but we do know that we have the protection of being able to save on his behalf.