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Let’s Pass the Achieve a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act!!!

ABLE Act 101 – Everything You Need to Know To Help Us Pass the ABLE Act (S. 1872/H.R. 3423)
Information provided courtesy of the National Down Syndrome Society

Purpose of the ABLE Act
•To encourage and assist individuals and families in saving private funds for the purpose of supporting individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence, and quality of life
•The legislative intent of ABLE Accounts is to provide secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities
•To supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources

What’s new with the bill this Congress?
1) Creates a new subsection (f) ABLE Account within Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code
2) Additional qualified disability-related expenses
3) When the assets in an ABLE account reach $100,000, if the beneficiary is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, any monthly SSI benefits will be placed in suspension
-If the assets in the ABLE account drop back below $100,000, the SSI benefit suspension ceases and any SSI benefit resumes
-The beneficiary will not have to reapply for SSI benefits once the account drops back below the $100,000 threshold

EXAMPLE: Tuition is paid for a student or a down payment is made on a condo and this takes the account back below $100K.
•The ABLE account is built on the idea of being able to save and to withdraw without losing SSI eligibility. If one had a lot of money, nothing would prevent the person from saving 100K several times—money that is spent down and built up again.
•This could allow people to save a lot of money over a lifetime.

How does a person with a disability qualify for an ABLE account?
•Any individual who is receiving, deemed to be, or treated as receiving supplemental security income benefits or disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
OR
•Any individual who has a medically determined physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months or is blind, and provides a copy of their diagnosis signed by a physician
•No one who qualifies for an ABLE account is able to use that eligibility to secure supplemental security income benefits or Medicaid

ABLE accounts follow all the requirements and regulations of a traditional 529 qualified tuition program
•Easy to open and available in any state
•Same annual contributions apply (after $13,000 gift tax rules apply)
•Same tax-free treatment of account applies. (Income earned grows tax- free, withdrawals for qualified disability expenses are tax-free.)
•Same reporting requirements as traditional 529 apply
•A beneficiary may have either an ABLE account or a traditional 529 qualified tuition program. (Multiple ABLE accounts or multiple 529 plans still allowed)
•Rollovers allowed from an ABLE account to traditional 529 if beneficiary is no longer deemed disabled (all other 529 rollovers apply to ABLE accounts)
•Rollovers allowed to other family member’s ABLE account or their traditional 529

What are the Qualified Disability Expenses?
•Education – Tuition for preschool thru post-secondary education, books, supplies, and educational materials related to such education, tutors, and special education 6 services
•Housing – Expenses for a primary residence, including rent, purchase of a primary residence or an interest in a primary residence, mortgage payments, home improvements and modifications, maintenance and repairs, real property taxes, and utility charges
•Transportation – Expenses for transportation, including the use of mass transit, the purchase or modification of vehicles, and moving expenses
•Employment Support – Expenses related to obtaining and maintaining employment, including job-related training, assistive technology, and personal assistance supports
•Health and Wellness – Expenses for health and wellness, including premiums for health insurance, mental health, medical, vision, and dental expenses, habilitation and rehabilitation services, durable medical equipment, therapy, respite care, long term services and support, nutritional management, communication services and devices, adaptive equipment, assistive technology, and personal assistance
•Miscellaneous Expenses – Financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight, monitoring, or funeral and burial expenses

Having an ABLE Account does NOT Impact your Medicaid Eligibility
•Under no circumstance will anyone with an ABLE account who is currently receiving Medicaid benefits lose their benefits – even if their SSI benefits are suspended
•The beneficiary will never lose their eligibility for Medicaid based on the assets held in their ABLE account

To download a one page document on the ABLE Act, visit: http://www.ndss.org/PageFiles/736/achieving_a_better_life_experience_able_act_one_pager.pdf 

So what can you do to help pass the ABLE Act??? 

Action Alert
CALL Your Senators & Reps to Cosponsor the ABLE Act
 

Down Syndrome Advocates:

CALL your Members of Congress and asking them to “cosponsor the ABLE Act”! The call-in information script and talking points are included in this action alert.

