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ABLE Act Offers New Support Options to Advance Employment Outcomes

December 21, 2014

On December 16, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act by a vote of 76 to 16. This was previously passed by the House of Representatives on December 3. Not since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), nearly 25 years ago, has Congress moved forward with such an important and unprecedented change in public policy as ABLE.

For the very first time in our country’s history, there is clear recognition and sensitivity to the extra costs of living with a disability for individuals and their families. Every day, all across America, parents raising a child with a disability are confronted with numerous costs not covered by insurance or various public assistance and benefits. The costs are as varied as modifying a home to be more accessible, to adaptive equipment and assistive technology that enhances learning, mobility, hearing and use of a computer.

For adults with significant disabilities, extra costs could also include additional hours of personal assistance support, in addition to access to transportation, housing and employment supports. Similarly, for youths in transition or working age adults with disabilities, the establishment of an ABLE account will allow set aside funds to pay for continuing education skills leading to industry recognized credentials and a career pathway; supported and customized employment services; start-up capital for self-employment; and transportation to go to and from work.

The ABLE Act helps cover some of these costs by creating a tax-free savings account (ABLE account) to help defray the extra expenses associated to living a life with a disability without adversely affecting continued eligibility for means or resource tested government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Beginning in 2015, the U.S. Department of Treasury will provide further guidance and explanation on ABLE accounts, including the eligibility and criteria for qualified expenses.