Senate Passes Bill To Expand Savings For People With Disabilities

Posted by Reeve Foundation Staff in Daily Dose on January 04, 2016 # Advocacy and Policy

When they return for the 2016 session, Congress will continue work on a bill to expand savings mechanisms for people living with paralysis and other disabilities.

People living with disabilities often rely on trusts or other financial arrangements to save for the future while maintaining access to health care and personal care attendants through Medicaid. Traditionally, “special needs trusts” filled this purpose, but those trusts could only be established by a parent, grandparent, or guardian on behalf of an individual with a disability. Last year, Congress passed the ABLE Act – establishing a new savings mechanism – but those accounts only apply to people who acquired disabilities before age 26. Many people living with paralysis are left out by both special needs trusts and ABLE accounts.

The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act would allow individuals to set up their own trusts, greatly expanding special needs trusts to adults with physical disabilities who independently manage their own financial affairs.

“This bill allows individuals to act in their own interests with their own assets without having to rely on a family member or the courts,” said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who sponsored the bill with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). “People with disabilities deserve to be treated with dignity, which includes having control of their own care,” said Stabenow.

The bill was introduced in February and passed the Senate unanimously in September. Next, it must pass in the House of Representatives. The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the bill in September, but has not taken further action. The Reeve Foundation will continue to provide updates on the bill.

Learn more about the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act from Rooted in Rights and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.