The mission of the Utah DD Council is to be the state's leading source of critical innovative, and progressive information, advocacy, leadership and collaboration to enhance the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Please submit your nomination on or before June 5, 2015. Winners will be notified and recognized during the Annual Council Meeting in September 8, 2015. Please print! You may nominate people in all categories or just the categories that you wish.
1. What is an ABLE account?
ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, will be created as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014. Income earned by the accounts would not be taxed. Contributions to the account made by any person (the account beneficiary, family and friends) would not be tax deductible.
2. Why the need for ABLE accounts?
Millions of individuals with disabilities and their families depend on a wide variety of public benefits for income, health care and food and housing assistance. Eligibility for these public benefits (SSI, SNAP, Medicaid) require meeting a means or resource test that limits eligibility to individuals to report more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value. To remain eligible for these public benefits, an individual must remain poor. For the first time in public policy, the ABLE Act recognizes the extra and significant costs of living with a disability. These include costs, related to raising a child with significant disabilities or a working age adult with disabilities, for accessible housing and transportation, personal assistance services, assistive technology and health care not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
For the first time, eligible individuals and families will be allowed to establish ABLE savings accounts that will not affect their eligibility for SSI, Medicaid and other public benefits. The legislation explains further that an ABLE account will, with private savings, "secure funding for disability-related expenses on behalf of designated beneficiaries with disabilities that will supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, SSI, the beneficiary's employment and other sources."
3. Am I eligible for an ABLE account?
Passage of legislation is a result of a series of compromises. The final version of the ABLE Act limits eligibility to individuals with significant disabilities with an age of onset of disability before turning 26 years of age. If you meet this criteria and are also receiving benefits already under SSI and/or SSDI, you are automatically eligible to establish an ABLE account. If you are not a recipient of SSI and/or SSDI, but still meet the age of onset disability requirement, you would still be eligible to open an ABLE account if you meet SSI criteria regarding significant functional limitations. The regulations to be written in 2015 by the Treasury Department will have to explain further the standard of proof and required medical documentation. You need not be under the age of 26 to be eligible for an ABLE account. You could be over the age of 26, but must have the documentation of disability that indicates age of onset before the age of 26.
4. Are there limits to how much money can be put in an ABLE account?
The total annual contributions by all participating individuals, including family and friends, is $14,000. The amount will be adjusted annually for inflation. Under current tax law, $14,000 is the maximum amount that individuals can make as a gift to someone else and not pay taxes (gift tax exclusion). The total limit over time that could be made to an ABLE account will be subject to the individual state and their limit for education-related 529 savings accounts. Many states have set this limit at more than $300,000 per plan. However, for individuals with disabilities who are recipients of SSI and Medicaid, the ABLE Act sets some further limitations. The first $100,000 in ABLE accounts would be exempted from the SSI $2,000 individual resource limit. If and when an ABLE account exceeds $100,000, the beneficiary would be suspended from eligibility for SSI benefits and no longer receive that monthly income. However, the beneficiary would continue to be eligible for Medicaid. States would be able to recoup some expenses through Medicaid upon the death of the beneficiary.
5. Which expenses are allowed by ABLE accounts?
A "qualified disability expense" means any expense related to the designated beneficiary as a result of living a life with disabilities. These include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services and other expenses which will be further described in regulations to be developed in 2015 by the Treasury Department.
6. Where do I go to open an ABLE account?
Each state is responsible for establishing and operating an ABLE program. If a state should choose not to establish its own program, the state may choose to contract with another state to still offer its eligible individuals with significant disabilities the opportunity to open an ABLE account.
Soon, the Secretary of the Department of Treasury will begin to develop regulations that will guide the states in terms of a) the information required to be presented to open an ABLE account; b) the documentation needed to meet the requirements of ABLE account eligibility for a person with a disability; and c) the definition details of "qualified disability expenses" and the documentation that will be needed for tax reporting.
No accounts can be established until the regulations are finalized following a public comment period on proposed rules for program implementation. States will begin to accept applications to establish ABLE accounts before the end of 2015.
7. Can I have more than one ABLE account?
No. The ABLE Act limits the opportunity to one ABLE account per eligible individual.
