The US Congress might be in recess until the week of September 10th, but NDSS, our advocates from the Down syndrome community, and other national disability organizations are not. We are working hard to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) of 2011 (S. 1872/H.R. 3423) this Congress. The ABLE Act has gained the support of 194 US Representatives and 29 US Senators.
The ABLE Act was introduced in November of 2011 by a bipartisan, bicameral set of Congressional champions, including Senator Robert Casey, Jr., (D-PA), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The ABLE Act, when enacted into law, will give people with Down syndrome and their families the ability to save for the future just like every other American family.
Currently, barriers to employment, independent living, and ultimately, economic self-sufficiency, exist because individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities must rely on services like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provide, however, to qualify for these services individuals with Down syndrome may not have more than $2,000 in assets, and earn no more than $674 in a monthly income.
The ABLE Act will help people with Down syndrome live full, productive lives in their communities without losing benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources. An ABLE account could fund a variety of essential expenses for individuals, including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing, and transportation.
“Parents of children with disabilities face unique challenges that necessitate careful planning to ensure the well-being of their children. The ABLE Act will make it easier for families to save for costs associated with the care and the future of their special needs children, providing them with much needed financial peace of mind,” says ABLE Act Champion and lead Senator sponsor Senator Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA).
This August, NDSS DS-Ambassadors are meeting with Senators and Representatives who have not yet cosponsored the ABLE Act in states and Congressional districts across the country. Additionally, throughout the NDSS Buddy Walk® Program, local Buddy Walks are inviting Senators and Representatives to attend and participate in Walks to educate them on the importance of the ABLE Act, and incorporating advocacy materials and tools (i.e., postcard, email, and call-in campaigns) to help encourage members of Congress to sign onto this important legislation.
“As the mom of a child with special needs," says Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, "I know that far too often federal policies limit those with disabilities, making them dependent on the government and keeping them in poverty. To take one example, when my son Cole was born, my husband and I were advised not to put any assets in Cole’s name because it would penalize him if he needed to qualify for a government program someday. There are millions of other parents in this same situation. They would like to improve their children’s quality of life without jeopardizing their access to benefits. That’s why we need the ABLE Act. This common-sense bill would allow parents of children with disabilities to save for their children’s future without jeopardizing their access to benefits, giving them an added layer of security. This is a very important bill because it will give many kids with disabilities a chance to escape from poverty and live the American Dream. I’m proud to support it."
The ABLE Act will eliminate barriers to work and saving by preventing dollars saved through ABLE accounts from counting against an individual’s eligibility for any federal benefits program. The legislation also contains Medicaid fraud protection against abuse and a Medicaid pay-back provision when the beneficiary passes away. NDSS is also leading a coalition of over 50 national disability, religious, and nonprofit organizations that are supporting the ABLE Act.
How Can You Help Us Pass the ABLE Act?
First, find out if your US Senators and Representative have signed onto the ABLE Act by clicking on the links below (If you don’t know who your Senators and Representative are, find out here):
NDSS offers you three ways of contacting your Representative and Senators
Please contact NDSS VP of Advocacy & Affiliate Relations Sara Hart Weir at [email protected] for more information.