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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October 2015 | Vol. 7, Issue 9
Four Leading Disability Organizations Announce Leadership of the ABLE National Resource Center
ABLE Act Update
NDI Testifies at Hearing to Promote Economic Advancement of Individuals with Disabilities
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Home Care Workers
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month
September Employment Profile


Four Leading Disability Organizations Announce Leadership of the ABLE National Resource Center

National Disability Institute (NDI), founder of the ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC), has entered into a formal partnership with three leading national disability organizations - National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), Autism Speaks, and The Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF) - to assist in better achieving the goals, objectives and mission of the ANRC. The four organizations will collectively serve as the executive leadership over the ANRC, and will work in collaboration with the Center’s current membership, consisting of over 30 national disability-related organizations.

"NDI is looking forward to working with these three dynamic organizations. The value brought by their collective contributions will inevitably ensure a bright future for the Center and ultimately the people with disabilities it serves,” Michael Morris, NDI Executive Director, said.  “I would, in particular, like to thank the Bank of America Foundation for being the inaugural sponsor of the ABLE National Resource Center. With its support, and the additional sponsors we expect to sign on by the end of the year, we can expand our vital work on behalf of people with disabilities and their families.”

Each of the four executive leadership organizations has committed substantial ongoing resources to both pass the Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (Public Law 113-295) and to ensure the success of the ANRC. In addition to support NDI received from Bank of America Foundation for the Center, DOF is committing a portion of its recent Wells Fargo NEXT Award to the ANRC. This particular award recognized the potential impact the Community Development Financial Institution industry can play in starting an innovative consumer finance strategy, such as ABLE accounts.

“This is an historical collaboration between four leading disability organizations. It is vital that the disability community work together to ensure we have effective, efficient and widespread availability of ABLE accounts across the country,” Sara Hart Weir, NDSS President, said. "The ABLE Act remains one of the most significant pieces of disability legislation and is among the most bipartisan, bicameral bills ever passed by any Congress – 85 percent of the entire 113th Congress supported the law.”

The following are ANRC goals and objectives:

  • Serve as a facilitator between the disability sector, government, and financial service companies to accelerate the effective design and availability of ABLE accounts nationwide;
  • Educate the disability community about the opportunities available to save and plan for a better economic future and quality of life experience through the establishment of ABLE accounts;
  • Educate government at federal and state levels about consumer needs and challenges in establishing and/or managing an ABLE account;
  • Educate and inform financial service companies about the needs and interests of the disability community to offer investment product choices to place ABLE account resources; and
  • Educate the public, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders about the positive impact of ABLE accounts at an individual and systems level and any needed changes for further policy development.

The ANRC will provide consistent, reliable information about the benefits of an ABLE account and its potential impact on quality of life experience for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the ANRC will educate individuals with disabilities and their families, state governments and related agencies, financial service companies, and financial planners and attorneys in relevant specialty areas, about the rules governing the administration and use of these accounts.

The ANRC collaborative estimates the number of eligible individuals and families is between five and eight million and will grow each year. It is projected that more than $50 billion is to be invested in ABLE accounts over the next five years.

For more information on the ABLE National Resource Center, please contact Chris Rodriguez at:

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ABLE Act Update

Earlier this month, NDI was was one of 13 ABLE-related stakeholders to testify before the United States Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Held on October 14, the hearing was an opportunity for stakeholders to share their opinions and comments on the ABLE Act Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

NDI's testimony highlighted areas of both support and concern. In the ABLE NPRM, we are supportive of:

  • the broad definition of “qualified disability expenses;”
  • the flexibility given to the beneficiary when changing residency; and
  • the reaffirmation that the beneficiary is the account owner.

We also requested clarification on several areas of concern. They include:

  • greater guidance on a state’s ability to contract with other states;
  • the need for more uniformity when  establishing and maintaining ABLE accounts; and
  • authorizing states creating accounts in tax year 2016 to a one-time annual contribution limit in excess of the $14,000 cap.

Across the country, NDI continues to advocate and work with ABLE stakeholders and legislatures to ensure the timely implementation of state ABLE legislation, including California’s version of the ABLE Act. All total, 32 states have now passed and signed ABLE legislation into law.

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NDI Testifies at Hearing to Promote Economic Advancement of Individuals with Disabilities

On October 14th, NDI Executive Director Michael Morris provided public testimony to the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID).

