Senators Look To Expand ABLE Program
A proposal in the U.S. Senate would dramatically increase access to a newly-established program that allows people with disabilities a way to save money without jeopardizing their government benefits.
Legislation introduced this week by a bipartisan group of senators would raise the eligibility age for ABLE accounts.
Under the plan known as the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, S. 651, individuals with disabilities that present by age 46 could open the accounts. Current law limits ABLE accounts to those with disabilities that onset prior to age 26.
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“Since the passage of the ABLE Act, families across the country have benefited from the opportunity to better plan for the future of their disabled loved ones. This legislation will build on the foundation of the ABLE Act and expand access to these accounts to more families,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who introduced the bill along with Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Jerry Moran, R-Kans., and Pat Roberts, R-Kans.
ABLE accounts were created under a 2014 federal law and permit people with disabilities to save up to $100,000 without risking eligibility for Social Security and other government benefits. Medicaid can be retained no matter how much is saved in the accounts.
Last year, disability advocates warned that the ABLE program could be unsustainable without changes to the program to substantially increase the number of account holders.
“Simply put, without increasing the ABLE eligibility criteria for age of disability onset from prior to age 26 to prior to age 46 in order to significantly expand the pool of individuals who can open ABLE accounts, the entire ABLE program nationwide is in jeopardy,” read a June 2018 letter from over 150 disability advocacy groups to congressional leadership.
According to the National Association of State Treasurers, which represents state ABLE administrators and program managers, 390,000 accounts are needed by June 2021 for ABLE programs to achieve “bare bones sustainability,” given the cost of operating the programs.
By the end of last year, there were 34,707 ABLE accounts open across the country with $171.7 million in assets, according to Strategic Insight, a consulting firm that tracks ABLE account trends.
The senators behind the bill said that another 6.1 million people are estimated to be eligible for ABLE accounts if the ABLE Age Adjustment Act is approved.