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December 21, 2014

Obama Signs ABLE Act Into Law - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Tax-free savings allowed for disability expenses

December 21, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Obama has enacted the Achievinga Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) which will allow tax-free savings accounts to help individuals and families cover lifetime disability expenses. ABLE was a part of HR.5771, a tax-extender bill signed into law without comment by the President.

The ABLE Act was sponsored in theSenate by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) [left] and Richard Burr (R-NC) and attracted 76 cosponsors. It passed the Senate 76-16 just days after clearing the House on a 404-17 vote.

ABLE will allow individuals will disabilities to protect or qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaidby eliminating a $2,000 cap that now applies toconventional savings accounts. The federal government must first determine eligible expenses before the accounts become available, which is expected late in 2015.

"Millions of Americans are currently living with disabilities, and many of them have also had to endure significant uncertainty about their ability to cover basic expenses in the future," said Casey. "They have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of housing, transportation and medical assistance. A growing number of Americans with disabilities are outliving their parents, and are forced to rely on government assistance when family support disappears. This is partly because Americans with disabilities have not had the same incentives to save that other Americans enjoy.

"The ABLE Act changes this unfair situation by creating tax-advantaged plans for disability-related incentives, and by allowing Americans with disabilities to save without losing eligibility for government programs," he added.

Casey credited Autism Speaks, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) and other advocacy groups for helping drive support for ABLE. The bill was renamed in honor of Steve Beck, a former Board member of NDSS and driving force behind the bill who died suddenly in early December.

"Some have called the ABLE Act the most significant piece of legislation affecting the disabled since passage of the American Disabilities Act nearly 25 years ago," said Burr."Families of severely disabled children came to us expressing the critical need for an easy way to save for their child's future expenses, especially since many Americans with Down Syndrome and autism are now outliving their parents.

"Most middle-class families don't have the money to spend on lawyers and financial planners to set up sophisticated trusts to make sure that their disabled child will be OK long after they are gone.What's worse, current federal law actually discourages parents from putting any assets in the name of their disabled child in fear of disqualifying them from federal programs down the road," he added.

"It's utterly unacceptable that our current laws doom a child born with a disability to a lifetime of poverty and dependence.This is especially unfortunate when a parent or other family member has the resources and the desire to save and plan for that child's future expenses but are advised by lawyers and planners not to.The ABLE Act will take the first critical step in ending this injustice."

December 19, 2014

With Caregiver Pay Hike, States Warned About ADA Obligations - DisabiltyScoop
As new rules roll out mandating better pay for in-home care workers, federal officials say states must not compromise the rights of people with disabilities in the process.

Tech Firm Sees Benefit From Employees On The Spectrum - DisabiltyScoop
A global technology firm that's committed to hiring hundreds with autism says the move isn't about disability, but rather an effort to harness skills.

ABLE Act is Law! - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

President Obama signs bill allowing tax-free savings for disability expenses

December 19, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Obama signed into law the ABLE Act today, following a bipartisan vote in the Senate earlier this week. The signing culminated an eight-year campaign to gain approval for tax-free savings accounts to help individuals and families finance their longterm disability needs.

Sponsored by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) [left] and Richard Burr (R-NC), the bill attracted unusual bipartisan support, including co-sponsorships byboth Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. ABLE, or the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, was voted out of the House last week 404-17.

"Autism Speaks is grateful for the tireless effort of Senators Casey and Burr who joined our champions in the House to build extraordinary bipartisan support for the bill," said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld. "We also thank Senators Reid and McConnell for their early support and leadership to make this a priority in the closing days of this Congress. It also could not have been done without the Senate Finance Committee leadership provided by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), whose long-standing support for the bill was vital.

“Passage of this bill through the House and Senate shows that Congress can work to accomplish big things and that there is no greater force than an idea whose time has come. Finally, this could not have been done without the power of individuals coming together to advocate for good policy that makes sense.”

ABLE amends the federaltax code to allow tax-free savings accounts to help finance disability-related needs. They are similar to Section 529 college savings accounts and eliminate, for ABLE accounts, the current $2,000 cap on savings for individuals with disabilities.

Under previous law, people with disabilities who saved more than $2,000 fail to qualify orrisk the loss of their Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits. Funds deposited in ABLE accounts would have to be used exclusively for disability-related expenses.If signed into law, ABLE accounts would not become available until later next year because of the need for the Internal Revenue Service to define qualifying expenses and complete other regulatory steps.

"For years, we've created incentives in the tax code to save for higher education or to save for retirement," said Casey. "Now at long last for Americans who have a disability, those families will be able to save – whether it's to pay for health care or education, the basic expenses that these individuals with disabilities have wanted to save for for many years.