Steps to Take Action — Easy as 1 – 2- 3

1) Find out if your two Senators and your Representative have signed onto the ABLE Act by clicking on the links below (under cosponsors):

House

Senate

If any of your Members have NOT signed onto the ABLE Act, please call their Washington, DC offices (click here to find out the phone number).

Begin the call by introducing yourself and asking to speak with your Member’s disability legislative staffer. (Note: You may need to leave a voice mail or call back, if the disability staffer does not answer)

2) Follow this ABLE Act phone script:

Once you have the staffer on the line, open and introduce yourself with:

  • “Hello, I am calling to ask my [Senator/Representative] to be a cosponsor of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.”
  • I am a constituent from your [State/District] and am a self-advocate, parent, sibling, grandparent, etc. from the [insert disability] community.

Talking Points to Mention During Your Call:

  • The ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423) currently has over 184 cosponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate. This bipartisan bill was introduced by:
    • Senators Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) as S. 1872
    • Representatives Crenshaw (R-FL), McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Van Hollen (D-MD) as H.R. 3423
  • The bill has been endorsed by over 50 national, state, and local disability organizations.
  • This bill would utilize the 529 education saving accounts program with which thousands of Americans are already familiar. As with the existing 529 accounts, contributions to ABLE accounts would grow tax free and would be easy and inexpensive to create.
  • The ABLE Act will give individuals with disabilities and their families the ability to plan and save for their child’s future just like every other American family, and help people with disabilities live full, productive lives in their communities without losing benefits provided through private insurances, the Medicaid program, the supplemental security income program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources.
  • The account could fund a variety of essential expenses for individuals, including medical and dental care, education, community based supports, employment training, assistive technology, housing, and transportation.
  • The ABLE Act provides individuals with disabilities the same types of flexible savings tools that all other Americans have through college savings accounts, health savings accounts, and individual retirement accounts.

If your Member is interested in signing on as a cosponsor, please have them contact:

3) Let NDSS Know About Your Call: Please let the National Down Syndrome Society know about your conversation! Email (sweir@ndss.org) to let them know who you spoke with and what they had to say about the bill. They can help by following up with their DC office.

What else can you do?

Join NDSS via Social Media and magnify your voice!

Do you follow your Members of Congress on Facebook and/or Twitter? Follow your Members and tell them why the ABLE Act is important to you via Facebook and Twitter. We will be using the hashtag:#passtheABLEact.

Here are a few sample “Facebook posts”:

If your Senator or Rep has not cosponsored:

  • Today, disability advocates from across the country are holding a Nat’l ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423) Call-in Day. As a constituent, I would like to request that you cosponsor this bill and help my family save for my child’s future just like every other American family.
  • Did you know that my family member with a disability can only save $2,000 in assets to remain eligible for services? The ABLE Act is VERY important to me and I want to save for my child’s future just like everyone else. Please cosponsor the ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423) today!

If your Senator or Rep has cosponsored:

  • Thank you for your leadership by cosponsoring the ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423)! This bill, when passed, will give individuals with disabilities and their families the ability to plan and save for their child’s future just like every other American family, and help people with disabilities live full, productive lives in their communities
  • As your constituent, I want to say thank you for cosponsoring the ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423)! The ABLE Act would level the playing field for individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Just as families can put away savings in tax-exempt accounts for children to go to college, the ABLE Act would allow such accounts for individuals with disabilities to cover their future education, housing, transportation and related expenses.

Here are a few sample “Tweets”:

If your Senator or Rep has not cosponsored:

  • As your constituent, please cosponsor the ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423) today! This bill will help my family save! #passtheABLEact
  • The ABLE Act (S. 1872/HR 3423) is important to my family! Please cosponsor. #passtheABLEact

If your Senator or Rep has cosponsored:

  • Thank you for cosponsoring the ABLE Act! #passtheABLEact
  • The ABLE Act is important to my family. Thanks for signing on! #passtheABLEact

For more information about the ABLE Act, please use the following resources:

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