by Sara Hart Weir and Steve Beck from the Hill:
There is a single piece of legislation, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (S. 313/H.R. 647), before the U.S. Congress that has earned the bipartisan support of at least 312 representatives and 51 senators.
This bill would ease financial strains faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free savings accounts available, through the current 529 program, so individuals with disabilities and their families can save to cover qualified expenses such as postsecondary education, housing, transportation, workforce development, and medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Recently, Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the ABLE Act's bipartisan, bicameral Congressional champions, teamed up to call on their Congressional colleagues to pass the ABLE Act before the end of the year.
By enacting the ABLE Act, we aren't asking Congress to create a new program or give us a hand out, we are asking Congress to give the disability community the chance to provide and save for themselves through savings tools that all other Americans have access to today.
Over 100 stakeholder organizations have endorsed the ABLE Act. The bill also earned the backing of lawmakers ideologically ranging from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the Senate and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the House of Representatives.
Not only does the ABLE Act allow savings for the future, it creates incentives to employment for individuals with disabilities by allowing individuals to contribute to their own ABLE accounts and seek out employment opportunities without the fear of losing Medicaid and SSI because of the outdated asset and income limitations, which prevent many individuals with disabilities from employment today.
The 113th Congress has an opportunity to put partisan politics aside, and do what's right for people with disabilities and their families and pass the ABLE Act this year.
Weir, MS, is the vice president of Advocacy & Affilate Relations for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and Steve Beck is a board member & chair of the National Government Affairs Committee of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).