Use your FSA on your emotional support animal or service dog
An emotional support or service animal provides necessary assistance to their owners. However, they can be pricey. If you spend money on a service animal or its care, you may be able to use a flexible spending account (FSA) to relieve some of the costs.
A flexible spending account is an account you put money into to pay for whatever your health insurance doesn't cover. The money in it isn't taxable, so you technically save if you add to it. You must have an employer participating in the program to be eligible. Since it's available because of your employer, employees must submit claims through them to get reimbursed.
FSA pays for medical expenses if health insurance doesn't. Since service and emotional support animals count as medical care, it covers them. However, some animals are ineligible. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they're only service animals if they are dogs trained to perform disability-related tasks.
Emotional support animals have broader requirements. Even if you don't have a disability, you can get one through a prescription from a medical professional. With over 500,000 people struggling with a mental health disorder, people use them to help cope with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Pets are not service animals if they don't have the training to do a specific disability-related task. While people use them for health reasons, they don't receive the same accommodations as service animals.
These expenses for a service or emotional support animal are eligible for FSA reimbursement:
- The animal itself: The initial cost of a new service animal.
- Vet visits: Necessary treatments, routine checkups and vaccines.
- Grooming: Cutting, brushing and other grooming needs.
- Training: Training, certification or registration costs.
- Task-related items: Accessories that help your pet carry out a disability-related task. For example, a harness or reflective vest.
FSA can only be used on a pet when health insurance doesn't pay. Since insurance doesn't cover the purchase of a service animal, FSA does — you can buy an animal using FSA as long as it helps with your disability. Beyond that, it only covers expenses directly related to the disability, including anything related to the animal's well-being.
It's crucial to note that no business can deny a service animal. An employer can ask if it's required and trained to help with a disability, but they can't request certification or specifics about someone's disability.
Why use FSA on your pet?
Assistance helps relieve the cost of buying a service or emotional support animal. Usually, it costs $17,000-$40,000 to get and train them to help with a disability — FSA makes it more affordable. Even though it pays for expenses out-of-pocket, it might save you money. On top of being tax-free, employers can contribute to your FSA.
While employers aren't required to, they can choose to contribute to FSA to promote employee well-being. They might help because it promotes a positive professional life. Accessible health care prevents high emergency costs from appearing later on. Plus, happier people make better employees.
Employees are eligible for up to $3,050 per year in their accounts. FSA goes through employers, so they must contact them for details regarding signing up. It requires them to do this before being reimbursed.
They must submit a claim and proof of their medical expense for reimbursement. In addition, they need a statement that their insurance doesn't cover it. After this, they'll get reimbursed for any costs.
Since insurance doesn't cover emotional support or service animals, FSA is helpful for employees seeking to make their service animals more affordable. Plus, it allows employers to assist with their costs and make the process easier. If the animal meets requirements, FSA will help promote a positive work environment and save money for both parties.