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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November/December 2016 | Vol. 8, Issue 10
National Disability Institute’s Executive Director Pens Open Letter to President-elect
ABLE Programs Continue to Grow
Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Heads to the President’s Desk
November Employment Profile


National Disability Institute’s Executive Director Pens Open Letter to President-elect

Michael Morris, Executive Director and Founder of National Disability Institute (NDI), recently published an open letter to President-elect Trump in The Huffington Post.

The letter discusses the recent U.S. presidential election results and describes the current state of affairs as it relates to poverty and the disability community. Mr. Morris acknowledges recent accomplishments made to better the lives of people with disabilities, such as the federal government’s commitment to be a “model employer.” Conversely, he discusses various pieces of public policy that currently exist but should either be eliminated, such as the use of 14c waivers allowing individual with disabilities to be paid sub-minimum wage, or improved, such as the age criteria under the ABLE Act.

Read the Huffington Post blog: “An Open Letter to President-elect Trump on Behalf of Americans with Disabilities.”

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ABLE Programs Continue to Grow

2016 continues to be an exciting year for the implementation of the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. To date, 10 states have launched ABLE programs: Ohio, Tennessee, Nebraska, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Kentucky, Virginia, Alaska and Rhode Island. Additionally, the majority of these states have elected to allow for national enrollment, giving beneficiaries a greater level of choice when determining which ABLE program best meets their needs. Individuals interested in finding the right program can use the ABLE National Resource Center’s comparison tool.

The ABLE National Resource Center, founded and managed by National Disability Institute (NDI), held a webinar this past month focused on helping people with disabilities and their families better understand the investment aspects of having an ABLE account. The webinar, which had over 1,100 registrants, included information related to:

  • Understanding the difference between a checking account, savings account and investment account; 
  • Understanding the varying degrees of “risk” associated with different investment choices that may be associated with ABLE accounts;
  • Learning more about what characteristics should be considered when choosing an investment option under an ABLE program; 
  • Learning about why fees may vary from one investment option to another; and 
  • Understanding how and when you are allowed to change investment options under ABLE accounts.

View the webinar archive: “ABLE Funds: Understanding the Investment Side of ABLE.”

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Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Heads to the President’s Desk

The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, sponsored by Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Thompson (R-PA), passed Congress this past month and is now on its way to being signed into law. This particular piece of legislation was considered a “technical amendment,” which made a subtle, yet important change to the Social Security Act.

Previously, the Social Security Act required that special needs trusts for non-elderly individuals with disabilities could only be established by parents, grandparents, legal guardians or a court. As a result, an individual with a disability wanting to set up a special needs trust for him or herself would have to file a petition with a court, which could take months.

As result of this bill becoming law, the Social Security Act, with regard to special needs and pooled trusts under Medicaid (which are exempt from asset counting and transfer rules), will now allow a person with a disability the right to establish a special needs trust on their own behalf.

NDI applauds Congress for passing the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act and allowing individuals with disabilities further autonomy and independence when planning for their financial futures.

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November Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for November 2016 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10 percent. This is a 2.1 percent decrease from August 2015. The latest employment statistics also find that only 20 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.4 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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