8. Will states offer options to invest the savings contributed to an ABLE account?
Like state 529 college savings plans, states are likely to offer qualified individuals and families multiple options to establish ABLE accounts with varied investment strategies. Each individual and family will need to project possible future needs and costs over time, and to assess their risk tolerance for possible future investment strategies to grow their savings. Account contributors or designated beneficiaries are limited, by the ABLE Act, to change the way their money is invested in the account up to two times per year.
9. How many eligible individuals and families might benefit from establishing an ABLE account?
There are 58 million individuals with disabilities in the United States. To meet the definition of significant disability required by the legislation to be eligible to establish an ABLE account, the conservative number would be approximately 10 percent of the larger group, or 5.8 million individuals and families. Further analysis is needed to understand more fully the size of this market and more about their needs for new savings and investment products.
10. How is an ABLE account different than a special needs or pooled trust?
An ABLE Account will provide more choice and control for the beneficiary and family. Cost of establishing an account will be considerably less than either a Special Needs Trust (SNT) or Pooled Income Trust. With an ABLE account, account owners will have the ability to control their funds and, if circumstances change, still have other options available to them. Determining which option is the most appropriate will depend upon individual circumstances. For many families, the ABLE account will be a significant and viable option in addition to, rather than instead of, a Trust program.
Director of Public Policy, Dr. Troy Justesen, testified before the United States Senate on
June 24, 2014!
To listen to the hearing click here.
This summer is the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 15th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead affirming that the ADA gives people with disabilities the right to choose where they live and how they live. Today, people who want to live outside of nursing homes and other institutions can live in their communities.
In the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Congress described the isolation and segregation of individuals with disabilities as a serious and pervasive form of discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 12101(a)(2), (5). Title II of the ADA, which proscribes discrimination in the provision of public services, specifies, inter alia, that no qualified individual with a disability shall, “by reason of such disability,” be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, a public entity’s services, programs, or activities. §12132. Congress instructed the Attorney General to issue regulations implementing Title II’s discrimination proscription. See §12134(a). One such regulation, known as the “integration regulation,” requires a “public entity [to] administer … programs … in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.” 28 CFR § 35.130(d). A further prescription, here called the “reasonable-modifications regulation,” requires public entities to “make reasonable modifications” to avoid “discrimination on the basis of disability,” but does not require measures that would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the entity’s programs. §35.130(b)(7).
The ADA stepped up earlier efforts in the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to secure opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to enjoy the benefits of community living. The ADA both requires all public entities to refrain from discrimination, see §12132, and specifically identifies unjustified “segregation” of persons with disabilities as a “for[m] of discrimination,” see §§12101(a)(2), 12101(a)(5). The identification of unjustified segregation as discrimination reflects two evident judgments: Institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life, cf., e.g., Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 755; and institutional confinement severely diminishes individuals’ everyday life activities. Dissimilar treatment correspondingly exists in this key respect: In order to receive needed medical services, persons with mental disabilities must, because of those disabilities, relinquish participation in community life they could enjoy given reasonable accommodations, while persons without mental disabilities can receive the medical services they need without similar sacrifice.
Dr. Troy Justesen of the Council testified before the United States Senate on June 24, 2014 about the need for continued implementation of the ADA and the Olmstead decision. He was specifically asked by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to appear and provide testimony. Dr. Justesen has decades of experience in disability issues, health care, education, and government implementation of programs.
UDDC 2014 Annual Report Coming Soon!
While you wait, you can view the 2012-2013 Annual Report by following the link below. See what the Council was up to last year! Hard copies are available upon request by contacting the Council office.
Take Your Legislator to Work
Last year Senator Todd Weiler and Representative Becky Edwards shadowed Ethan Sandbeck while he completed his duties as Equipment Attendant for Olympic sports at University of Utah Athletics Department.
Photo: Ethan Sandbeck with Senator Todd Weiler and Representative Becky Edwards
Read about Ethan's day in this Deseret News article by Marjorie Cortez here.
This month, two more legislators, Senator Luz Robles and Representative Jennifer Seelig, participated in "Take Your Legislator to Work" to learn more about the importance of disability employment. Senator Robles and Representative Seelig shadowed Goran Fejic as he completed his data entry duties for the Autism Waiver Team at Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD).
