ABLE Act Introduced in the 113th Congress

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities was introduced by Senators Robert Casey, Jr., (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) in the Senate, and Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) in the House of Representatives. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2013 (ABLE Act; S. 313, H.R. 647) would create ABLE savings accounts that allow people with disabilities to save for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. ABLE accounts would be disregarded when determining eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and other means-tested programs. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

The legislation has 59 original House cosponsors and 16 original Senate cosponsors.

The Arc’s Joyce Lipman Speaks at Press Conference Supporting the ABLE Act

Last week, Joyce Lipman, former member of The Arc’s Board of Directors, joined Members of Congress and other disability rights advocates on Capitol Hill to support the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act during a press conference. Joyce brought her daughter Elise with her to the event and shared with the audience how the ABLE Act would help Elise lead a better life by providing her financial security. The bill would create a new planning tool for families that would allow individuals to save funds in new ABLE accounts without impacting their eligibility for means-tested federal programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), one of the lead co-sponsors of the bill, acknowledged Joyce and Elise, his constituents, as powerful advocates and voiced his support for the ABLE Act and his hope that the bill would pass before Congress adjourns. The ABLE Act has broad bipartisan support, with more than 230 House sponsors and 40 in the Senate.

ABLE Act Bill Introduced for 112th Congress

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities was introduced in the House by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), along with 26 additional House co-sponsors, and in the Senate by Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2011 (ABLE Act; S. 1872; H.R. 3423) would create ABLE savings accounts that allow people with disabilities to save for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. ABLE accounts would be disregarded when determining eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and other means-tested programs. The ABLE Act was unveiled at a press conference on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol that featured The Arc’s CEO, Peter V. Berns, along with representatives of the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and other national disability organizations. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

Bill to extend Bush-era tax cuts signed into law; ABLE act not included

On December 17, President Obama signed H.R. 4853, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. Despite objections by some House Members to the estate tax provisions and the extension of the tax breaks to the highest income Americans, it cleared by a comfortable 277-148 vote margin. The compromise tax deal extends for two years the expiring tax cuts for all Americans and several expiring corporate and individual tax breaks. Other major provisions include a one year reauthorization of federal unemployment insurance benefits and a continuation of the emergency unemployment compensation benefits. The law also includes a payroll tax holiday during 2011 when individuals will pay two percentage points less on their Social Security payroll tax.

Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) offered the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2009 (S. 493) as an amendment to the tax bill. However, the effort was not successful for reasons unrelated to the merits of the proposal. As a result, the ABLE Act was not included in the final bill that was signed by President Obama. The ABLE Act would allow parents and individuals with disabilities to save money in special bank accounts (similar to educational savings accounts) without affecting federal benefits. The bill has significant bipartisan support in both the House (H.R. 1205) and Senate and is expected to receive attention early in the 112th Congress.