National Disability Institute's Washington Insider

National Disability Institute's Washington Insider is a monthly newsletter highlighting key federal policy news that impacts the financial futures and economic empowerment of all people with disabilities. The Washington Insider tracks legislative and policy initiatives gaining momentum on Capitol Hill, specifically in the areas of taxation, asset building and economic development.


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April/May 2017 | Vol. 9, Issue 4
President Trump Releases Proposed Budget
House Passes American Healthcare Act
Members of Congress Re-Introduce ABLE
Improvement Bills
National Disability Institute Releases Report on
Banking Status and Financial Behaviors of Adults
with Disabilities
National Disability Institute Executive Director Speaks at Operation HOPE Annual Meeting
April 2017 Employment Profile


President Trump Releases Proposed Budget

In May, President Trump released his proposed budget, which provides greater detail to his previously released “skinny budget.” As a result of massive cuts to federal departments, agencies and programs, this budget has been met with fierce opposition by many advocacy organizations, including the greater disability community. 

Particularly concerning areas of the President’s budget that adversely affect individuals with disabilities include the following:

  • An additional cut of more than $610 billion to the Medicaid program beyond the over $800 billion cut in the House-passed American Health Care Act (ACHA). This cut results from giving states new flexibilities to operate their Medicaid programs under per capita caps or block grants, beginning in Fiscal Year 2020. The per capita cap option will result in cuts in eligibility, services and/or provider rates, while the block grant option would do even further harm by allowing states to eliminate basic standards and safeguards.
  • More than $74.2 billion cut from Social Security and Supplemental Security Income over 10 years, including $72.4 billion proposed in cuts to Social Security’s disability programs. The disability programs are an integral part of our Social Security system, a fact that cannot be obscured by attempts to artificially differentiate between Social Security’s “core” retirement programs and its disability programs.
  • Elimination of funding to states for Councils on Developmental Disabilities, independent living services and traumatic brain injury services, to be replaced with a new “innovation” program with less than half of the funding for the three programs.
  • An almost 20 percent cut to National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds that include research on the causes of and successful interventions to address disabilities.
  • A decrease of $35 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) efforts in surveillance and prevention of developmental disabilities.
  • A $25 million cut to the Housing and Urban Development Section 811 program, leaving the program with insufficient funds to renew all existing project-based rental assistance contracts in FY 2018, thereby placing current lease compliant tenants in 811 properties at imminent risk of homelessness.
  • The complete elimination of research on evidence-based interventions and medical training for health professionals, for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, authorized by the Autism CARES Act and administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration.
  • Elimination of the Paralysis Resource Center which provides programs, resources and services focused on the promotion of independence and quality of life for the 5.6 million Americans living with paralysis.

As mentioned in previous articles, it is important to note that a president’s budget is a reflection of their priorities and a tool to articulate their goals to Congress. It is seen as a starting point for Congress to begin the budgetary process and an opportunity for education on the Hill.  NDI will be working collaboratively with our disability-related partners to stress the devastating impact this budget would have on individuals with disabilities and their families. 

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House Passes American Healthcare Act

After a previously failed attempt, the House of Representatives successfully passed the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) and sent it to the Senate for consideration. 

The AHCA, developed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA)/“Obamacare,” proposes, among other things, what amounts to an $880 billion cut to the Medicaid program over the next 10 years (according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report). Medicaid is the primary source of long-term services and supports, including employment services, for more than 10 million Americans with disabilities. Cuts of this magnitude would inevitably mean severe loss of supports provided to individual with disabilities, curtailed enrollment in Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) and decreased provider rates.

The passage of the AHCA in the House is disappointing, but stresses the importance of advocacy in the Senate. NDI is working in collaboration with our disability-related counterparts to strongly urge members of the Senate to oppose the AHCA, and to recognize that any proposal to restructure the current healthcare law cannot fundamentally change the funding structure of the Medicaid program by way of block grants or per capita caps.

We ask that you get involved by contacting your Senators and ask them to oppose the AHCA and any proposal which significantly cuts or alters the funding structure of the Medicaid program. 

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Members of Congress Re-Introduce ABLE
Improvement Bills

On April 5, a bi-partisan group of Members of Congress, including Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Representatives Pete Sessions (R-Texas),  Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Tony Cardenas (D–Calif.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), introduced a package of bills (filed independently of each other) aimed at enhancing the benefits provided through the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. This package of bills consists of the following three pieces of proposed legislation:

The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 817/HR 1874) would raise the age limit for ABLE accounts to age 46.  Currently, individuals with a severe disability that occurred prior to the age of 26 are eligible to open an ABLE account. Many debilitating diseases and conditions can occur later in life, including multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease or paralysis due to an accident. Increasing the age limit for ABLE accounts will allow more individuals to save money to help cover the costs of short-, medium- and long-term disability-related expenses.