"We believe --and this is what undergirds the ABLE Act--that people with a disability have a lot of ability to live a full life if we give them the tools," Casey added. "One of those tools is an incentive to save for the future."

Burr said the American people “look at us and say, this makes common sense. What took so damn long? Well, you know, I'm embarrassed that it took so long, but this is a product that Congress, the Senate, can be proud of.

"One of the clues that something was wrong was the fact that we penalized individuals who had disabilities from holding assets," Burr added. "It meant they couldn't buy a car and have it be in their name. It meant that they could only earn so much before they were penalized. What we've done is we've changed the landscape."

According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, eligible expenses could include:

  • education
  • housing
  • transportation
  • employment training and support
  • assistive technology and personal support services
  • health, prevention, and wellness
  • financial management and administrative services
  • legal fees
  • expenses for oversight and monitoring
  • funeral and burial expenses
  • other expenses to be determined by IRS

To learn how ABLE accounts would work, go HERE.

Earlier this week. a driving force behind the creation of ABLE accounts, Steve Beck, the father of a daughter with Down syndrome and a board member of the National Down Syndrome Society, died suddenly. In his honor, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), the originalHouse sponsor of the bill had the measure renamed in Beck's honor.

“Steve represents the soul of the ABLE Act and played a central role in getting if off the ground more than eight years ago,” said Crenshaw. “More importantly, on behalf of his own daughter Natalie and millions of others with disabilities, Steve never gave up hope that ABLE would move across the Congressional finish line and become law of the land.History was made in large part because of his steadfast dedication to improve the quality of life for so many – an important lesson we would all do well to keep close a heart.”

Several states are now moving to create ABLE accounts providing state tax income benefits, consistent with the development over the years of college savings accounts at both the federal and state levels. Massachusetts created a state ABLE program earlier this year.

National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making (NRC-SDM) - AUCD
The National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making (NRC-SDM) builds on and extends the work of Quality Trust's Jenny Hatch Justice Project by bringing together vast and varied partners to ensure that input is obtained from all relevant stakeholder groups including older adults, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), family members, advocates, professionals and providers. The NRC-SDM partners bring nationally recognized expertise and leadership on SDM, representing the interests of and receiving input from thousands of older adults and people with I/DD.
December 18, 2014

Mounting Evidence Points To Air Pollution, Autism Link - DisabiltyScoop
Exposure to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy -- particularly during later stages -- may double a woman's risk of having a child with autism, a new Harvard study suggests.

Free Videos and Vignettes Available Online for Recognition & Response: RTI for Pre-K - AUCD
Watch this video and observe how the teachers use handheld devices to gather assessment information on children's language and literacy skills. The Recognition & Response project is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
December 17, 2014

Tax-Free Disability Savings Bill Headed To Obama - DisabiltyScoop
The U.S. Senate has voted overwhelmingly to send legislation to the president establishing a new way for people with disabilities to save money without risking their government benefits.
December 16, 2014

10 Ways to Support Families of Children with Autism this Holiday Season - PRNewswire

BOSTON, Dec. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For many of us, the holiday season is a wonderful time of the year – a time to get together with friends and family, enjoy favorite foods, decorate our homes, and exchange gifts. But it can also be a stressful season when you...

Disability Champion Leaving Congress - DisabiltyScoop
After 40 years on Capitol Hill, a U.S. senator who shaped the Americans with Disabilities Act is leaving his post.

New Prenatal Tests Called Into Question - DisabiltyScoop
Companies hawking new prenatal tests to detect Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities may be promising more than they can deliver, an investigation finds.

Down Syndrome No Barrier To College Degree - DisabiltyScoop
Stereotypes and academic hurdles haven't stopped one man with Down syndrome from receiving his bachelor's degree, graduating magna cum laude.

Reps. Frankel, Deutch Cheer On ABLE At Autism Speaks' Florida Office - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

Meet with parents of children with autism

December 16, 2014

WEST PALM BEACH, FL -- Meeting with parents of children with autism at the Autism Speaks office here, U.S. Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-22) and Ted Deutch(FL-21) spoke of the benefits that could come with final Congressional approval of theAchieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Act. Their Florida colleague, Rep. Ander Crenshaw (FL-4), is the original sponsor of the bill which passed the House 404-17 last week.

Awaiting final approval in the Senate after eight years before Congress,the bipartisan bill has been called themost significant disabilities legislation since the1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Families caring for a child with a disability worry about their child's long term security,” saidFrankel. “The ABLE Act allows parents to provide a cushion of support for their beloved son or daughter as they enter into adulthood."

