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Pennsylvania woman petitions Congress for SSI savings accounts

Those receiving a certain kind of disability benefits called Supplemental Security Income (SSI) must have no more than $2000 in assets and $700 in monthly income. SSI benefits are available in Pennsylvania and all other states to persons who are disabled, blind or over 65 and who are limited by the foregoing asset and income amounts. The SSI benefit is not based on prior work, or income contributions, and has no past work requirements.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), however, is a benefits program that is based on prior contributions made by workers through their payroll deductions, and has no asset limits. Some recipients of SSI believe that the asset limit for SSI is unreasonable and prevents disabled persons from saving for special needs such as housing, health care and education. One Pennsylvania resident with Down syndrome has launched a petition on a social causes website which urges Congress to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE).

The proposal would allow recipients to save more than the statutory limits in special savings accounts. Income in excess of $700 per month would go into the account and be available for special needs. The theory is that this would provide many recipients with a greater incentive to work, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, which supports ABLE. The way it is now people with disabilities are reluctant to start working because if they become unemployed again they'll have to reapply for SSI benefits.

And for things like Medicaid, this could involve a long wait to be re-qualified. The ABLE Act would protect disabled Americans who want to work more, and would put the excess earnings into their ABLE account. This could be used in the future, for example, for such things as apartment rent or healthcare insurance premiums.

The bill enjoys over 400 cosponsors in the U.S. House and Senate but will have to wait until a future session to be taken up. The Pennsylvania woman has over 200,000 signatures to her petition. SSI recipients should benefit greatly by having the flexibility and incentive provided for in the proposal.

Source:, Disabled Americans fighting for the right to save more money, Blake Ellis, March 12, 2014

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