Why the ABLE Act is so Critical for the I/DD Community
November 2, 2018 | Stevie Mays, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern
The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (PL 113-295) amends the federal tax code to create a new option for eligible people with disabilities to save money in a tax-exempt account for qualified disability expenses, while not affecting their eligibility for federal public benefits. This authorization did not call for all states to adopt such a program; however, with massive bipartisan support, 37 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to establish an ABLE Account program. The account can be set up and accessed for a wide range of disability-related expenses: anything related to the beneficiary to maintain or improve their health, independence, or quality of life, no pre-approval for spending necessary.
Currently, to be eligible for an ABLE Account, you must have a disability acquired at or before the age of 26 and be eligible for and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability benefits (Title XVI or Title II of the Social Security Act). Another criteria for an ABLE Account is a disability certification signed by a physician confirming that the individual meets the functional disability related to the severity of disability described in Title XVI or Title II of the Social Security Act. Assets in and distributions for qualified disability-related expenses will be disregarded or given special treatment when determining eligibility for most federal means-tested benefits (including Social Security and Medicaid). Multiple individuals may contribute to an individual’s ABLE Account with a $15,000 annual limit, some states even offer tax refunds. ABLE Accounts can be funded by post-tax dollars, and gains made with accounts are tax free and tax exempt. Qualified expenses include: education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, funeral and burial expenses and basic living expenses.
Enrollment is convenient and can be completed online. However, enrollment for ABLE Accounts was dramatically lower than anticipated; with millions eligible but only tens of thousands enrolled, the program is at risk of being shut down due to low turn out. To help boost enrollment, the age of onset of disability is attempting to be reformed in bill ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/ HR 1874). To contribute, enroll yourself or a loved one at: www.ablenrc.org.
Please share this information with others and allies who also qualify for the program to increase enrollment.
In addition, elected officials on both the state and federal level need to know this program is important to the disabled community. Contacting them and letting them know why the ABLE is important will improve the chances of this program’s longevity.
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Stevie Mays was a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. Stevie interned at the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.
Action Alert! Celebrate the 28th Anniversary of the ADA by Helping to Pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!
National Call-In Day – Thursday, July 26
July 23, 2018
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. To celebrate the 28th anniversary of its enactment, please take a few minutes to call or email your legislators to ask them to support the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/HR 1874). This bill would amend Section 529A(e) of the Internal Revenue Code to increase the eligibility for Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts for onset of disability from prior to age 26 to prior to age 46 so that millions more people with disabilities can take advantage of this important savings tool. Despite nearly three decades under ADA law, people with disabilities still regularly encounter discrimination in many aspects of life, including lacking financial opportunities to save for their future and enhance their quality of life. Together we can advocate to #ExpandABLE and pass the #ABLEAgeAdjustmentAct.
First introduced in the 114th Congress, the bipartisan ABLE Age Adjustment Act was re-introduced in the 115th Congress by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC), and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Jim Langevin (D-RI). The limitation on eligibility based on age of onset of disability did not exist in the original ABLE legislation, but was added at the end of the ABLE Act’s nearly ten-year legislative history to reduce the bill’s score and get it over the finish line. This concession resulted in otherwise-eligible individuals with disabilities – many of whom fought for years to get the ABLE Act passed – being prevented from realizing the benefits associated with the ABLE Act based solely on the age at which they became disabled. Nearly 160 other organizations from across the country believe that ABLE should be expanded to include more people with disabilities – see the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) letter urging Congress to pass this bill this session.
Beyond the fairness and equity argument for increasing the age of onset disability, it has now become a financial imperative to pass the ABLE Age Adjustment Act. There are currently thirty-eight states with ABLE programs, yet data collected by the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) shows that the number of ABLE accounts being opened is much lower than anticipated. The long-term sustainability, availability, and affordability of some ABLE programs for individuals with disabilities are in doubt without this expansion of eligibility – see the NAST Sustainability Report.
For more information about ABLE accounts, please visit the ABLE National Resource Center at www.ablenrc.org.
National Call-In Day – Thursday, July 26
Ask your Senators and Representatives to support people with disabilities and their families by cosponsoring the bipartisan ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/HR 1874). Expanding the age of onset disability is the right thing to do and will give more than 6 million additional people with disabilities access to this important savings tool that enables them to accumulate more than $2,000 in assets without jeopardizing their benefits. Whether or not you are currently eligible for an ABLE account, we all have a stake in ensuring the success of ABLE programs to make them sustainable and so that costs for all ABLE account owners are kept low.
Please contact your Members of Congress today and ask them to cosponsor the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!
- I am your constituent from [name of city and state].
- I am calling to ask Senator/Representative [NAME] to cosponsor the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/ HR 1874).
- ABLE accounts are important to people with disabilities because they allow them the opportunity to save more than $2,000 in assets -to be spent on disability related expenses – without jeopardizing their much-needed public benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.
- Unfortunately, only people whose disabilities occurred prior to age 26 are currently eligible for ABLE accounts.
- By increasing age of onset from before age 26 to before age 46, this bill will enable at least 6 million more people with disabilities to open an ABLE account and enhance their financial independence and quality of life.
- It will also increase the likelihood that ABLE programs across the country will be sustainable and that costs will be kept low.
- I hope we can count on Senator/Representative [NAME] to support the disability community and cosponsor the ABLE Age Adjustment Act!
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This alert was developed by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Financial Security Task Force.