ABLE Act of 2014
The ABLE Act (The Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act was introduced in the 113th Congress by a bi-partisan, bicameral set of Congressional Champions. These champions include Senators, Robert Casey Jr. and Richard Burr and Representatives Ander Crenshaw, Chris Van Hollen, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Pete Sessions. Support has been growing for this Act, which may become law this year.
Under ABLE, individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid could establish tax favored accounts to cover qualified expenses for medical care, housing, schooling and transportation. This would be done by amending Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986 to create these accounts for individuals with disabilities. This bill would supplement but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurances , the Medicaid program, the SSI program, the beneficiary’s employment and other sources.
The ABLE Act provides individuals with disabilities the same types of flexible savings tools that all other Americans have access to through college savings accounts, individual retirement accounts and the like. This is overall , a good thing.
There is controversy, however, because as it stands, ABLE is really a bill to help the disabled family members/children of middle class and wealthy individuals. These individuals can use ABLE accounts to transfer funds to their disabled family members. Most people on SSI and Medicaid rarely have the ability to accumulate assets on their own in an ABLE account. ABLE could help middle class and wealthy families at the expense of people who apply for SSI in general due to its proposed “pay-fors” that would:
- -Eliminate the percentage and dollar cap on the user fee that those representing Social Security claimants pay for processing direct payment of fees for representing Social Security claimants.
- -End the Single Decisionmaker pilot currently used in twenty states.
- -End the Reconsideration elimination pilot currently used in ten states.
Ending the single decisionmakeer and reconsideration elimination pilots, would make it more difficult to be approved for disability benefits in states affected by ABLE. Some suggest that the pilots be extended to all states and ABLE be part of a comprehensive effort to update the income and resource provisions of SSI and Medicaid. SSI’s provisions have not been updated since SSI came into existence about 40 years ago.
Additionally, eliminating the percentage and dollar caps on the user fee would reduce the net income of those who represent Social Security Claimants which is already a high overhead, low profit margin business. Social Security Representation could become a thing of the past.