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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

important update on the ABLE ACT - legislation rewritten with limitations

wanted to share some new developments over the Achieving a Better Life Experience aka the ABLE Act , for a better understanding of the current re-written legislation.

The National Council on Independent Living and the National Disability Rights Network have taken issue with a requirement that an individual’s disability must have occurred prior to age 26 in order to qualify for an ABLE account.
At bottom of post is info to take Action!

ABLE Act Easily Clears House, Poised to Pass Senate

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which will permit people with disabilities to set aside personal funds in tax-advantaged savings accounts under certain circumstances. The bill passed by a vote of 404 to 17. The bill, which currently has 74 Senate co-sponsors, moves next to the Senate for consideration.
The ABLE Act will create an additional subsection to the Internal Revenue Code Section 529, which currently permits the creation of similar accounts to be used for educational purposes. The new subsection will allow individuals who acquired their disability prior to age 26 and meet other criteria to save money to be used for qualified expenses, including medical costs, services and supports related to their disability, and certain assitive equipment. ANCOR has supported the bill since its inception, though had concerns about the pay-fors that would be used to offset the anticipated cost of approximately $2 billion. The House-passed bill does not include offsets that take away from other disability programs, but cuts to the Medicare program may slow the bill's passage.


as posted by Center for Disability Rights (CDR)

Open Letter to Senator Schumer - ABLE Act
December 1, 2014

Dear Senator Schumer:
I write to you on behalf of the Center for Disability Rights (CDR) regarding the current version of the ABLE Act (H.R. 647) which has passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee. CDR knows that you have been a valuable voice for the disability community in Washington, and we call on you now to take a leadership role in opposing some troubling provisions that are contained in the ABLE Act in its current form.
As you may know, CDR is a not-for-profit, community-based advocacy and service organization for people with all types of disabilities which has been advocating for the full community integration of people with disabilities for over two decades through ending the institutional bias inherent in Medicaid.
As it was originally written, the ABLE Act was an important piece of legislation that would promote the independence and self-sufficiency of many in the disability community. CDR has supported this legislation in the past because it corresponds to our own values of independence, community integration, and the civil rights of disabled people.

The current version of the ABLE Act has gutted and undermined the original intentions of the legislation. We ask you to lead New York’s congressional delegation in opposing this legislation in its current form, and to support its reintroduction as it was originally intended. There are three major problems with the current legislation.
First, in this version of the ABLE Act, eligibility for an ABLE account is cut off at age 26. It is not clear why an individual who becomes disabled at, for instance, age 27 should not enjoy the benefits of the ABLE Act merely because of his age. This age cutoff is based on no meaningful distinction in the experiences or challenges which a person with a disability will face.
Second, the ABLE Act, as now written, defines disability in such a way as to exclude those disabled people who are able to perform substantial gainful work activity. CDR advocates strongly for the widespread gainful employment of people with disabilities. As it is now written, the ABLE Act could easily create an incentive for people not to work in order to retain eligibility. The ABLE Act was intended not to create a private benefit but to provide people with disabilities and their families a tax-exempt way to save money without jeopardizing their benefits eligibility. The current definition of disability in the legislation is contrary not only to the values of CDR and of the ADA, but also to the original intention of the legislation.
Finally, and most seriously, this version of the ABLE Act includes budget cuts to vital services in other areas, including to people with disabilities. CDR opposes this provision in particular, and in the strongest terms. Aid to people with disabilities should not come at the expense of other people with disabilities. In the case of the ABLE Act, which will benefit primarily those people with disabilities who can afford to contribute up to $14,000 per year toward an ABLE account, any benefits should not come at the expense of vital services to those who are not able to afford such savings.
Accordingly, we write to alert you to these troubling developments to what had been good legislation for the disability community. We urge you to take action against the current version of the bill and to pass the ABLE Act as originally written.

Thank you,
Stephanie Woodward, J.D.
Director of Advocacy
Center for Disability Rights, Inc.

Cc: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Representative Tim Bishop
Representative Pete King
Representative Steve Israel
Representative Carolyn McCarthy
Representative Gregory W. Meeks
Representative Grace Meng
Representative Nydia M. Velazquez
Representative Hakeem Jeffries
Representative Yvette D. Clarke
Representative Jerrold Nadler
Representative Michael Grimm
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney
Representative Charles B. Rangel
Representative Joseph Crowley
Representative Jose E. Serrano
Representative Eliot L. Engel
Representative Nita M. Lowey
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney
Representative Chris Gibson
Representative Paul D. Tonko
Representative Bill Owens
Representative Richard L. Hanna
Representative Tom Reed
Representative Daniel Maffei
Representative Louise M. Slaughter
Representative Brian Higgins
Representative Chris Collins
Petition shared by Dave Sutliff-Atias on Dec 10, 2014
Call Your Senators & Stop the ABLE Act!
We cannot pit people with disabilities against each other!

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act is a bill that was supposed to help people with disabilities, but in reality it harms the Disability Community. The ABLE Act was intended to allow people with disabilities to save money, tax free, for future expenses for independent living. However, recent amendments to the bill made the ABLE Act unacceptable because it steals services from poor people with disabilities to give to the rich and it imposes age restrictions.

There are two major problems with this bill:
1. It caps eligibility by age. Only people who have acquired their disability before age 27 would be eligible. There has been no logical explanation for this arbitrary number and the Disability Community does not accept leaving anyone with a disability behind.

2. It includes budget cuts to vital services for people with disabilities. One group of people with disabilities should not have to sacrifice such services in order for another group of people with disabilities to have what they need to survive. Things that would be cut if this version of the ABLE Act passes include:

  • Specific oral medication that many dialysis patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) take would not be covered by Medicaid until 2024. People will die because of this.
  • Vacuum Erection Systems (VES) would no longer be covered by Medicare. This seems trivial, but it is assistive devices such as this that allow some people with disabilities the opportunity to have a family – the same right able-bodied people enjoy.

This harmful bill passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday so now we are turning to our Senators to stop this from becoming law.

Time is of the essence as this bill, S. 313, could be voted on at any time and with the same, last-minute changes. Last week, we e-mailed, now we call.

Call your Senators to let them know that they should NOT vote for S. 313 when it comes up for a vote! There is no time to lose!

Put your zip code in the box above to get talking points and one of your Senator's phone numbers. When you finish the first call, let us know by clicking "submit" and you'll get your other Senator's phone number.

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