Last night, the U.S. Senate passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) -- a victory for grass-roots advocacy for parents and people with disabilities. NDSC has worked for eight years with our partners in the disability community and with you, our members, to get this bill passed. If you were with us in Washington, DC in 2012, you'll remember the excitement of our appointments on Capitol Hill and the impact those visits made.
The ABLE Act allows for savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation, without jeopardizing certain important federal benefits such as SSI and Medicaid. The funds saved in these accounts, if managed correctly, can be another tool in planning for the lifetime support needs of an individual with disabilities. Up to $14,000 a year can be put in an ABLE account, with a cap of $100,000.
The bill must now be signed by the President to become law. Once the law is implemented in each state, the ABLE Act will make the following possible:
1. Enable people with disabilities or family members to put up to $14,000 per year in the account, up to $100,000 total amount.
2. ABLE accounts could generally be rolled over only into another ABLE account for the same individual or into an ABLE account for a sibling who is also an eligible individual.
3. The funds must be spent on qualified expenses related to the individual's disability, such as health, education, housing, transportation, training, assistive technology, personal support, and related services and expenses.
Sadly, the man who conceived and worked tirelessly to pass the legislation, Steve Beck of Burke, Virginia, died suddenly last week. Steve was 44 years old and the parent of two daughters, including Natalie who has Down syndrome. Steve, along with a group of parents around his kitchen table, conceived the idea of a savings account for his daughter, similar to the 529 account used for college savings. This was a story he told repeatedly in his presentations at the NDSC convention over the past eight years. The passage of this Act is a wonderful tribute to the memory of Steve Beck.
NDSC's Governmental Affairs Director, Susan Goodman said, "This is an excellent start to the hard work we must do to ensure that people with Down syndrome have the long-term supports and services they need to live and work as independently as possible. It's a first step - not the end of the journey."
As the process to open accounts for our family members with Down syndrome develops, we will keep our members informed as to next steps.