As the mother of a son born with Down syndrome, I believe that every American should have the opportunity to reach their full God-given potential and pursue their dreams. A life full of opportunity and independence is what I dream for my son Cole and every American born with a disability. He’s inspired me to be an ability advocate because he’s opened my eyes to the value and potential of every life.
In December 2014, I led Congress in a big first step toward supporting individuals with disabilities to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives by passing the ABLE Act. This landmark legislation, which was the most bipartisan piece of legislation in the 113th Congress, created Section 529A tax-exempt savings accounts for disability-related expenses, allowing Americans with disabilities to invest in their education, pay for medical expenses, and look for a job. To this day, getting the ABLE Act signed into law with such strong, bipartisan support is one of my proudest achievements while serving in Congress.
Knowing our work was far from over, I continued this leadership with the passage of my ABLE to Work Act, which allows an ABLE beneficiary who earns income for a job to save up to the Federal Poverty Level. I also wrote and had signed into law the ABLE Financial Planning Act. This legislation allows for rollovers from a 529 to a 529A account, but still maintains the annual contribution limit of $14,000. This policy would allow individuals who may have been saving for their child’s college tuition, which is now no longer needed, to rollover up to the maximum contribution each year until the 529 account has been depleted.
We’ve come a long way, but our work is far from over. I am continuing my work on the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which would raise the age limit for eligibility to open an ABLE account from age 26 to 46. Increasing the age limit allows access to ABLE accounts for individuals who may face debilitating diseases, accidents or mental illnesses later in life, including multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and paralysis or other ailments due to an accident.
I also believe disability employment is the next policy frontier to empower people with disabilities to live full and independent lives. A job is so much more than just a paycheck, it’s what gives us dignity, purpose, and the opportunity for a better life.
That’s why I am the proud leader of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act to phase out a provision in current law that allows companies to pay people with disabilities subminimum wages.
In Congress, I will continue to be a proud supporter of life, and I will keep working to increase educational opportunities, remove employment disincentives, encourage community living, advance research, modernize Medicaid, and simplify the tax code to better suit the needs of individuals with disabilities. As the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, I also continue to educate my colleagues about Down syndrome, the latest research, and the policy changes we should pursue in Congress.