WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) was honored by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) with the 2013 Champion of Change Award. This annual award is presented to Members of Congress whose leadership efforts have been effective in advancing the nation’s commitment to policies that support positive change for people with Down Syndrome.

“I am incredibly grateful to be honored with this award today,” said Congressman Vela. “When I was elected, I made a pledge to tirelessly work to improve the lives of all Americans. As a cosponsor of the bipartisan ABLE Act, I believe it is critical to give individuals and families suffering from a disability the opportunity for financial independence. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make this a reality.” 

Congressman Vela is a cosponsor of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2013, allowing the family of individuals with physical or mental disabilities to open a tax-free account to pay for qualified disability expenses, similar to education savings accounts that parents use to save for their children’s college tuition. Disability expenses include education, such as higher education expenses, a primary residence, transportation, obtaining and maintaining employment, health and wellness, and other personal support expenses. This bill is fully supported by the NDSS.

Currently, in order to avoid disqualification for federal benefits, an individual with a disability can’t have financial assets in their name. This has caused many problems not only for disabled individuals, but for their families as well.

The mission of NDSS is to be the national advocate for the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome. The nonprofit organization 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.

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