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Ander Crenshaw: ‘ABLE Act is a Step Worth Taking’

Editorial by Congressman Ander Crenshaw

Equality. Americans have strived to open the door to its strength across generations of our nation's history. And, no population may understand the dedication and footwork needed to realize a level playing field for its players more than the disabled.

Great strides have been made to ensure that fewer of the disabled fall through society's cracks. But there is ample ground to cover before they have the same opportunities as other Americans. A good place to continue that fight is in the area of financial planning.

Today, the federal government encourages Americans to save for future needs through a variety of tax-advantaged savings accounts: individual retirement accounts, education savings accounts (529s), medical savings accounts, and employer savings accounts (401-ks). With the right tools in place, life's horizon can be brighter. Without them, dreams can pass by in the blink of an eye.

That's why I am so encouraged by the growing number of supporters behind my "Achieving a Better Life Experience Act" (ABLE) to create tax-deferred savings accounts for the disabled. To date, 184 House Members and 22 United States Senators are co-sponsors of this legislation. Special Olympics, the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and National Fragile X Foundation are among a long list of organizations also supporting the bill. All understand the need to crack open a wider door to equality for the disabled.

The average cost of raising a child with a significant medical disability is more than $1 million over the course of their lifetime. Continuing education, transportation, housing, and medical care make up some of the predictable costs on that staggering bill.

ABLE accounts would relieve some of that burden, by allowing parents with disabled children or family members of disabled individuals to invest through a tax deferred savings account that could be drawn from for these future expenses. No longer would they have to stand aside and watch as others use IRS-sanctioned tools like 529 education savings accounts to lay the groundwork for a brighter future. They would be able to do so for their child as well.

Creating an ABLE account is as simple as opening an account at the local bank. Anyone currently receiving supplemental security income (SSI) benefits would be eligible, and qualified expenses include educational and transportation expenses, medical and dental care, and employment and training support.

Anyone may contribute to an ABLE account and rollovers would be allowed without penalty; however contributions to these accounts are capped at $500,000. Under the proposal, the principle in the account would accrue interest tax free during the life of the beneficiary. When distributions are made to the beneficiary for qualified expenses, the distributions are excluded from the gross income of the beneficiary.

In real life terms, that means young Sydney Leach, who was born with Down Syndrome in Jacksonville, Florida and is now finishing first grade, can plan for her future. A bright student who can read, write, and perform simple arithmetic, she hopes to gain a post-secondary education. Eventually, Sydney will work and earn a salary just as millions of other Americans do. Under current law, however, she cannot keep more than $2,000 in assets (whether earned or through gifts) or she will lose her benefits, such as Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance. With an ABLE account, that roadblock would be lifted enabling her to save and use her earnings to cover qualified expenses.

The cost to reform U.S. tax code to offer ABLE accounts would be minimal, but the positive impact for Sydney Leach, her family, and others who are struggling to cope with an uncertain future would be sizeable.

They and all the disabled deserve that opportunity. A change in the tax code so they can Achieve a Better Life Experience is a step forward toward equality with every other American - a step worth taking.

2 Responses »

  1. Dear Mr Crenshaw,

    While this is indeed noble cause, You have completely missed the big picture. Whane you said "Today, the federal government encourages Americans to ....." you completely lost me. You see, Mr Crenshaw, I don't WANT the government telling me what to do. or "encouraging" me. When it does, it just seeks to strip me of yet another freedom. BIG Government must be stopped.

    Big Government uses children like Sydney for propaganda purposes. When I was young, prior to massive go'vt social programns, children like Sydney were taken care of in our communities. Instead of Medicaid, Medicare, and now Obamacare, we had charity hospitals, funded by private charities, where the indigent recived free medical care alongside paying cusomers. We took cre ou ourselves, and the less advantaged amongst us.

    However, nowadays people in gov't like you encourage dependence, not freedom. I was born in a former Soviet- bloc Communist country, Mr Crenshaw, and today, the citizens in my native country have more personal freedom than Americans do, thanks to the brainwashing Americans have received abouth teh "necessity for more Big Government. And, just like old style Communism, American NeoCommunism will fail.

    I am now a citzen of the United States, and as a citizen, I will fight for freedom until my dying breath. I will fight against the propaganda of Big Government.

    Just 2 days ago, we celebrated the 41st anniversary of the first moon walk. Today, that spirit of innovation is all but dead in America,big thanks to Big Government "protecting" us from ourselves. Please join with me in stamping out Big Governmet, whereever it rears its ugly head, and don't fall for the propagnda of "helping" the lesss fortunate of us, we can take care of our own, and will have to anyways, once the American Soviet regime implodes.

  2. Dear Mr. Crenshaw,
    I applaud this Act. There is a facility in my community that cared for people with Autism and other developmental Disabilities, behind wire fences. This goes for those with mental health issues, as well. This where I part company with Ms. Beck. This is not the kind of 'community care' that I want for my son. While bright, he will always need someone to make sure that he gets and takes his medications, pays bills, and so on. I don't how well he will do on a job, though I read that some companies now want to hire those with High-functioning Autism and Aspberger's Syndrome. I want to be able ot put money aside for his care and therapies without jeopardizing other supports. I hope that other policy-makers will come on board and get this Act through the entire process speedily.