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NCD Letter to House Speaker Boehner Encouraging a House Vote on the ABLE Act

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent nonpartisan federal agency charged with providing advice to Congress and the President on disability policy, I write to encourage you to act to bring up H.R. 647, as amended and passed by the House Committee on Ways and Means, the “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” for a vote before the end of the session. The bill boasts an impressive 379 co-sponsors, almost exactly evenly divided between parties; as well as the broad support of many disability organizations that recognize its value in promoting the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act of economic self-sufficiency and independent living.

The ABLE Act would allow families to create savings accounts that resemble 529 college savings plans, allowing accumulation of tax-deferred savings and subsequent distributions for qualified disability-related expenses including, health care, transportation, housing, education and other expenses. The accounts may be created by the person with a disability themselves or by someone, such as a family member, for the benefit of the individual with disabilities and their distributions would be disregarded in determining eligibility for Medicaid and other means-tested federal programs. In this way, the ABLE Act provides an avenue for some people with disabilities to escape a poverty trap by allowing them to accumulate assets that can be used to pay for critical needs without jeopardizing access to critical benefits.

Many tax and social policies unfortunately fail to support the asset-building objectives of Americans with disabilities. In 2008, NCD strongly recommended in its The State of 21st Century Financial Incentives for Americans with Disabilities report for the modification of tax policy to encourage work, income preservation, access to health care, transportation, continuing education, home ownership, and other asset-building goals. In that report, NCD specifically supported the idea of creating accounts that operate like 529 plans but can be used to fund disability-related expenses. NCD views this as an important step in advancing the full participation in society and economic self-sufficiency of young people with disabilities transitioning into adulthood. The accounts allow young people with disabilities to save and plan for the future.

NCD views passage of the ABLE ACT as an important step towards creating asset-building opportunities for people with disabilities and their families that can improve the quality of their lives and renew our encouragement that the Act be taken up for a vote before the end of the legislative session. Please do not hesitate to contact Anne Sommers, NCD’s Director of Legislative Affairs & Outreach, at 202-272-0106 or if we can be of assistance on this or any disability-related policy matter.

Very Respectfully,

Jeff Rosen

 Cc:// Rep. Ander Crenshaw
         Rep. McMorris Rodgers
         Majority Leader Harry Reid
         Sen. Robert Casey

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