The Arc Marks Senate Passage of ABLE Act

Washington, DC – Today, as the U.S. Senate passed the Achieving a Better Life Act (ABLE Act), The Arc, the nation’s largest organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), released the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act has been approved by both the U.S. House of Representatives and now the U.S. Senate.  With the clock winding down on this session of Congress, now this important legislation can move to President Obama’s desk.  We appreciate the untiring work of the chief sponsors of the bill and the support of a large and broad representation in both chambers of Congress.

“While the legislation was narrowed due to the constraints from the cost analysis, the approved bill will provide a vehicle for some families and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to save for the future, depending on their own circumstances.  Our efforts will not be finished if President Obama signs this bill – The Arc will continue to work with the leadership and chief sponsors in Congress to expand this program in the future to ensure that everyone in need can get the maximum benefit from this legislation.  We remain disappointed that certain pay-fors remain in the bill,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation.  Similar to existing “Section 529” education savings accounts, ABLE accounts would let families save for disability-related expenses on behalf of qualified beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through the Medicaid program, the Supplemental Security Income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.  If properly managed, funds in the ABLE accounts would not jeopardize eligibility for critical federal benefits.  With full understanding of its features, individuals and families could use the ABLE accounts as another tool in planning for the lifetime needs of an individual with long term disabilities.  The version of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives includes age limitations and a cap on contributions, added in July by the Committee on Ways and Means to reduce the costs of the bill.  If the President signs the ABLE Act into law, The Arc will issue a fact sheet including the details on the bill as it has been revised through the legislative process.  Further details would come through the regulatory process.

The Arc Marks House Passage of ABLE Act

Washington, DC – Today, as the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), The Arc, the nation’s largest organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), released the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, H.R. 647, has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, and is one step closer to reaching President Obama’s desk.  We appreciate the untiring work of the chief sponsors of the bill and the support of a large and broad representation in Congress.  The ABLE Act is a good example of how members of both political parties can work together to craft legislation that benefits people with disabilities, as disability knows no political, geographic, gender, or ethnic boundaries.

“While the legislation was narrowed due to the constraints from the cost analysis, the approved bill will provide a vehicle for some families and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to save for the future.  The Arc will continue to work with the leadership and chief sponsors of this effort in Congress to expand this program in the future to ensure that everyone in need can get the maximum benefit from this legislation.  Our goal is to ensure that people with disabilities get the full use of the ABLE Act.   We still have concerns about certain pay-fors in the bill, and hope that the House and Senate can resolve these issues,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation.  Similar to existing “Section 529” education savings accounts, ABLE accounts would let families save for disability-related expenses on behalf of qualified beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through the Medicaid program, the Supplemental Security Income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.  If properly managed, funds in the ABLE accounts would not jeopardize eligibility for critical federal benefits.  With full understanding of its features, individuals and families could use the ABLE accounts as another tool in planning for the lifetime needs of an individual with long term disabilities.  The version of the bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives includes age limitations and a cap on contributions, added in July by the Committee on Ways and Means to reduce the costs of the bill.

The Arc Joins in Filing Supreme Court Amicus Brief on Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Arc released the following statement upon joining other organizations in filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in advance of consideration of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. This particular effort focuses on the individual mandate to obtain health insurance, with the overarching goal of coverage for all Americans, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Without a doubt, the Affordable Care Act is the most significant law for people with disabilities in over twenty years. The threats to the individual mandate to obtain health insurance are too dangerous for us to sit on the sidelines. Without an obligation to buy health insurance, our country won’t be able to make significant strides toward covering everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions. The individual mandate will reduce costs in the entire health care system. The Arc won’t waiver in our commitment to this law and the real changes and cost savings to our system that will undoubtedly benefit people with disabilities, their families, the workers that support them, and our entire nation,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc Supports Members of Congress in Unveiling Legislation to Give Families Greater Financial Flexibility for Loved Ones with a Disability

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc of the United States joined Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and  disability organizations to unveil the “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2011” (ABLE Act) at the U.S. Capitol.

The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. By creating ABLE accounts, this bill would let families plan and save secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the Supplemental Security Income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.  Instead of penalizing people with disabilities whose families are able to set aside some funds to allow them to be more independent in life down the road, the ABLE Act provides new opportunities and breaks down barriers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“The ABLE Act is about giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to achieve their dreams.  Families are looking for ways to finance things like an apartment, or a ride to work, or additional educational opportunities after high school that don’t jeopardize other necessary services provided by federal programs.  This bill creates a tool for families that could lead to a more independent and fulfilling life,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Berns spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill and highlighted some of the important benefits for individuals with I/DD and their families. Members of the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and other organizations were also on hand to support the cause.

Berns referenced a young man named Geoffrey Mikol, who is a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland.  After Geoffrey graduates, he would like to work in the community, perhaps in the paleontology field.  But in order to fulfill that dream, his mom will need to find ways to make it happen, saving additional dollars for training and transportation, and making sure she can financially plan and save for unforeseeable needs in Geoffrey’s future.

“Right now, there could be too many obstacles in Geoffrey’s way, forcing him to be unemployed and isolated.  The ABLE Act will remove barriers for people like Geoffrey, who shouldn’t have to abandon his dream of working in his community simply because of the logistics necessary to make it happen.  We allow this type of savings for the future of our children without disabilities – this just gives the same opportunity to people with disabilities,” said Berns.