Salem, OR—Thousands of people with disabilities can set aside money to build better financial futures, without risking eligibility for important government assistance, through the Oregon ABLE Savings Plan and its national version, known as ABLE for ALL.
In a special ceremony this week in Washington D.C., Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read and the Oregon ABLE programs were recognized by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) with a 2019 Stephen Beck Jr. Champion of Change Award. The award recognizes and honors those in the Down syndrome community who work throughout the year as members of Congress, self-advocates, advocates, leaders and drivers of change at the local, state and federal levels.
“Oregon is proud to stand with – and stand up for – people with disabilities and their support networks, from coast to coast,” said Treasurer Read, who is also the chair of the Oregon 529 Savings Board. “In Oregon, our state motto is ‘She flies with her own wings.’ Because of the work of so many people to create the ABLE program, more individuals and families have the ability to work toward financial security and fly with their own wings.”
Oregon was one of several states recognized with Champion of Change awards. NDSS leaders thanked the Oregon Treasury for the pioneering work to make ABLE savings plans available—and also for recent successful efforts in Oregon to combat the “Medicaid Clawback,” alongside a dedicated network of advocates and providers. The clawback is seen as an unfair barrier to saving because it exposed money in ABLE accounts to be reclaimed by Medicaid upon the passing of the saver.
Moving forward, Oregon is also pleased to support the newly introduced Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Age Adjustment Act (SB 651). This bipartisan bill would expand access to ABLE savings accounts by increasing program eligibility for people who acquired a disability before age 46, as opposed to age 26.
Since Oregon launched its ABLE programs in December 2016, the response from the disability community has been tremendous: More than 1,700 accounts and $8 million has been saved in Oregon alone. However, one constant comment from Oregonians is how the age of eligibility disqualifies many who could benefit from ABLE, such as veterans injured in combat. An age adjustment would match the spirit of the initial ABLE legislation that sought to help those Americans suffering from the high costs associated with living with a disability.
Expanding the eligibility age will provide assistance to those whom the original ABLE legislation intended to serve.
“The National Down Syndrome Society is proud to honor individuals, organizations and members of Congress who have championed issues facing the entire Down syndrome community,” NDSS President and CEO Sara Weir said. “These advocates and groups have championed initiatives that have led us closer to achieving the NDSS mission of a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations and become valued members of welcoming communities.”
The award is presented annually at the nonprofit’s “Buddy Walk on Washington,” an annual conference that brings leaders and advocates from across the country to Capitol Hill.
Read accepted the award on behalf of his entire team in Oregon. He oversees the state’s financial empowerment programs, including the Oregon Savings Network, which allows families to save for higher education, retirement, and disability-related expenses.
Megan Schleider, 21, of Lake Oswego, presented the Treasurer with the award, and told him that she is an Oregon ABLE Savings Plan accountholder. The two fist-bumped on stage.
The Oregon ABLE Savings Plan and the national ABLE for ALL Savings Plan were established in December 2016 to enable people with disabilities and their families to achieve financial security without losing their critical means-tested benefits. Money can be used to pay for anything that helps improve the health, independence or quality of life of a person with a disability. Congress passed the Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act, in 2014 that allowed states to create savings plans for people with disabilities.
To learn more and to open an account, please visit http://www.oregonABLEsavings.com.
The National Down Syndrome Society is the leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome. NDSS provides state-of-the-art, comprehensive programming to all individuals with Down syndrome and their families with four main areas of programming, which include the National Advocacy & Policy Center, the National Inclusive Health & Sports Program featuring our National Buddy Walk® Program, Community Outreach and Resources and Public Awareness. NDSS envisions a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations and become valued members of welcoming communities. For more information visit www.ndss.org
The Oregon State Treasury improves the financial well-being of all Oregonians. We provide low-cost banking, debt management and investment programs for governments, and empower Oregonians to invest in themselves and their loved ones for a more secure future, through the Oregon College Savings Plan, Oregon ABLE Savings Plan, and OregonSaves.