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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February 2015 | Vol. 7, Issue 2
ABLE Resource Center Holds First Meeting
NDI and Treasury Department Meet to Discuss ABLE Implementation
Senate Budget Committee Holds Hearing on SSDI Trust Fund
NDI Attends White House Event Celebrating the Passage of the ABLE Act
NASI Conference Hosts Disability Employment Roundtable
White House Hosts Summit on Disability and Employment
NDI Travels to Capitol Hill for EITC Awareness Day
January Employment Profile


ABLE Resource Center Holds First Meeting

Following the signing of the ABLE Act into law, National Disability Institute (NDI) established the ABLE Resource Center, a group of like-minded organizations committed to promoting a consistent voice in the development of federal regulations and helping states establish ABLE account programs. On Friday, February 6th, NDI and 15 other national disability organizations met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current status of federal and state implementation efforts.

The diverse group of partner organizations includes The Arc, World Institute on Disability, Autism Self-Advocacy Network, the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Organization on Disability (NOD), the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disability Services (NASDDDS) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). All pledged to work together to educate government officials, and individuals with disabilities and their families about the possibilities and benefits of opening an ABLE account.

The ABLE Resource Center’s next meeting will be on Friday, March 6, 2015. Disability organizations interested in joining the ABLE Resource Center should contact Chris Rodriguez, Senior Policy Advisor, NDI at for more information.

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NDI and Treasury Department Meet to Discuss ABLE Implementation

The ABLE Act may have been signed into law by President Obama in December 2014, but there is still important work to be done. First and foremost, the Treasury Department, in consultation with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), needs to develop regulations and issue guidance to assist states and other stakeholders on the implementation and maintenance of ABLE accounts.

Understanding the significance and importance of such work, NDI senior staff met with Treasury Department officials to discuss the ABLE Act and forthcoming regulations. Facilitated by NDI Executive Director Michael Morris, and attended by representatives from Autism Speaks and National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), the meeting provided NDI and others the opportunity to identify and begin to discuss various ABLE Act-related issues in need of additional clarification.

In an effort to further assist the Treasury Department as it drafts ABLE Act regulations and guidelines, NDI has identified several areas/topics of concern, including but may not be limited to:

  • eligibility and eligibility documentation;
  • qualified disability expenses;
  • deposits and withdrawals;
  • state program administration and reporting;
  • state and federal public benefits impact;
  • decision-making and control of accounts;
  • federal oversight of state programs;
  • federal and state oversight of investment choices, fees and account management;
  • relationship of accounts to other trust and saving options; and
  • right of appeal and appeal process.

The responsible and pragmatic implementation of the ABLE Act remains a top priority for NDI. We will continue to work with the Department of Treasury and pertinent stakeholders to make it happen.    

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Senate Budget Committee Holds Hearing on SSDI Trust Fund

On February 11th, the Senate Budget Committee held a Congressional hearing entitled, “The Coming Crisis: Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency.” Chaired by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the hearing focused entirely on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

SSDI, based on Social Security actuaries’ projections, will go insolvent in 2016 ‐ resulting in a 20 percent reduction in SSDI payments to beneficiaries. However, Congress can remedy the situation by passing new legislation or authorizing the immediate transfer of funds from the Social Security retirement program to SSDI, a move Congress has made 12 times in the previous seven decades.

However, this Congress, under Republican Leadership, included an unrelated provision preventing such a transfer in the U.S. House of Representatives. At a time when nearly 11 million Americans with disabilities and their families are struggling to simply make ends meet, NDI stands strongly opposed to the House’s procedural move.

As expected, Democratic and Republican members of the Senate were split along party lines on next steps. Democrats pushed for the adoption of the President’s proposal to transfer retirement funds, a practice that would make SSDI solvent until 2033. Republicans argued for a “more comprehensive solution” that to date remains undetermined.

NDI will keep a close eye on this issue and work to ensure all Americans with disabilities have access to the full scope of benefits they earned and have historically relied on to survive financially.

To watch an archived recording of the hearing, please visit the Senate Budget Committee’s website. For more information on possible SSDI cuts and what you can do to help stop them, read and use our Congressional SSDI cuts script.    

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NDI Attends White House Event Celebrating the Passage of the ABLE Act

National Disability Institute was honored to participate in a White House event, hosted by Vice President Joseph Biden, celebrating the passage of the ABLE Act. The February 10th event celebrated the culmination of eight years of hard work and dedication by individuals with disabilities, their friends and families, and disability organizations and advocates to make the ABLE Act a legislative reality. 

