Friday, February 13, 2015

Law boosts ability of those with disabilities to save

by Ellie Silverman from McClatchey Washington Bureau Sun
WASHINGTON — When Kayla Kosmalski was 6 months old, her parents realized they weren’t allowed to save for her future. Family members could give Kayla only small amounts of money as birthday or graduation presents.This realization shocked her parents, Amy and Rick Kosmalski of Delaware. To them, Kayla is an “amazing and beautiful and intelligent” girl who “just happens to have Down syndrome.”But the law didn’t see it that way, until the bipartisan passage in December of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, known as the ABLE Act. President Barack Obama subsequently signed the bill into law. To celebrate the new financial freedom for families such as the Kosmalskis, Vice President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Bob Casey, D-Pa., gathered Tuesday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.Previously, a person with a disability had a $2,000 limit on assets. If there were more, they would lose their Medicaid and Social Security benefits.Burr called the measure a “common-sense” piece of legislation.
Others in attendance were Reps. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. “People living with disabilities are entitled to the same dignity and the same respect given to everyone else,” Biden said. “And if given half a chance they can and do and will live independent lives.The ABLE Act, introduced by Casey and Crenshaw, allows people with disabilities to have tax-advantaged savings accounts of up to $100,000, including contributions from family and friends, as well as money that the person with disabilities earns. “I’m so delighted that ‘princess’ Kayla is with us today,” Biden said before inviting her up to the front of the room. “Kayla, like so many others,” has a chance for “an incredibly bright future. So many things that are able to be done. . . . This is the face of all these children.”Under the ABLE Act, parents will be able to save money for their children with disabilities, much like a college-savings 529 plan. People with disabilities will be able to work, save their own money and be independent, said Sara Hart Weir, president of the National Down Syndrome Society.Hart Weir, who attended the White House event, called the act “the most important legislation the disability community has focused on in probably 25 years, since the Americans with Disabilities Act.” She said the Down Syndrome advocacy group had worked hard to promote passage of the bill.Each state has to implement provisions for the ABLE Act to be effective. Hart Weir said the society was working to get states on board, and about a dozen have either done so or are doing so.Angelique Valladares, who was also in attendance, said there was a significant financial impact for a parent raising a child with a disability. The law now will allow Valladares and others to put money aside for education, job training, transportation, medical bills and any other expenses to ensure their children’s chances for success.“It’s allowing people with disabilities to understand that they are part of society,” she said. Email:; Twitter: @esilverman11
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