By Heather Sachs
Chris Rodriguez and I are personally familiar with the challenges and expenses of having a family member with a significant disability, and the barriers to saving money in their name. When my daughter Leah (who has Down syndrome) was born 12 years ago, we were shocked when our attorney told us that we needed to write her out of our will and not put any funds in her name, as saving more than $2,000 in assets could disqualify her government benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Chris has experienced the unfairness of these barriers to saving from a sibling perspective. His brother TJ has a significant intellectual disability, and he has watched his parents struggle all his life to meet his brother’s needs while carefully avoiding saving “too much” money in TJ’s name so that he could receive Medicaid and SSI, among other benefits. Chris and I are both on a personal mission to address this unfairness in the government benefits system.
Chris is the Executive Director of the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC), and I am the ANRC’s Senior ABLE Advisor. We have worked together with the rest of the disability community for years to create an easy, affordable savings mechanism where people with disabilities and their families could actually save for the future without jeopardizing public benefits. In December 2014, these efforts were realized when the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (PL 113-295) was passed at the federal level. Chris and I have worked tirelessly over the past few years to help over 48 states pass state versions of the ABLE Act and to provide support and guidance to over two dozen of these states to set up their own ABLE programs.
Now that ABLE accounts are available nationwide and there are many options from which to choose, we are focusing on educating the public about ABLE accounts – what they are, who qualifies for one, what the funds in the account can be used for, and how to choose the ABLE program that is right for you. The ANRC’s recent nationwide ABLE awareness campaign, #ABLEtoSave, saturated the nation with information about ABLE, yet there is always more education to be done.
We invite you to join us for our webinar that DSAIA is co-hosting with the National Down Syndrome Congress entitled “ABLE Accounts: People with Down Syndrome are Finally ABLE to Save for the Future,” on Thursday September 17, 2017 at both 1:00pm ET and 8:00pm ET. The webinars will be identical, except that Heather Sachs will be featured on the 1:00pm one and Chris Rodriguez will be leading the 8:00pm one. Register for the one that best fits your schedule at https://www.dsaia.org/event-2639680.