Photo: Goran Fejic with Representative Seelig
“Goran is very detail oriented and takes great pride in being accurate,” said Tricia Jones-Parkin, DSPD Program Administrator. “He has caught errors and inconsistencies in various projects and is as integral part of our team.” Fejic moved to the United States from Bosnia with his family when he was approximately 11 years old. He is fluent in both Bosnian and English and uses an iPad to communicate with others.
Photo: Fejic with Senator Robles
Kelly Holt of Price hosted Senator David Hinkins. Together they performed Kelly's janitorial duties at the Utah State University Eastern Campus. Sen. Hinkins was very engaged and even mopped the bathroom floor! Holt said, "I enjoyed the day with Sen. Hinkins and I hope more people do this in the future. I think it is important to let Governor Herbert know how hard we work and just what people with disabilities can do!"
Photo: Senator Hinkins mops at USU- Eastern
The Utah Developmental Disabilities Council will collaborate with the Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) to encourage people with intellectual / developmental disabilities who are employed in competitive (earning minimum wage of $7.25 or more) individual jobs, to get involved in our “Take Your Legislator to Work” project. Check out the informational video on YouTube!
Photo: Kelly Holt and Sen. Hinkins
FINDING YOUR LEGISLATOR
Talk to your legislators about the importance of supporting disability services
Find My Legislator Click to find your local Legislator.
New Mobile Apps Making Your Job Search Easier
The U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop website now offers five mobile web applications you can use on your smart phone, tablet computer and other mobile device. These mobile apps can help you locate an American Job Center near you, search job listings and find local education and training programs.
Disability Programs: Taxes Matter
Don't miss this opportunity to weigh in. Many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities rely on Federal social insurance and safety net programs (like Medicaid and SSI) and on discretionary programs (like housing, education,and transportation) for their safety, and well being. These essential programs are entirely funded by tax dollars. Right now, tax policy, which determines the amount of money available to fund these programs, is a critically important issue for the disability community. Plans being developed to overhaul our tax system will determine how much funding is available for at least the next decade.
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, have launched a website so YOU can tell THEM what YOU want THEM to do about tax reform. This website provides a unique opportunity for you to speak directly with two of the most influential people in America who are leading tax reform efforts. These members of Congress want to hear from you! Let us take this opportunity to tell Sen. Baucus and Rep. Camp exactly what we believe; that we need a tax system that raises sufficient revenues to fund essential supports, services, and benefits for people with disabilities.
Among the most poor Americans, people with disabilities are being called on to sacrifice their lifeline programs to reduce the National deficits. Programs for people with disabilities are already being cut and it is time to level the playing field and raise our voice! It is time to ask those who can afford to help, wealthy individuals and corporations, to pay their fair share. Take Action by clicking here to post a comment on the website! Sen. Baucus and Rep. want to hear what you have to say!
* People with Intellectual and developmental disabilities want to live and work in the community and have access to services and support to allow that to happen. Tax and revenue policy should support adequate funding for these vital services and supports.
* Further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs and any cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare should be avoided by ensuring that the government raises sufficient revenue to support critical programs.
* People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have disproportionately low income. Tax and revenue policy should support economic advancement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; reject policies that help only the most wealthy and raise revenues in a progressive way without increasing poverty or income inequality.
If you are a person with a disability or the parent of a person with a disability, please share information about your individual financial situation in your comment and tell how a reformed tax system would benefit you.
To view a letter that the UDDC submitted to the Congressmen regarding tax reform click here.
UDDC News You Can Use
The newsletter highlights legislative accomplishments and program updates
Read it by clicking HERE!
Do You Have Higher-Education Questions, Comments, or Concerns?
Dr. Troy Justesen is the Council's point of contact for higher education and post-secondary career and technical issues. As the former Vice President of Salt Lake Community College, Troy has an extensive background in higher education. He has also worked for other colleges in Utah, North Carolina, and Virginia. Please contact Troy regarding any higher education issue at
Bipartisan, Bicameral Group Announces Deal to Improve American Workforce Development System
After months of negotiations, leaders from House, Senate introduce Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Current federal workforce laws, written in 1998, have been overdue for reauthorization for more than ten years
(Washington, D.C.) - May 21,2014 a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers announced that they have reached a deal to improve the nation’s workforce development system through new legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The bill, which will now be considered by both the House and Senate, modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete.
