ABLE Tied To National Response to Rising Autism Rates

WASHINGTON, DC (March 28, 2014) --Responding to yesterday's release of the new 1 in 68 autism prevalence estimate, Congressional leaders said the ABLE Act must be part of a national plan to address the public health crisis of autism. Four more House members signed on as cosponsors to the bill, raising the total to 351, while Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) became the 70th Senator to become a cosponsor.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) [left] and Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, would allow the creation of tax-exempt savings accounts for individuals with disabilities. The funds could be used for housing, transportation, job support, education and other services without jeopardizing eligibility for Social Security or Medicaid benefits.

"These alarming statistics underscore the need to address the long term needs of families caring for those with autism," said Casey. "Parents of children with disabilities face daily struggles that we can’t even begin to imagine. The ABLE Act will provide families with the financial peace of mind they need, and Congress should pass it immediately.”

At an Autism Speaks press conference, Casey noted the overwhelming number of cosponsors and said President Obama was supportive when he raised the issue. He credited Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) with raising the issue with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell signed on as a cosponsor and within hours Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) signed on as well.

Casey credited the advocacy of Autism Speaks, which is part of a national coalition with the National Down Syndrome Society, for building support.

"I’m not sure anything else in the Senate has that many cosponsors," he said. "That’s because of a really unified effort led by Autism Speaks."

Crenshaw said the CDC announcement "further underscores the need for Congress to take up and pass the ABLE Act to provide individuals with disabilities with the financial planning tools they need and deserve. Those living with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities face enormous financial difficulties, yet they cannot benefit from the same IRS-sanctioned tools that other Americans enjoy to use in planning for their future."

Burr said, "Children and adults with autism face enormous daily challenges, and it is important that we do what we can to support these individuals and their families as they deal with the day-to-day struggles presented by autism spectrum disorders. That’s why Senator Casey and I introduced the ABLE Act."