Sign the ABLE Act

The president should approve bill that empowers disabled Americans

On Tuesday, a few weeks after the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Achieve a Better Life Experience Act, the U.S. Senate gave its approval. It was a rare bipartisan showing of support for a bill that will empower people with disabilities by allowing them to establish special tax-free savings accounts.

On the surface, that may not sound like such a big deal. But the ABLE Act is being called the most significant legislation aiding those with disabilities since the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The law would aid millions of citizens by creating an opportunity for them to gain, as the full name of the legislation states, “a better life experience.” That’s because the accounts—which can be used on qualified expenses, such as housing, medical care and transportation—will not interfere with an individual’s eligibility for benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

Presently, those who have more than $2,000 lose those benefits—a factor that has served only as a roadblock to independence. In other words, as it stands, those with disabilities must remain impoverished to receive federal aid.

Conversely, under the ABLE Act, qualifying individuals, or their families, will be able to set aside up to $14,000 per year. The accounts could draw up to $100,000 before affecting Supplemental Security Income, and there’s no limitation on accrual when it comes to Medicaid. Moreover, interest on that money is tax-free.

The ABLE Act has been in the works since 2006 and is championed by many national disabled-rights groups, such as Autism Speaks and the National Down Syndrome Society. Its overwhelming bipartisan support should show President Obama that this issue is too important to keep kicking the can down the road. Signing this extraordinary bill into law immediately is the right thing to do.