WIOA represents a compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013 with bipartisan support, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18-3 in July of 2013.
“Access to training, education, and employment services opens doors to the middle class for workers and helps strengthen our economy. This bipartisan, bicameral reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act will help ensure that all workers—including those with disabilities—can access these opportunities. It will provide better coordination and value to our workforce development system,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “This bill also makes groundbreaking changes that will raise prospects and expectations for Americans with disabilities, many of whom, under current law, are shunted to segregated, subminimum wage settings without ever receiving the opportunities and skills to succeed in competitive, integrated employment. It will stem the flow of young people into segregated employment by requiring that they be given experience in integrated settings, and require state Vocational Rehabilitation programs to work with individuals to develop an individual employment plan and support them in integrated work settings. This bill truly represents the spirit of bipartisan compromise and cooperation, and I applaud my colleagues on the HELP Committee and on the Education and the Workforce Committee for their perseverance and commitment to updating this critical law. I urge senators on both sides of the aisle to support this bill when it comes up for a vote.”
“We can’t expect a modern workforce to succeed with an outdated job training system. The current workforce development system is broken with too much bureaucracy, too many inefficiencies, and too little accountability,” said Representative John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “The problems we face have been apparent for a long time and I am pleased we are moving toward adopting comprehensive reform that provides employers, workers, and taxpayers the job training solutions they deserve. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send this agreement to the president’s desk without delay.”
"Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find work,”said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “Our legislation will simplify that maze, give governors and states more flexibility, and make it easier for Tennessee's 13 local workforce investment boards to match job seekers with the skills employers are looking for.”
“By revising the original Workforce Investment Act to support access to real-world education in fields that are in demand locally, this legislation will help more workers across the country find a good job or train for a new career. Similar to the legislation proposed by Reps. Tierney and Hinojosa earlier this Congress, this bill also makes job training programs more efficient and effective by requiring that states developed unified plans to streamline and better coordinate these services,” said Representative George Miller (D-CA), senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “By strengthening the workforce development system, we will increase accountability, promote innovation, and make it easier to track results, while helping put more Americans back to work. I'm proud to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop this proposal and hope to see it signed into law this year.”
“Every year, federal workforce investments help millions of Americans get back to work, go back to school, and increase their skills for an economy that’s changing faster than ever, but for too long, we’ve been relying on workforce development programs written in the 1990s,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee . “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will bring federal worker programs into the 21st Century, give workers and students the resources they need to succeed, and foster a workforce that American businesses rely on to compete. It’s a prime example of what’s possible when Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate work together to write laws that help our economy grow. I want to thank Senator Isakson, who co-authored the Senate reauthorization bill with me, and all of my colleagues, for their hard work and commitment to moving this forward.”
“This is a good example of what Congress can achieve when we all come to the table and work towards a compromise that respects the opinions of legislators on both sides of the aisle,” said Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce Training. “This bill will eliminate fifteen duplicative programs, help the remaining programs better align worker education with available jobs and improve our ability to gauge how well the system is working as a whole. I want to thank my colleagues in the House for passing the SKILLS Act and my colleagues in the Senate for considering this long overdue re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act.”
“Workforce investment and training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and to bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from good-paying jobs,” said Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “I thank Senator Murray and my colleagues for their bipartisan efforts on this legislation, and I look forward to getting this measure passed so we can get Americans back to work and meet the modern demands of businesses employees in a global environment.”
“This bipartisan agreement helps American workers get back on track by promoting sector strategies and career pathways that lead to good jobs and postsecondary education in our nation's public workforce training and adult education system.” said Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce Training. “This bill makes certain that the connection between adult education, postsecondary education and the workforce is strengthened. We as a nation must be inclusive in our workforce, and this bill provides better services to workers young and old, with disabilities, and to those populations that have significant barriers to employment. It also addresses the need to improve services for English language learners that will ease their participation into our nation's workforce. I am pleased to see the progress we are making in the Senate and in the House and look forward to having this bill signed into law.”