The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act Passed in Senate Tuesday
After Eight Years, Congress’ Most Bipartisan Bill Passes Set for a Presidential SigningWashington, DC, December 17- Following overwhelming passage in the House of Representatives (404-17) last week, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647/S. 313) passed the US Senate as part of the Tax Extenders Package last evening. The ABLE Act is the most bipartisan, bicameral bill before the 113th Congress. The President now has ten days to sign the bill for it to become law.
No other bill before the 113th Congress equals or surpasses the ABLE Act’s bipartisan and bicameral support - 77 United States Senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the bill’s Senate Champions Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC). In the House, 381 Representatives, including a dedicated set of House Champions - Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX).
“Passage of the ABLE Act is a major victory for those with disabilities and their families,” Casey said. “This bill reminds us all that those with disabilities have a lot of ability. Soon those with disabilities and their families will be able to better save for their long-term care.”
“Some have called the ABLE Act the most significant piece of legislation affecting the disabled since passage of the American Disabilities Act nearly 25 years ago. I got involved in this effort nearly 8 years ago with Senator Casey. Families of severely disabled children came to us expressing the critical need for an easy way to save for their child’s future expenses, especially since many Americans with Down syndrome and autism are now outliving their parents,” said Senator Burr. “Most middle-class families don’t have the money to spend on lawyers and financial planners to set up sophisticated trusts to make sure that their disabled child will be OK long after they are gone. What’s worse current federal law actually discourages parents from putting any assets in the name of their disabled child in fear of disqualifying them from federal programs down the road. It’s utterly unacceptable that our current laws doom a child born with a disability to a lifetime of poverty and dependence. This is especially unfortunate when a parent or other family member has the resources and the desire to save and plan for that child’s future expenses but are advised by lawyers and planners not to. The ABLE Act will take the first critical step in ending this injustice.”
NDSS has been one of the leading advocacy organizations behind the ABLE Act for over eight years and four Congress. Last week, ABLE House Champions renamed the landmark legislation to honor NDSS’ late Vice Chairman and chief ABLE Act architect Stephen Beck Jr., who passed away suddenly just days after the House passage. “The ABLE Act’s initial concept grew out of an idea around Steve Beck’s kitchen table, and now will be forever marked with his legacy,” said NDSS Chairman Rob Taishoff.
“The ABLE Act proves that people with disabilities and their families can make a difference. We fought long and hard to make the ABLE Act a reality for all people with Down syndrome and their families in this country,” said Sara Weir, NDSS interim President. “This landmark legislation puts a stake in the ground that people with disabilities, for the first time ever, can work and save money for the future. For NDSS, this has been a civil rights issue, and we can’t wait for President Obama to sign this bill into law.”
Under current law, they cannot have more than $2,000 worth of assets before critical government support programs they need are cut off. In the face of enormous medical, transportation, and education costs, that amount does not extend very far and certainly hinders independent living.
The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), Autism Speaks and more than 100 other national organizations have endorsed the bill, which will ease the financial strain on families who have loved ones with disabilities.
The National Down Syndrome Society is a nonprofit organization representing the more than 400,000 Americans with Down syndrome. The mission of NDSS is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming community.