Opening Doors for Work

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Consumer Stories

Three Stories: Work Incentive Stories

Larry Reeves

Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach (BPAO)

Larry Reeves became disabled in 1979 at age 12. He has worked a few hours per week since 1989. He completed a diesel mechanic training program through Vocational Rehabilitation. The biggest challenge for Larry was finding a job in his field.

"People with disabilities, it's pretty hard... It's real hard. 'Cause, I went out, like I say, for two or three years, and [employers] find out you're disabled and the search ends right then and there." —Larry

Larry had just started a job with Turn Community Services, when Utah State Office of Rehabilitation referred him to Jolene Wyler, a benefits specialist. Larry said benefits planning helped him understand the benefits he was receiving and how working more hours would affect his Social Security and Medicaid benefits.

"She showed me what I can make, what my hours could be, what I can't make, what I could do and what I couldn't do and... if I had problems give her a call and she'd help me out." —Larry

Larry was able to access a work incentive called a Subsidy with Social Security. Larry also takes part in the Medicaid Work Incentive Program. He was pleased with his experience with the benefits specialist and the information she gave him.

Larry has a very positive attitude about life and working. He continues to work 18 hours per week at Turn where he is a Recreation assistant. He is happy with his job and with the number of hours he works.

"Don't give up, keep trying, keep pushing on. That's what kept me going." —Larry

Miriam and Drew Hyde

Medicaid Work Incentive (MWI)

Drew and Miriam Hyde are married with four children. Both Drew and Miriam experience mental illness that has affected their abilities to work. Two of their four children also have symptoms of mental illness. Good health care coverage is critical for their family. For their needs, Medicaid has the best health care benefits.

Drew and Miriam Hyde are married with four children. Both Drew and Miriam experience mental illness that has affected their abilities to work. Two of their four children also have symptoms of mental illness. Good health care coverage is critical for their family. For their needs, Medicaid has the best health care benefits.

"It does give us access to quality health care that we're not getting any other way." —Drew

When they started on the Medicaid Work Incentive program their average monthly expenditure was $2,000 to $2,500 for medication, alone. They see their therapists 26 times per year, and Miriam attends Alliance House. Medicaid pays for all these visits. Drew said that if they were to get Blue Cross Blue Shield they would pay $1,700/month in co-pays for prescriptions alone.

Once Miriam started receiving SSDI, their income exceeded the threshold to continue receiving free Medicaid. To participate in the MWI program you must pay a premium or "buy-in." Participating in the MWI program has allowed them to keep the health care coverage they need.

Miriam and Drew work for Drew's parents doing office and computer work that qualifies them to participate in MWI. Last year it was really tough to pay the MWI premium of $470 with a monthly income of $1300. Especially because it only covered Drew and Miriam. They had to find another insurance program for their kids.

Many of Miriam's friends in the Transitional Employment Program at Alliance House had to quit working because the MWI premium was costing them too much to work.

"You kind of wind up in this circle going no where fast." —Miriam

The recent restoration of funding for the MWI has really helped, because now people are going back to work.

Since the funding for the MWI has been restored, Drew and Miriam are much better off because their MWI premium has been reduced from $470 to $170 per month.

Whenever they get the chance to tell other people about MWI and how to get on this program.

"This program is now opening up access for more people to live healthier lives, which is going to get them back to work." —Drew

Both Drew and Miriam have been active advocates for Medicaid systems change. They lobbied to get funding restored for the MWI. They say now it is a matter of fine-tuning the work incentive program. They are now working to restore vision and dental coverage for Medicaid recipients.

"The thing to celebrate, the thing to really see, is that we're a long ways into this battle and we've had BIG, BIG victories and the work incentive changes peoples lives. If there would have been no buy-in we would have just been up a creek, there was no way we could get anything, we would have been without anything!" —Drew

Kenneth Robertson

Employment Personal Assistance (EPAS)

Kenneth Robertson, a full-time Community Advocate at the Utah Independent Living Center, has cerebral palsy and a fiercely independent spirit.

"I have worked so damn hard to get where I am today, to get off the government welfare system... to pay back." —Kenneth

Despite his strong sense of independence, he decided some personal attendant services would help him. If he were homebound, he could qualify for 60 home visits per year, through his insurance. He pointed out the irony that if he were homebound, he would not be able to work to earn the money to pay the insurance premium.

To get EPAS Kenneth had to apply for Medicaid. It was hard and humiliating for him. He's experienced a lot of frustration jumping through the hoops of the system.

"There's a few bad apples that spoil the system for everyone, so we need to jump through these hoops... It's not fun going down on your knees and kissing their feet for a little bit of help." —Kenneth

Kenneth learned about the EPAS program through personal connections. To participate in the program he needed to qualify and receive Medicaid. Kenneth quit a second part-time job so that he could qualify for "free" Medicaid, rather than paying a monthly premium. To get on the EPAS program Kenneth had an in-home evaluation to determine his needs for assistance.

Kenneth enjoys the personal assistance he gets now. He chooses not to have any help at work. He said it is due to his stubbornness and he also wants to prove his "manlihood."

"Inside my head I want to see myself as Superman." —Kenneth

But, after work he is too exhausted to do anything else. So having some assistance keeps him together.

    Types of supports Kenneth receives at home from EPAS

  • Shaving cheeks and neck
  • Laundry assistance
  • Loading/Unloading the dishwasher
  • Daily breakfast preparation
  • One weekly visit for meal preparation and cleaning
  • Dividing meals into individual portions.

"I think, yes, it has helped me tremendously here at work. Out in the community, in the business world, an unkempt, bushy man doesn't get the respect a well shaven man does. And also it helps because, yes, overall I am a very proud man with Cerebral Palsy and all my life I have tried to give back more than I get... I've been blessed lately with a wonderful house..."

"So the help I have also helps me keep [my house] somewhat organized, unlike my office. And it rejuvenates my batteries going home to a well maintained [home], eating good, balanced, healthy dinners." —Kenneth