Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Aging Americans with disabilities require more options for financial stability, Collins says

Many Americans with disabilities continue to have difficulties covering their monthly expenses as they age, despite myriad federal disability supports, according to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, who thinks they need additional financial options.

“More than 56 million people in the United States live with a disability, and about 34 million of them are at the working age of 16 to 64,” the senator said in her opening statement during the committee’s July 18 hearing, entitled Supporting Economic Stability and Self-Sufficiency as Americans with Disabilities and their Families Age.

“It hasn’t always been easy, however, for people with disabilities who can and want to work to save for their own futures,” Sen. Collins said, noting that federal law caps the assets of a single person with disabilities who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at $2,000.

“Being able to save money to make necessary modifications to a car, or a home, or just to pay for unexpected life events, can preserve the independence of individuals with disabilities. And aging parents of disabled children should also feel secure about their children’s futures as they enter into their own retirement years,” she added.

During the hearing, lawmakers and witnesses discussed federal policies, including ABLE accounts, a government system to help people with disabilities save money while they continue to receive their SSI benefits.

“Parents of children with disabilities were once discouraged from saving for their children’s future. This led to needless worry, sleepless nights and a lack of financial security,” Sen. Collins said. “Today, ABLE accounts offer a means to saving that can turn the tide. These options provide a sense of security to help produce a brighter future full of hope.”

ABLE accounts were established under the 2014 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, a federal law that Sen. Collins cosponsored. Thus far, 39 states have started an ABLE program under the act. The senator’s home state of Maine is currently implementing an ABLE program to assist people with disabilities, according to a July 20 statement from her office.

But witnesses testified during the Senate Aging Committee hearing that many government-sponsored public support programs inadvertently prevent low-income individuals and families, including those with disabilities, from maintaining their eligibility for disability benefits.

For instance, Edward Mitchell, an independent living specialist for the Jackson Area Center for Independent Living in Jackson, Tenn., whose legs, hands and a portion of his chest are paralyzed from an injury, testified he’s only permitted to work part-time jobs so he may retain his federal benefits.

“I have been gaining experience and have completed my masters, but I can’t accept a full salary because it would impact my nursing benefits,” Mitchell said. “If I accepted a full salary, I would make too much and lose my disability benefits, but I would not make enough to directly pay for nursing care, even if I gave the home care agency my entire check.”

Likewise, in Pennsylvania, the state’s ABLE program currently has more than 1,400 account holders with $8.3 million under management, testified Jack Stollsteimer, Deputy State Treasurer for Consumer Programs and Public Engagement in the Pennsylvania Office of the State Treasurer in Harrisburg.

“And each of those account owners has their own story as to why ABLE is the best option for them to save, pay bills and make debit card purchases through their PA ABLE account,” Stollsteimer said.

“We have made so much progress – but we have so much more work to do,” he added, noting there are more than 60,000 children with disabilities in Pennsylvania. “With ongoing support from federal and state policy makers, our goal is to reach as many of them as we can,” said Stollsteimer.

Sen. Collins pointed out that roughly 27 percent of Americans with disabilities live in poverty, “the highest rate of any subgroup in the country.”

“This figure demonstrates why we must provide these individuals with more opportunities for financial freedom and stability, particularly during their older years,” said the senator.

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Aging Americans with disabilities require more options for financial stability, Collins says

1 comment:

StandUp said...

I think Senator Collins is doing a good job.