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ABLE Clears First Hurdle In Congress

July 31, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC (July 31, 2014) -- The House Ways and Means Committee today approved the ABLE Act, which would allow tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities without jeopardizing their eligibility for Medicaid or Social Security benefits.

Sponsored by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), the bill (HR.647), has been co-sponsored by three-quarters of the members of the House of Representatives and championed by the nation's leading disabilities organizations, including Autism Speaks and the National Down Syndrome Society. The bill moves next to the House floor in September.

"We will level the playing field for individuals with disabilities and their families so they can take advantage of the same financial planning tools that are available to other Americans,” said Crenshaw (pictured [on right] with Autism Speaks Senior Policy Advisor Stuart Spielman).

Originally introduced in Congress in 2006, the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act would amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code to allow tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. Such accounts are now permitted for college savings.

The accounts could be used to cover housing, medical, transportation, edcuation and other expenses. The bill has been drafted to ensure the savings accounts would supplement, not replace, benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, salaried employment, and other sources.

At a Senate committee hearing on the Senate version of the bill (S.313) last week, North Carolina autism advocate Bob D'Amelio urged Congress to quickly move the bill. D'Amelio and his wife, Christi, live in Charlotte with their three children, including two sons with autism.

"The current section 529 plans fall short for the many individuals with autism and other disabilities who cannot or choose not to go on to college," D'Amelio testified before the committee. "As much as anything else, the ABLE Act is about fairness. If Christi and I can use a college savings account to provide for our daughter Lindsey’s future, why can’t we use something similar to take care of Nicholas and Christopher?"