(#DIW Podcast) ABLE Act Update and Crabs in a Barrel

Day in Washington #Disability #Policy Podcast. Update on the #ABLEAct and Crabs in a Barrel. Did we sacrifice #disability community solidarity and the good of the many for the good of the few?

Ka-Son Reeves Art - Crabs in a Barrel

Crabs in a Barrel by Ka-Son Reeves

Audio File: http://dayinwashington.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Able-Act-Update-and-Crabs-in-a-Barre.mp3

TRANSCRIPT:

Hello and welcome to Day in Washington, your disability policy podcast. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed. Today, I want to give a bit of an update on the Able Act.

The ABLE Act was signed into law by President Obama on December 3rd, 2014. When Able accounts first came out, I’ll admit, from a policy standpoint, I was pretty excited. I even did a video Day in Washington about it. Let me give you the quick details:

ABLE Act savings accounts would basically allow people with disabilities (and their families), for perhaps the first time, to be able to save money for things they might need without risking their benefits, including health care. Things like, saving for school, or an accessible van (which let me tell, you I only learned recently how expensive those are), additional personal care services, or assistive technology…among other things. You see, public benefits like Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), and Medicaid for example require you prove that you’re poor. Basically, you can’t have more than $2,000 and that isn’t just cash, that is any asset or item of value. I still remember a young man I met during rehab. God, he couldn’t have been more than 19. He cried over the fact he had to give up his classic car. It was the one thing in his life that was his. He’d rebuilt it from scratch, piece by piece. And now, to get access to a surgery he needed and additional care for his diminishing eyesight, he had to sell it.

But, lets get back to the Able accounts. Now, people with disabilities and their families can have these savings accounts, which aren’t too different from the tax-exempt college savings accounts that you may be familiar with. Up to $14,000 can be deposited into the account per year up to a total of $100,000 before the individual loses some of their SSI. Another key advantage of the ABLE Act is that people with disabilities need never fear that they would lose their Medicaid. For many, that is the only way they can afford their health and personal care services.

So now, let me get to the compromises. Although the monetary limitations mentioned above are also compromises, the largest and the compromise that bothers me the most, is the fact that the ABLE act limits its eligibility to people with significant disabilities who got their disability before turning 26.

As of March, more than half of the states are now starting to put regulations in place to create these accounts. Which is good news. I have to admit some disappointment that the Able Act will not do everything that we all once hoped. In a world where X percentage of families with a member with a disability live in poverty, we already see growing economic disparities. As it stands, this bill would seem to benefit mostly those who can “afford” to use these accounts. Also, although the age limit may be helpful for individuals who are born with disabilities, there are many who acquire significant disabilities after 26 that can have devastating effects on their families and their children. And now, this option is no longer available to them.

I understand that this bill had and still has an expensive price tag and decisions had to be made. But this disturbs me in that I wonder if we are sacrificing one part of the community for another. When it came to ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and there was a push to remove Trans individuals from the protection of the legislation, I was proud to see many members of the LGBT community, and folks I worked with and lobbied with absolutely withdraw support. All of us, or none of us.

Obviously, there are significant pros and cons of this kind of attitude, but I can’t help but wonder if this highlights one of the larger issues within the disability community. In the rush for legislation, in the rush for bills that will pass, do we end up breaking down into groups based on disability? Based on class? Or color? Do we end up clambering over one another, pulling each other down, like crabs in a barrel? Or is this what disability compromise should be? After all, most disability organizations and lobbying are STILL operating mostly on a “by disability” basis aren’t they?

Perhaps I’m the idealist. I guess I wished to see an Able Act and a community that said “All of us, or none of us.” As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion. Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.

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 Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright. Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.

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