Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) have introduced legislation to make it easier for people with disabilities, including Parkinson’s-related disabilities, to save for long-term care and quality of life expenses.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647/S. 313) amends section 529 of the federal tax code to create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities. ABLE accounts would act much like the 529 accounts that individuals currently use to save for college expenses – but instead allow people with certified disabilities to save for present and future expenses like transportation costs, housing and home improvements, health and wellness. The legislation is intended as a complement to existing disability insurance benefits payments, including those offered through private insurance, Medicaid, the supplemental security income program, and other sources, and opening an ABLE account would not disqualify a person from receiving benefits.

Benefit to People with Parkinson’s
PAN strongly supports the creation of these new savings tools, which will allow people with Parkinson’s and other chronic conditions who have medically-recognized disabilities to better personally plan financially for their long-term care needs and improve their quality of life. For many people with Parkinson’s, this means finding ways to maintain the independence of living in their own homes. These saving accounts could be used to help offset the costs of structural improvements, such as wheelchair-accessible lifts and passageways, so that they are not forced to sacrifice comfort and familiarity for functionality.

Who is eligible?
529-ABLE accounts are open to anyone who has a disability. The legislation defines “disability” as:

  • Any individual who is receiving, deemed to be, or treated as receiving supplemental security income benefits or disability benefits from the Social Security Administration; or
  • Any individual who has a medically determined physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 month, or is blind, and provides a copy of their diagnosis signed by a physician.

ABLE Act and the 113th Congress
The bill has attracted over 360 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and 74 in the Senate, including Senate leadership. Lawmakers are hoping to pass the legislation by the end of 2014. PAN sent letters of support to Rep. Crenshaw and Sen. Casey, as well as the bill’s original co-sponsors, praising the measure as a positive step toward helping people with Parkinson’s-related disabilities maintain a sense of financial security as the costs of managing their disease and maintaining independence changes over time.