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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saving a Future for Those with Disabilities

An Editorial from The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
March 13, 2014

Back in the old days, when Congress did crazy things like pass legislation, a sensible bill like the ABLE Act might have sailed to the president’s desk. But today, even with a long list of positives — it’s a good idea, solves a pressing problem and has lots of bipartisan support — it’s not a slam dunk, because there’s always a way in Washington to squelch good ideas, especially those that involve tweaking the tax code and spending a little money.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act would be a boon for people with disabilities, and for their parents and other caregivers. It would allow them to put money into tax-deferred savings plans, like the 529 plans that parents use to save for college, to cover expenses like education, housing, transportation, therapy, rehabilitation and assistive technology. Advocates say the accounts, called 529-ABLE plans, would be easier and less expensive to set up and maintain than the trust funds often used for beneficiaries with disabilities.

Such accounts would go far to ease the worries of parents who have children with disabilities that require intensive, expensive forms of care. They would also be particularly useful in fostering a saver’s independence. One advocate who has lobbied strenuously for the bill, Sara Wolff of Moscow, PA, makes that case. She works in a law office and volunteers with the local office of the ARC, the national organization for people with intellectual disabilities. Ms. Wolff has Down syndrome and receives Supplemental Security Income benefits, but cannot accumulate more than $2,000 in assets without becoming ineligible for that aid. A 529-ABLE plan would allow her to work and save and keep those benefits.

Questions about the future of a child with a disability can be a deep source of anxiety, if not anguish, for parents who wonder what will happen after they die. As people with disabilities live longer, it’s only sensible to help them secure their futures. At last count the bill had 342 co-sponsors in the House and 66 in the Senate. That is well beyond a critical mass of support; it just needs a vote. Supporters have been trying for seven years to get the ABLE Act passed. Here’s hoping this is its year.

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