The Committee, established through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), recently released its interim report. Sent to Secretary Thomas Perez, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the report identified Committee recommendations to advance economic mobility among the disability community through increased opportunities for competitive, integrated employment and a decreased prevalence of subminimum wage.

Morris’ testimony centered around the lack of attention given in the interim report to the importance of financial literacy as a fundamental component to achieving economic self-sufficiency. Morris told the Committee that, while meaningful employment is often the most significant vehicle to achieving economic self-sufficiency, employment does not constitute economic self-sufficiency in and of itself.

In an effort to further advance the work already accomplished by the Committee, and included in the interim report, Morris provided recommendations to the Committee to consider in the coming year, including:

  • defining “advancement of economic self-sufficiency” outcome measures and a system of measurement across federal agencies that becomes a part of reporting requirements across funding streams;
  • revisiting many of the interim recommendations to add or enhance their focus to encourage and/or mandate financial health assessment and economic empowerment skill building across individual plan development and multiple funding streams;
  • inviting representatives of the participating federal agencies, as well as the Department of Treasury, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to present on current efforts to improve financial capability and economic inclusion for youth and adults with disabilities; and
  • a commitment to reduce the number of working age adults with disabilities living in poverty by 50 percent, and subsequently increase by 50 percent the consistent use of mainstream banking services by individuals with disabilities over the next 10 years.

It is important to note that the Committee will continue its work in the months ahead and will release a final report in 2016. NDI is hopeful the Committee acts on our recommendations, and we look forward to continuing our ongoing, working relationship with the Committee to produce innovative strategies to increase economic self-sufficiency among all Americans with disabilities.

Read the full transcript of Morris' testimony to learn more.

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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Home Care Workers

Good news for the millions of dedicated home care professionals: the Supreme Court has granted the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) permission to move forward with a 2013 rule requiring home care workers be paid minimum wage and eligible for overtime pay. Prior to this month’s ruling, DOL’s proposed rule had been delayed for nearly two years as a result of ongoing litigation.

NDI welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision. For far too long, and for far too many home care professionals, hard work and long hours came with little to no economic incentive. Many workers were forced to work more than 40 hours a week at wages below the federal minimum wage and without overtime protection because of antiquated laws that classified home care workers differently. In other words, they were not entitled to the same employment and wage rights as most types of employment.

We believe fair wages are not only crucial for workers with disabilities ‒ many of whom can still be paid cents on the dollar for work in sheltered workshops ‒ but are as equally important for the individuals who provide support to the millions of Americans with disabilities.

It is our belief that the Supreme Court ruling will clear the way for greater care and support of persons with disabilities and help recruit and retain greater numbers of home care professionals. At a time when individuals are abandoning the direct care profession in droves, it is imperative for the health, future and overall well-being of all persons with disabilities that our country provide adequate pay and worker protection rights to the people responsible for supporting our family members and friends with disabilities. 

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October Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

First organized in 1945, and now it its 70th year, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) has become the banner observance in the disability community for raising awareness about disability employment issues and recognizing the significant contributions of American workers with disabilities.

Living with a disability has long been connected to a life sentence of poverty. Currently, the poverty rate for persons with disabilities is two times the national average. In fact, nearly one in three people with disabilities live in poverty. These statistics are only exacerbated by the lack of meaningful employment opportunities for those living with disabilities. This is why, since NDI's founding in 2005, we have been leading the charge to improve the economic reality of and build a brighter financial future for Americans with disabilities.

At NDI we stand committed to ensuring Americans with disabilities have the opportunity to pursue meaningful, competitive and integrated employment options. Through the work of our LEAD Center ‒ known formally as the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities ‒ we are advocating and advancing individual and systems level change to improve employment and economic self-sufficiency outcomes for all people across the spectrum of disability.

Going forward, NDI will do everything in its power to see that all Americans have equal opportunity to work, live independently and achieve their American dreams.

During the final days of October, please be sure to check NDI’s Facebook, Twitter (@RealEconImpact), blog and website. Additionally, you may find it helpful to check out ODEP’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month webpage. Finally, you can join in the conversation online by using and searching for the hashtag: #NDEAM.

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September Employment Profile

Disability employment statistics for September 2015 show that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities was 10.4 percent. While this is a 2.1 percent reduction from September 2014, only 19.1 percent of people with disabilities are actively in the labor force, as compared to 68.2 percent of people with no disability. 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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