Monday, December 12, 2011

Achieve a Better Life Experience

Disability advocates celebrated this month as the Achieve a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was re-introduced on Capitol Hill on November 15. The bipartisan bill will provide tax exemptions for disabled individuals to save money for specified costs including life-long education, medical bills, transportation, or other long term expenses related to their disability. This exemption, however, will not replace Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security benefits but rather serve to supplement the funds already being received. Since its November introduction by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), the ABLE Act has been assigned to the Senate Finance Committee to be reviewed before it is voted on by the Senate. Modeled on the 529 college savings plan, the proposed legislation will allow any interest earned in an ABLE savings account to be tax-free. Up to $100,000 can be saved before Medicaid benefits are jeopardized.                                

The bill was previously introduced in May of 2009, though the Congress session ended before a vote could be taken. Its former lack of success was due to “timing alone” according to the NYAPRS ENEWS report. At present, the Act has already garnered support from both parties as well as strong backing from the National Disability Institute, Autism Speaks, and other disability advocacy groups.

The proposed ABLE Act could serve as one viable way for some individuals on Social Security to attain fiscal independence. As the ABLE Act navigates its way through Congress, support of the bill is vital for individuals to have the ability to successfully reach a self-sustainable financial situation and have the cushion of savings to be able to accommodate the unexpected challenges that life brings.The effects of this bill may be strongest for those with access to resources already, but it is nevertheless a strong step in acknowledging the need changes to our tax systems that allow everyone to plan and save for the future. 

- Katie J.