Breaking Down Community Boundaries as Allies alongside People with Disabilities

Disabilities Workgroup

The Disabilities Workgroup supports the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) and the Developmental Disabilities Endowment Trust Fund (DDETF) Governing Boards in the development and enactment of strategic plans, policies, and procedures to assist individuals with a disability in saving money in order to increase self-sufficiency. This is accomplished through the programs and resources administered by the Boards.

We also support the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds Program. This support provides an added safety net for persons with disabilities in communities throughout our state. Additionally, we act as a liaison to the state’s Developmental Disabilities Council.

The Disabilities Workgroup believes effective communication to establish, foster, and maintain relationships with other programs within Commerce, stakeholders, Board members, and the Developmental Disabilities Council members and staff is paramount. We strive to nurture an environment that encourages employees to seek efficiencies and cross-program functional improvements.

Our goal is to serve as the Commerce lead on disability issues and challenges. We are developing opportunities through close contact with persons with disabilities within our community as well as public and private organizations who provide services to individuals with disabilities.

These efforts will increase self-sufficiency and help to lessen poverty among persons with disabilities in our community.

Overviews of the programs and councils we currently support are listed below.

Achieving a Better Life Experience Program (ABLE)

Washington ABLE program launch is delayed until Summer 2018

ABLE InformationWashington State’s Legislature created the ABLE program after passage of the federal ABLE Act in 2014. Washington’s ABLE program will open life-improving opportunities for persons with disabilities and their families. ABLE accounts will increase self-sufficiency and help to lessen poverty among persons with disabilities in our community.

ABLE accounts will allow persons with disabilities, their family members and friends the ability to contribute up to $14,000 per year. Provided they are used for a qualifying disability expense, the account contributions, earnings and withdrawals are tax-free . This is one of the largest benefits of the ABLE Act. All withdrawals from ABLE accounts are self-directed and do not have to be routed through a trustee or trust fund manager. Savings held in an ABLE account, up to a $100,000 total limit, cannot be counted as a personal asset when determining qualification for Social Security Disability Insurance and some other state, local and federal benefits including housing and Medicaid. However, ABLE accounts cannot receive inheritances or lump sum settlements in excess of the $14,000 per year limit.

The governor appointed an ABLE Governing Board to oversee implementation of our program in Washington State. There are an estimated 130,000 to 180,000 children and adults with disabilities in Washington State who may be eligible to benefit from an ABLE account.

For more information:
ABLE Program Fact Sheet (PDF)
National ABLE Resource Center (Web)
Social Security SI 01130.740 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts
IRS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Guidance – Section 529A (Web)
Senior Bulletin on Special Needs Trusts and ABLE (PDF)
Implications of the ABLE Act for State Medicaid Programs (PDF)

Contact Peter Tassoni, Disabilities Workgroup Manager, at 360-725-3125

Developmental Disabilities Endowment Trust Fund Program (DDETF)

DDETG ImageThe DDETF is a supplemental special needs trust program established in 1999 by the Washington State Legislature. The program enables individuals with developmental disabilities, or their families and friends, to set aside funds for future use without affecting their eligibility for government services and benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Funds may be used for many services not covered by other benefits, including recreation, therapy, clothing and transportation. The Department of Commerce administers the DDETF through a contract with The Arc of Washington State, who acts as the Trust Manager.

Individuals are eligible to open a trust account with this program if they meet three conditions at the time of enrollment:

  1. Reside in the state of Washington.
  2. Meet the state definition of developmental disability, as determined by a representative of the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Administration.
  3. Be under the age of 65 at the time of enrollment.

For more information, visit the DDETF website at

or contact the Department of Commerce’s Disabilities Workgroup Manager, Peter Tassoni.

The Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds Program

Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds Program

The Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds (ODDO) was created in 2016 to investigate and report on services to persons with developmental disabilities.

The Department of Commerce administers the ODDO through a contract with Disability Rights Washington.

The ODDO will provide information on rights and responsibilities of persons receiving developmental disabilities services and/or other state services. In addition, the ODDO will recommend changes in procedures to state agencies, the Governor’s Office and the State Legislature where they pertain to the needs of persons with developmental disabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Q: How is an ABLE account different than a Special Needs or Pooled Trust (DDETF)?

An ABLE Account can, in certain circumstances, provide more choice and control for the beneficiary and their representative. The cost of establishing an account will likely be considerably less than either a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Income Trust. With an ABLE account, account owners will have the ability to control their funds, chose their investments, make withdrawals, and, if circumstances change, still have other options available to them.

Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many families, the ABLE account will be a significant and viable option in addition to, rather than instead of, a Trust program.

Program Links

ABLE Presentations

ABLE Governing Board Meetings

Agenda (PDF)

Agenda (PDF)

Agenda (PDF)

Agenda (PDF)

Able Progress Updates

DDETF Governing Board Meetings

Agenda (PDF)

Agenda (PDF)

Relevant State and Federal Laws

Program Contact

Peter Tassoni
Disabilities Workgroup Manager