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At Disability Network Southwest Michigan, we are helping people with disabilities achieve increased independence in a more inclusive community. Below are some of the stories of people we have worked with to help them reach their independent living goals.(Click the headings to open the stories). We cannot do this important work without you. Please consider a donation to Disability Network so we can continue to build a diverse and inclusive community.

Telling Our Stories

Mark | Advocacy

Mark needed our help in advocating for his legal rights in what could have been a very scary outcome. Mark has been connected with Disability Network for over three years; he sustained a childhood brain injury which was further complicated by a stroke in his adult life. Mark is a kind, giving man who is easily taken advantage of because of his good nature. Nearly two years ago, Mark was wrongfully charged with a crime which started a nightmarish chain of events. Due to his brain injury, Mark did not understand his options and followed the advice of a court-appointed attorney which resulted in his being sentenced to jail for a crime he had not committed.

Even a short jail sentence would be emotionally devastating for Mark and would cause him to lose his apartment and benefits. When Mark told staff at Disability Network what was happening our staff helped him work through the court system which resulted in a suspended sentence until Mark could be evaluated. During the ordeal Mark was remanded to a psychiatric hospital which was completely inappropriate – Mark does not have a psychiatric condition, he has a brain injury. During this time his apartment and benefits where again threatened.

Disability Network staff again helped Mark advocate for his rights. Nearly two years after the original charges were filed, the Judge re-evaluated Mark’s case and dropped all charges. Advocacy and Education are one of the core services at Disability Network Southwest Michigan. After two years of fearing he would be wrongfully imprisoned or institutionalized, Mark is once again living in his own apartment and has resumed the peaceful life he previously enjoyed.

Kathleen | Youth in Transition

Kathleen has a learning disability and dropped out of high school four months before graduation. This was followed by a few hard years—she moved out of her parents’ home and entered into an emotionally abusive relationship and struggled to make good choices for herself. Two years ago Kathleen decided it was time to take control of her life and become more self-sufficient. She started taking classes to get a general education development diploma (GED) and she enrolled at the Community-based Transition Center (CTC) which would prepare her for employment and the successful transition to independent living.

Disability Network Southwest Michigan connected with Kathleen at CTC where our staff provided Kathleen with pre-employment training, including Financial Literacy & Budget Training, Employer Expectation Training and Life Engagement Skills. The employment and life-skills training Kathleen received from Disability Network positioned her to accomplish her next steps in obtaining self-sufficiency. At the completion of our training program Kathleen said, “I’m ready! I am getting older, I graduate CTC soon and it’s time to work and pay my bills because I want to save for a house!”

Kathleen is now living independently, has re-connected with her parents and is working part-time at a job she enjoys while finishing school. Kathleen will graduate from the CTC program this month and is on track to receive her GED!

Jeff | Independent Living

Jeff underwent surgery years ago to remove a tumor in his brain. A decade later, he sustained a second traumatic brain injury from a fall. Both events
left Jeff finding it hard to hold a job in his field of finance. Family and friends convinced him to get help. He returned to the hospital where his surgery took place seeking advice about options and was encouraged to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. He applied for SSDI and was approved six months later while working as a substitute teacher to earn income to support his family.

Disability Network Southwest Michigan connected with Jeff when he received a call from his caseworker. Though technically allowed to work, Jeff’s income was over the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit of $1,170 per month which caused his approval to be reversed. Jeff had to reapply, setting the process back more than 3 months. Jeff turned to a benefits counselor at Disability Network for assistance in navigating the complicated Social Security system. Our benefits counselors help people understand how disability benefits and state health care coverage can be affected by employment. Our goal is to help simplify the bureaucracy so our customers realize they can go to work and understand the rules and regulations.

With the guidance of Disability Network’s benefits counselor, Jeff has stayed in compliance while still working and his benefits have resumed.