Deutch said, “Parents of children with autism, Down syndrome, and other types of disabilities face unique financial challenges when it comes to planning for their long-term care expenses,” saidDeutch. "The ABLE Act is a commonsense solution that will help improve the financial security of millions of families by allowing them to save money in tax-free accounts and better plan for their disabled children's needs.”

Frankel and Deutch cosponsored the ABLE Act which would allow individuals with disabilities, or their families to save tax-free for their longterm disability expenses.

NC Mom Lectures Politically Opposed Sons: Agree On Autism - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

One a Democrat, the other a Republican get surprise call on TV

December 16, 2014

Political pundits Dallas and Brad Woodhouse who argue from opposite sides of the political spectrum were told yesterday to meet in the middle when it comes to autism. The order came from their mother Joy in a viewerphone call as the two weretalking politicson C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

"Oh god, it's mom," said Dallas Woodhouse, the Republican, as their motherrelated their bickering over Thanksgiving and pleaded fora "peaceful Christmas."

Asked by the moderator where she landed on the political spectrum, Joy Woodhouse said said she was a "one-issue person" driven by concern for her grandson with autism.

Watch the clip here:

NC Mom Lectures Politically Opposed Sons: Agree On Autism - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

One a Democrat, the other a Republican get surprise call on TV

December 16, 2014

Political pundits Dallas and Brad Woodhouse who argue from opposite sides of the political spectrum were told yesterday to meet in the middle when it comes to autism. The order came from their mother Joy in a viewerphone call as the two weretalking politicson C-SPAN's Washington Journal.

"Oh god, it's mom," said Dallas Woodhouse, the Republican, as their motherrelated their bickering over Thanksgiving and pleaded fora "peaceful Christmas."

Asked by the moderator where she landed on the political spectrum, Joy Woodhouse said said she was a "one-issue person" driven by concern for her grandson with autism.

Watch the clip here:

'60 Minutes' Spotlights Insurance Denials For Mental Health - Autism Speaks - Advocasy

California fights back through legal action, regulation

December 16, 2014

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has commended CBS "60 Minutes" for highlighting the difficulties individualsexperience in securing longterm mental health coverage and highlighted his agency's efforts to improve benfits, particularly for the treatment of autism.

The CBS segment, entitled "Denied," [view below] aired December 14 and focused onclaims processed byAnthem. CBS found that 90 to 100 percent of claims reviews were denied by Anthem's contracted physicians.

"60 Minutes highlights Anthem Blue Cross' history of denying coverage for vital mental health treatment despite mental health parity laws, but they are not the only insurer that has denied coverage for lifesaving care to those who suffer from mental illness," said Jones. "If a patient is denied medically necessary care, such as residential care for an eating disorder or behavioral health treatment for autism, the Department of Insurance is here to help the policyholder get the coverage they are entitled to under the law. This 60 Minutes feature puts a national spotlight on the all too common practice of denying people with severe mental illness the medical care to which they are entitled."

In April, Jones' agency issued strict guidelines on the behavioral health treatment for autism, such as applied behavioral analysis (ABA),that insurers must cover.Prior to the new regulations, it was not uncommon for health insurers to delay or deny medically necessary treatment for individuals with autism.

"The mental health parity regulations will help end improper insurer delays and denials of medically necessary treatments for people with autism," saidJones. "This regulation provides clear guidance to the industry, stakeholders and consumers on the requirements of the Mental Health Parity Act."

Autism Speaks honoredJones as its2014 Executive Champion for his strong advocacy on behalf of families with autism during the 9th Annual Autism Law Summit.

As a result of a string of class action lawsuits brought in Washington state, coverage for autism has now been required by regulation by all state-regulated health plans. The litigation was all based on alleged violations of state and federal mental health parity law.

Intronix Technologies to Collaborate with Western University to Develop New Rehabilitation Technologies for Musculoskeletal Disorders - PRNewswire

TORONTO, Dec. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Intronix Technologies will be collaborating with Western University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to develop technology to be incorporated into rehabilitation devices. Canadian-based innovator Intronix Technologies will...

December 15, 2014

Home Health Leaders Commend Congress on Budget Deal - PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare – a leading coalition of home health providers dedicated to improving the integrity, quality, and efficiency of home healthcare for our nation's seniors – today commended...

Governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island take action to help Islanders get jobs faster - PRNewswire

SUMMERSIDE, PEI, Dec. 15, 2014 /CNW/ - Today, the Government of Canada announced nearly $4 million in funding to Prince Edward Island (PEI) for two projects that will help young people and newcomers find work in their fields. The governments also renewed two agreements that will...

Feds Inch Closer To Disability Hiring Goal - DisabiltyScoop
The federal government added people with disabilities to its payroll at a higher rate last year than at any other time in the last three decades.
Last updated : December 22, 2014 - 00:59:22
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