In addition to remarks from Vice President Biden, attendees also heard from a cadre of elected officials, including Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). Other speakers included Sharon Lewis, Principal Deputy Administrator, Administration for Community Living; Taryn Williams, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement; and disability self-advocate and National Down Syndrome Society Board Member, Sara Wolff.   

Under the ABLE Act, people with disabilities (with an age of onset up to 26 years old) and their families will have the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for maintaining health, independence and quality of life. A total of up to $14,000/year can be deposited into an ABLE account by the beneficiary or others. The account can grow up to $100,000, while still allowing the person with a disability to qualify for programs and supports such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. 

While there is still much work to be done to ensure the effective implementation and maintenance of this new program, NDI joins our friends and partners in celebrating this important milestone. 

For more information on the ABLE Act, please read our most recent press release or visit our ABLE webpage.  

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NASI Conference Hosts Disability Employment Roundtable

On January 28, NDI Deputy Director Elizabeth Jennings joined a panel of experts, leading a discussion on strategies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, at the 27th Annual National Academy of Social Insurance’s (NASI) Policy Research Conference in Washington, D.C.

As part of the roundtable, “Supporting Work: Strategies to Boost Employment for People with Disabilities,” panelists identified and discussed a host of recommendations and best practices to support individuals with disabilities entering or reentering the workforce. Topics included: identification of early intervention strategies for persons with disabilities to remain in the workforce and helping youth with disabilities find employment; the role of Vocational Rehabilitation and the need for long-term supports; tax proposals aimed at better assisting workers with disabilities; and additional supports and services of a benefit for people with disabilities looking for work.

During the roundtable, Jennings focused much of her presentation on the many misconceptions people with disabilities, their families and society have toward working and living with a disability. She argued for the need of a “paradigm shift” in our collective thinking on a life dependent on public assistance. Instead of the old paradigm that one must “accept a life of poverty in exchange for public assistance,” Jennings said we should work to create a new paradigm that emphasizes the fulfillment of the promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including economic self-sufficiency. During the remainder of her presentation, Jennings identified various services and supports to help make this paradigm shift a reality for the disability community.

For more information, please visit NASI’s Conference webpage.  

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White House Hosts Summit on Disability and Employment

Earlier this month, NDI staff was on hand for the Obama Administration’s Summit on Disability and Employment. Focused on providing businesses, advocates and the general public with information on new and existing federal resources to improve employment opportunities for more people with disabilities, the Summit gave attendees a forum to share best practices and effective strategies to successfully recruit, hire, promote and retain employees with disabilities.

Coinciding with the day’s program, the White House released its newest disability publication: “Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining, and Promoting People with Disabilities: A Resource Guide for Employers.” Authored by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative, the Resource Guide serves as a blueprint for employers looking to create an even more inclusive workplace.

For more information on the Summit, please read the White House blog. To learn more about the Resource Guide, read our February 11th “Publication of the Week” blog post.

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NDI Travels to Capitol Hill for EITC Awareness Day

Each year, like-minded organizations, elected officials, state and local government agencies, schools, employers and individuals join together to raise awareness of the life-changing, transformative effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This year, that day, EITC Awareness Day, fell on January 30th.  

Considered one of the nation’s most successful anti-poverty initiatives, EITC is a refundable tax credit available to low- to moderate-income individuals and families who worked the preceding year. Last year alone. EITC lifted an estimated 6.5 million people out of poverty, including 3.3 million children. However, 1 in 5 eligible Americans are unaware they qualify and do not claim EITC, losing out on additional monies they could save, pay down debt, use for an emergency or pay their monthly bills.

As the nation’s first nonprofit committed exclusively to improving the financial health and future for all people with disabilities, NDI was in attendance for the Corporation for Enterprise Development's (CFED) and Tax Credits for Working Families’ Congressional briefing to lend support for the EITC, as well as federal efforts to expand access to EITC.

During the briefing, those in attendance heard from several experts, including Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and a single mother who recounted her financial struggles while raising a family as a low-wage earner and how the EITC helped her and her family.

EITC has made a difference in the lives of countless people with and without disabilities. NDI is working to ensure even more taxpayers access this frequently overlooked and under-utilized tax credit.

For more information on EITC and EITC Awareness Day, please visit the IRS website. To see if you qualify for the EITC, please use the EITC calculator.

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January Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for January 2015 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 11.9 percent. While this is a 1.4 percent reduction from January 2014, only 19.6 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.2 percent of people with no disability who are part of the labor force. Data on people with disabilities covers those from 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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