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NJ disabled people want to work, tired of waiting for new law to take effect


‘We’re not asking for free meal tickets. We’re just asking for opportunity’

Steve Gruslovic deeply regrets giving up his job as a roadside assistance phone operator but said he had no choice. New Jersey Medicaid rules threatened to take away vital benefits, including the daily home health-care aides who help the disabled 33-year-old get out of bed and shower in the morning. Gruslovic made too much money, according to the rules. Now, instead of earning a salary, he said, “I’m on Section 8 and every social welfare program you could be on to help support myself … I’ve had to turn down several jobs, because once again I have to make a choice of services or jobs.”

The NJ WorkAbility program allows people with disabilities to hold jobs and still receive Medicaid benefits, but it caps eligible income at about $68,000 and sets an age limit of 64. Fierce lobbying by advocates convinced Gov. Phil Murphy to sign legislation in January eliminating both those constraint. But, with the new law stuck in the rollout process, disability advocates are weary of waiting. A working group met for the first time in mid-July to hammer out protocols for implementing the changes to the program, according to the state Department of Human Services. Gruslovic said, “We’re not asking for free meal tickets. We’re just asking for opportunity.”

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