MiABLE Helps: One Mid-Michigan Family’s Story

Learn how one family discovered the benefits of MiABLE, a program that assists individuals with disabilities save funds to maintain health, independence and quality of life.

Meet Doug Poe.

Poe is a 74-year-old veteran, Holt resident, father of two and grandfather to one who has lived with a disability for nearly 50 years.

As a young adult, Poe was stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War. While in his early 20s, Poe was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was wrapped around the base of his skull like a ball of yarn. Medical professionals deemed the tumor inoperable. Nevertheless, Poe courageously opted to undergo a surgical procedure to explore brain tumors, willingly sacrificing his own life with the hope it could save other people’s lives one day.

Against all odds, Poe miraculously survived the operation and several additional brain surgeries. However, due to the damage to his brain and spinal cord, he was left paralyzed, blind and hard of hearing on his entire left side with a mental capacity that declines at a much faster rate than most. Poe carried on, determined to relearn how to walk, talk and care for himself.

Though Poe receives many benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, he is not eligible for the additional support provided to those injured during service since there is no official way to prove that his disability is related to his time in the military.

Due to his disability, Poe has had limited career opportunities throughout his life. He often worked low-wage positions, including as a night guard and hospital orderly, to help support his wife and two children, Michelle and Gary. His wife often worked two jobs to make ends meet and provide for their children.

Fast forward to April 2021, when Poe fell and broke his hip. He currently lives alone in an independent living apartment complex and primarily uses a wheelchair following his recent injury. Poe receives Social Security and a small pension. However, his income is below what is required to pay for the services and health care he needs.

Discovering the benefits of enrolling in MiABLE

Poe’s daughter Michelle learned about MiABLE, a program that allows families to save for expenses related to disabilities such as her father’s without impacting eligibility for government benefits.

Typically, individuals with disabilities are limited in their eligibility for government benefits — like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) — if they report more than $2,000 in financial resources. MiABLE allows these individuals to save money for expenses related to their disability and help them improve or maintain independence, or their quality of life or health.

MiABLE is available to children and adults who became disabled or blind before age 26 and are entitled to collect SSI or Social Security Disability Income because of their disability. Current age doesn’t matter, and the individual can be older than 26.

At first, Michelle wasn’t sure if MiABLE was right for her father’s needs. However, recognizing that he had become disabled before the age of 26, making him eligible to enroll, she signed up on her father’s behalf to help him protect his savings and afford the care he needs.

MiABLE provides support for costs related to health and quality of life

With the help of MiABLE, Poe can pay expenses including out-of-pocket physical therapy, self-care expenses such as haircuts and gifts for his beloved grandchild, while still maintaining his eligibility for government assistance.

Poe will soon require full-time nursing care. Although his veteran status would make him eligible, relocating to any of Michigan’s three veteran homes would take him far away from his children and grandchild, creating a barrier to quality time with his family.

Because the assets in his MiABLE account aren’t factored in, he will be eligible for government assistance through Medicaid. This will allow him to afford proper care at a high-quality facility in the Lansing area and have peace of mind that his family is close by and can visit often.

Poe’s story serves as a true testament that it is never too late to begin the process of building financial security for the future by signing up for MiABLE, says Scott de Varona, Director of the MiABLE disability savings program of the Michigan Department of Treasury.

The Michigan Able Act was signed into law in October 2015, following passage in December 2014 of the federal Stephen Beck Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which authorized states to establish tax-advantaged savings programs for individuals with a disability.

The goal is to encourage and assist individuals and families in saving funds that help individuals with disabilities to maintain health, independence and quality of life without jeopardizing benefits provided through private insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, the beneficiary’s employment and other sources.

To enroll in MiABLE, start at miable.org and click on “Start Saving.” For additional help with enrolling, contact a MiABLE customer service representative at 844-656-7225 or mi.clientservice@savewithable.com

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