Alexander Says ABLE Act Will Remove Federal Barriers for 9,500 Individuals with Disabilities in Knox County

Asks Senator Becky Duncan Massey about impact of legislation on the more than 100 individuals who receive services from Knoxville’s Sertoma Center

Posted on September 18, 2014

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“The need for opportunities for citizens with disabilities is great in the area of Tennessee from which she and I both come from. …We’re talking about real people, people we know, people with whom we live who could be helped if we would remove some of the barriers that are in the way of people with disabilities finding a job.” –Lamar Alexander

Washington, D.C., Sept. 18 – At a hearing today, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said passing the ABLE Act will remove federal barriers for nearly 9,500 individuals with disabilities in Knox County—allowing them to earn and save money without losing federal benefits.

“One major obstacle is that the federal government penalizes individuals with disabilities who want to save in order to support themselves, as opposed to relying on the government,” Alexander said. “To collect Supplemental Security Income benefits and Medicaid benefits in most states, individuals can’t hold more than $2,000 in total assets. This discourages individuals from finding work in some cases. That’s why I was happy to be a cosponsor of the ABLE Act. …It would allow creation of an account that would let families of people with disabilities save for expenses in a similar manner as families can currently do for college expenses. The ABLE Act is a great example of the federal government providing support that allows for individuals with disabilities.”

Alexander introduced Tennessee State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville), one of the witnesses at today’s hearing, “Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities.” For the past 15 years, Massey has served as the executive director of The Sertoma Center in Knoxville, which serves more than 100 individuals with disabilities through vocational training, as well as employment, medical, case management, life skills, and residential services.

Alexander said, “The need for opportunities for citizens with disabilities is great in the area of Tennessee from which she and I both come from. In Knox County, there are nearly 9,500 individuals with disabilities currently on Supplemental Security Income, in Blount County it’s 2,600, Sevier County, nearly 1,900, Anderson County, 2,200. We’re talking about real people, people we know, people with whom we live who could be helped if we would remove some of the barriers that are in the way of people with disabilities finding a job.”

Alexander asked Massey at today’s hearing, “As you think about the Tennesseans with whom you work, what would be the effect of the ABLE Act on those individuals?”

Massey said, “I think it would be a huge impact on folks that have active families that could put money aside for their individual without fear of hurting their benefits. For a lot of these families, unfortunately, their dream is to live one day longer than their child because they’re not certain, even if they’ve got good providers, that the system is in place to take care of them. This would give them some peace of mind.”

She continued, “The Able Act will help hundreds of thousands of folks across the country, and I know a lot in Tennessee, and it will be very appreciated. I hope we pass it soon.”

The ABLE Act, cosponsored by Alexander and introduced by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bob Casey (R-Penn.), changes current law, which prohibits individuals with disabilities in most states from collecting Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid if they hold more than $2,000 in total assets. The ABLE Act allows individuals to earn and save up to $100,000 in their ABLE accounts, removing disincentives to work and allowing them to pay for their own health care and other long-term supports.

The Sertoma Center was founded in 1961 and first met in the basement of First Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, where they originally taught 17 children.

 

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