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ABLE Act Passes Overwhelmingly with Bipartisan Support

Long-awaited victory for people with disabilities and their families

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 passed the U.S. Senate Tuesday , Dec. 16, by a vote of 76-16. The legislation was originally introduced in 2006 and subsequent sessions of Congress. The Act allows for the establishment of "ABLE accounts" for those with a disability that occurred prior to 26 years of age.  ABLE accounts will be tax-exempt savings accounts that can be used for maintaining health, independence and quality of life for a person with a disability without the threat of losing certain types of essential means-tested benefits such as Medicaid.  The bill now heads to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law.

"Disability advocates around the country have worked tirelessly to progress this piece of legislation, we couldn't be happier to finally witness its successful passage,"said Elmer L. Cerano, Executive Director of MPAS.

The ABLE Act will provide an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to build and maintain economic stability. The push for passage of the ABLE Act stemmed from the special healthcare needs and disability-related essential supports that are typically only met through means tested federally funded programs such as Medicaid. Until now, people with disabilities faced an overwhelming disincentive to pursue competitive employment for fear of losing their  eligibility for certain types of necessary supports and services. With the passage of the ABLE Act, a significiant barrier to economic mobility has been lifted.

The ABLE Act, however, only gives states the ability to establish this program; it does not establish an obligation to provide for these accounts.  It will be imperative to inform the executive offices in each state of the benefits of these ABLE accounts in hopes that they will begin the process to establish this program in their respective states.  In addition, it is vital to inform families of individuals with disabilities and individuals with disabilities themselves about the program.

 "Momentum is growing in the state of Michigan to develop and implement policies and practices to increase opportunities for competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.  By establishing ABLE accounts in our state, we would be moving that much closer to making real employment opportunities a reality," continued Cerano.      

For more information on ABLE Accounts, check out this list of frequently asked questions and their answers put together by the National Disabilities Institute.

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Posted on:
December 18, 2014