The ABLE Financial Planning Act (S. 816/HR 1897) would allow families to rollover savings in a 529 college savings plan into an ABLE account. Many families save for a child’s college education by opening a 529 account, sometimes before their child is even born, only to learn later that their child has a severe disability. In such instances, these families have funds trapped in a 529 that they could use to help cover their child’s lifelong disability-related expenses. However, if funds are withdrawn for anything other than college expenses, they face taxes and penalties on their withdrawals. The ABLE Financial Planning Act would help these families by allowing them to transfer funds from their 529 account, without penalty, into an ABLE account for their child with a qualified disability.  It is important to note that the rollover from a 529 to a 529 ABLE account would still be subject to the annual contribution limit (currently $14,000).

The ABLE to Work Act (S. 818/HR 1896) would allow individuals and their families to save more money in an ABLE account if the beneficiary works and earns income. Specifically, in addition to the $14,000 annual contribution cap, an ABLE beneficiary who earns income from a job could contribute from his/her compensation up to the Federal Poverty Level, which is currently at $11,770 (potentially increasing allowable annual contributions to $25,770). These additional funds into the ABLE account would only be allowed if the beneficiary was not participating in his/her employer’s retirement plan (ex: 401k). The bill will also allow ABLE beneficiaries to qualify for the existing Saver's Credit when they contribute savings to their ABLE account.  It is important to note that beneficiaries would still be subject to the caps related to earned income and substantial gainful employment (SGA). This bill would not allow individuals with disabilities the ability to disregard earned income (even if it is contributed to their ABLE account) for purposes of eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. 

NDI, in collaboration with other disability-related advocacy organizations, will be working to push all three bills through the legislatives process. However, if they cannot move through the process together, NDI will be urging Congress to prioritize the ABLE Age Adjustment Act..

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National Disability Institute Releases Report on
Banking Status and Financial Behaviors of Adults
with Disabilities

On April 25, National Disability Institute (NDI) released the highly anticipated report, Banking Status and Financial Behaviors of Adults with Disabilities: Findings from the 2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households. This report provides an important lens on the financial choices and decision-making of Americans with disabilities.

Mined from data in the 2015 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, the report finds Americans with disabilities face unique financial obstacles and challenges unlike those experienced by their non-disabled peers.

Report highlights include:

  • Fewer than half of households with a disability are fully banked, compared to two-thirds of those without disability.
  • Among those who are banked, more than 40 percent have a checking account, but do not have a savings account.
  • Only 40 percent of households with a disability save for unexpected expenses, compared with 61 percent of other households.
  • Almost half of households with disabilities have no credit and are twice as likely to lack credit as households with no disability.
  • Households with disabilities face a digital divide; only half of households with a disability have internet access at home or a smart phone, compared with three-quarters of households without disability.
  • Forty percent of households with a disability use alternative financial services (AFS), compared with 25 percent of those without a disability.

The report also identifies policy recommendations to help reverse the report’s findings and includes a call for greater cooperation and work among members of the disability community, financial services industry, thought leaders, regulators and policymakers to advance the financial inclusion of people with disabilities.

For more information, or to obtain a free digital copy of the Banking Status and Financial Behaviors of Adults with Disabilities, please visit the report web page.  

The research and report were made possible through the generous support of JPMorgan Chase.

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National Disability Institute Executive Director Speaks at Operation HOPE Annual Meeting

Michael Morris, National Disability Institute (NDI) Executive Director, took part in a panel discussion on April 12 at the Operation HOPE Global Forum in Atlanta, Ga. The panel, The Economics of Identity: Why it Matters, examined the role identity plays in defining aspirations or self-imposed limitations; how institutions and public policy can support economic opportunity; and the successful strategies currently being utilized to reach disconnected consumers.

Mr. Morris’ presentation discussed the intersection of poverty, race and disability and how it affects education, employment, being unbanked or underbanked and medical debt for millions of Americans with disabilities.

Other panelists included Kim Anthony-Morrow Founder and CEO, Urban Philanthropy Network; Kelvin Boston, Executive Producer and Host, PBS Moneywise; Celie Niehaus Managing VP, Corporate Compliance, Capital One; and Robb Webb, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Tenet Health.

Operation HOPE is a membership organization focused on empowering underserved communities with a focus on global prosperity. Its members are comprised of leading organizations and individuals from government, communities and the private sector.

The theme of the 2017 Global Forum was “Uplifting the Invisible Class.” The “Invisible Class” was examined in six tracks: The Identity Class, The Working Class, The Generational Class, The Self-Sufficiency Class, The Aspirational Class and the Excluded Class. Attendees were challenged to generate “5 Big Ideas” around Working Group topics that will serve as a blueprint for action where the poor, underserved and dislocated middle class are viewed as untapped assets for entrepreneurship, job creation and economic growth.

More than 3,200 delegates representing 25 countries attended the Operation HOPE 2017 Global Forum, the largest gathering in the world on behalf of empowering poor and underserved communities.

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April 2017 Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for April 2017 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10.7 percent. This shows no change from April 2016. The latest employment statistics also find that only 20.1 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.8 percent of people with no disability. Data on people with disabilities covers those between the ages of 16 to 64 who do not live in institutions.

U.S. Disability Employment Profile
With Disability
Without Disability
Percent of Population in the Labor Force
Employment-Population Ratio
Unemployment Rate
As reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-6

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