Contact: Roslyn Singer
Director of Communications, OU Advocacy
December 17, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, applauded the overwhelming approval of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (“ABLE”) Act in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 76 to 16. The Act was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month by a vote of 404-17.
The OU Advocacy Center, together with Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities—also an agency of the Orthodox Union—has supported the ABLE Act for years. Within the past five years, OU Advocacy and Yachad have actively promoted the legislation, bringing missions to Washington, D.C., and organizing advocacy campaigns that urged Members of Congress to support the Act.
The ABLE Act will amend the Internal Revenue Code to create tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities or families of children with disabilities. Funds from these accounts could be used for expenses such as medical, transportation, education, housing, and employment services.
Even more importantly, the ABLE Act would also allow individuals with disabilities to have full-time employment and still qualify for Medicaid and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Currently, individuals with disabilities cannot accumulate more than $2,000 in savings without becoming disqualified from receiving Medicaid and SSI. Through the ABLE Act, individuals with disabilities can save up to $100,000 without being suspended from government support—which, in turn, allows them to take control of their finances and be fully participating members of the workforce.
The OU commends U.S. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) for his original sponsorship of the bill as well as the many other Senators who co-sponsored the bill.
“Yachad and the Orthodox Union have been advocating for the ABLE Act for several years. For too long, individuals living with disabilities have faced a ‘Catch-22’: they must rely on government assistance to live, but if they get a job in order to become independent they face the risk of becoming ineligible for the very government assistance they need,” said Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, International Director of Yachad. “Untold potential has been squandered because medical costs and other expenses have prevented those with disabilities from attending a university or pursuing their professional goals. It is essential that this act become law as soon as possible.”
Nathan Diament, Executive Director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, noted that the ABLE Act is significant for all of American society. “Not only does the groundbreaking ABLE Act level the playing field for individuals with disabilities, but—similar to the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws—the ABLE Act will enrich all of us by enabling those with disabilities to become fully-participating members of society. We urge President Obama to sign the ABLE Act into law and provide invaluable support to millions of Americans.”