WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 15, 2011) Autism Speaks today joined advocates for the disabled and congressional leaders in supporting the introduction of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2011, which would enable contributions to tax-free 529 savings accounts similar to funds for college savings -- for people with autism and other disabilities.
The ABLE Act -- introduced today with bi-partisan support in the House by Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and in the Senate by Senators Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) -- would amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code to allow individuals with disabilities and their families to deposit earnings to tax-exempt savings accounts. The funds could be used to pay for qualified expenses, including education, housing and transportation, and would supplement, not replace, benefits provided through private insurance, employment or public programs.
"This is important, common sense legislation that will provide an incredible financial boost to families affected by autism and other disabilities who are struggling to pay for critical services," said Bob Wright, Co-Founder of Autism Speaks. "If we allow families to save tax-free for college, it is only fair that they be permitted to save to meet the needs of all of their children."
Autism Speaks joined with representatives from The Arc and the National Down Syndrome Society at a Capitol Hill press conference in announcing its support for the legislation.
According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, the cost of caring for a person with autism will exceed $3 million over their lifetime, said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. Providing care for adults with autism is often far more expensive than for children, yet there are fewer funding resources. As more and more of our children with autism age to adulthood, our hands remain tied in planning for their future. The need for new resources to provide them with necessary care and services is imperative.
Qualified disability expenses would include: school tuition and related educational materials; expenses for securing and maintaining a primary residence; transportation; employment supports; health prevention and wellness costs; assistive technology and personal support; and various miscellaneous expenses associated with independent living.
Eligibility would extend to any individual who is receiving supplemental security income benefits or disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, or who has a medically determined physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations that can be verified by a physician.
Autism Speaks expressed its thanks to the bill sponsors for their leadership and will begin calling on all members of the House and Senate to sign on as cosponsors of this important legislation.