Disabilities Workgroup

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 developing and enacting strategic plans, policies and procedures to help people with disabilities save money while increasing self-sufficiency. The boards do this by administering programs and resources.

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.

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.

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 efficiency and cross-program functional improvements.

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

Achieving a Better Life Experience Program (ABLE)

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.  Our program is scheduled to launch in summer 2017.  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, please feel free to browse the federal ABLE site at www.ablenrc.org/about/what-are-able-accounts

Developmental Disabilities Endowment Trust Fund Program (DDETF)

DDETG ImageThe Developmental Disabilities Endowment Trust Fund (DDETF)  is a supplemental special needs trust program. It was established in 1999 by the Washington State Legislature and opened for enrollments in July 2002.

The DDETF allows 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 can be withdrawn from the trust and used for many services not covered by other benefits, including recreation, therapy, clothing and transportation.  Any funds withdrawals must go through a trustee or 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.

The DDETF is an easy and effective way to prepare for the future (and life’s unexpected expenses) without risking financial eligibility for needed benefits and services.

For more information, please go to the DDETF website at ddetf.wa.gov

The Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds Program

Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds ProgramThe Washington state Legislature created the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds Program in 2016 (ESSB 6564). The Office of the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds is  directed to investigate and report on services to persons with developmental disabilities.

The Washington State Department of Commerce will administer the Developmental Disabilities Ombuds Program through a contract with a private, independent nonprofit organization. That organization will provide developmental disabilities ombuds services statewide.

This program’s ombuds will provide information on rights and responsibilities of persons receiving developmental disabilities services and/or other state services.  They will oversee investigations and complaints to help assure the safety of our community, review state institutions, state-licensed facilities, and residences where persons with disabilities reside to assure compliance and safety.  Additionally, they 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.

This program is scheduled to be running on or about April 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

How is an ABLE account different than a pooled trust (DDETF)?

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

Program Links


ABLE Presentations Available
ABLE Governing Board Meetings
December 2016

January 2017

February 2017

  • Agenda (PDF)
  • Meeting Minutes (PDF)
  • March 2017

    April 2017

    Agenda (PDF)

    May 2017

    Agenda (PDF)

    June 2017

    Agenda (PDF)

    ABLE Progress Updates

    DDETF Governing Board Meetings

    March 2016
    June 2016
    September 2016
    December 2016

    March 2017

    June 2017

    Agenda (PDF)

    Relevant State and Federal Laws

    Program Contact

    Peter Tassoni
    Disabilities Workgroup Manager