ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — For most of us, retiring at age 65 is something we would welcome. That’s not the case for 64-year-old Charles Van Heuveln of St. Paul.

Van Heuveln has cerebral palsy, and turned to a state run medical program to help him live and work. He said the very same program will now force him into retirement, and worse, poverty, along with hundreds of others.

“I’m angry and frustrated. Downright scared,” said Van Heuveln.

Van Heuveln is one of thousands of Minnesotans that are part of the Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities program, known as an incentive program to help people with disabilities become more self-sufficient, allowing them access to the health care they need.

Through MA-EPD, Van Heuveln said he is able to afford his personal care attendant and a condo adapted to his needs while working at a job he loves. For 18 years, he’s worked with students who have disabilities in the St. Paul School District.

But when Van Heuveln turns 65 in May, he’ll age out of the program and be placed on state medical assistance, which he said is $677 a month.

“I will probably have to let this home go because I won’t have enough to make my mortgage,” he said.

Van Heuveln wants to work, but he said then he won’t qualify for the medical assistance he needs since the assistance is based on income, unlike the MA-EPD program. To get his basic services, like his personal care attendant, he said it’ll come from his own pocket, or pension, what is known as a medical spend down.  A fate he said will be faced with poverty and public housing.

“Or a nursing home until death. I don’t want to live that way, and I know that nobody else does. I’ve earned enough to support myself if they let me keep it,” said Van Heuveln.

He said he’s written more than 200 letters to Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton, with only one response in return.

“I don’t know what’s coming. I am not looking forward to a nursing home,” said Van Heuveln, who said nursing home care for people in his situation will cost more than expanding the age limit in the MA-EPD program.

Last session, lawmakers voted down an amendment to waive the age limit for people like Van Heuveln, which WCCO-TV learned would cost about $1.7 million.

Loren Colman, an assistant commissioner with the Department of Human Services, said with disabled baby boomers living longer, the state worries the problem will only get worse. Colman adds that his department is struggling with a policy derived from a different time. The program was founded in the late 1990s.

Today, a growing population of disabled Minnesotans is thriving past 65.

Colman said 17 people in this program turn 65 this year. Next year, it’ll be 175 people, and the years after even more. He said his agency is working with lawmakers and the Governor to revisit the issue this session.

Van Heuveln said he’s not asking for special treatment, just what he, and many others, have earned.

“And I think we have just as much right to enjoy our own retirement as anyone else,” he said.

Here’s a YouTube video chronicling Charles Van Heuveln’s dilemma
Learn more about the MA-EPD program

Comments (69)
  1. Ines Beag says:

    This man has been more productive in his lifetime than 92% of our elective officials. I say put him in charge of cronyism in government and give him a 15% finders fee for every one he catches. Van Heuveln, I hope you’re a millionaire before you leave us and all you catch are in prison even longer.

    1. Ashley Harrison says:

      Amen brother. Further sign of the decline in America.

      All you can do is prepare yourself for the decline of America and pray to God it doesn’t happen.

      1. Jose Dejesus says:


      2. Jose Dejesus says:


    2. teaisstronger says:

      Americans with Disabilities Act anyone?

    3. Blondie says:

      After 18 years with the State,n this man is also entitled to a partial pension, and social security. His Human Resource officer should have calculated this for him. I am a retired municipl worker, and I’m sure he paid into social security. Maybe al three checks will enable him to stay in his home.

  2. Well? says:

    So where is your god in all this you Christians? Wheres all your moral outrage that should be there if you follow your Jesus’ teaching of “What you do to the least of these..” Yep no god here just a bunch of hypocrites. Too concerned about who should marry who and not about the weakest of our society.

    1. R.Hill says:

      You are a very bitter person.

    2. Bill Jones says:

      Let’s see, he will get a retirement check from teaching and he at 65 he will get the maximum benefit from Social Security and he will get Medicare!!!!!!!!!!, He will probably qualify for Social Security Disability which might be even more money.

      What a great country we live in!

      1. j o says:

        NO, he will have to pay for Medicare, and his SSDI will not be that much, but he will have to pay an additional $600-$800 in spend downs EVERY month leaving him penniless.

      2. Haywood Jablowme says:

        Glqad your not planning my retirement Bill.

    3. sue says:

      right on. you are so correct

  3. steve madsen says:

    I’ve known Chuck for a couple of months, now. Great guy with a positive attitude. Johnny, I would really like to see you face the obstacles Chuck does everyday, for just one. Doesn’t the State have some help for situations like this. Ever go down to the Coutthouse on Kellogg and see where the money is going? Doesn’t he deserve to keep his home? Go Chuck!!

  4. Johnny Riddlen says:

    Not if he can’t pay for it. Where are his parents? They should be taking care of him…not the state!

    1. Bruce says:

      In the story it says he will be age 65 in May, if his parents
      were alive do you think they could physically lift him in and out of bed?

    2. Carol says:

      Better the state take care of this man than the able bodied people sitting around collecting welfare that are simply to lazy to get a job! This man has been a productive member of society. Obviously his parents taught him values as a child which he brought into his adult life.

      1. legal immigrant says:

        Great point!

    3. Linda says:

      Only a dumb-a** would post a comment like this.

    4. me says:

      He’s flipping working Johnny, he’s a productive member of society…What are you talking about…they are forcing this man to retire….He’s doing something with his life, which is more than what some do…Heck, he’s doing more than most politicians do…your comment is downright unfounded…and has no basis..he’s working…and getting paid for it…yes the state may be paying him…but he’s working…no different then those representatives at the Department of Motor Vehicals. Should the state not pay them either?? Utter Sillyness. NO one should EVER be forced to retire!!!

    5. sheryl says:

      Johnny Riddlen you are blind by the tea party propaganda get a life and learn something.

      1. Miles Monroe says:

        Sheryl he’s not a Tea Party member. He’s a lefty ignormus. We’ve spent 1.6 billion dollars on Obamaphones and we can’t help this guy work? I think we need a priority readjustment in this country and the Tea Party folks have it right.

        1. Miles Monroe says:


    6. farmits says:

      This is a genuine IDIOT folks.

      Parents, he’s 65 YEARS OLD, likely they are long gone.

  5. James says:

    Johnny, Your a frickin tool! His Parents? He’s 65 years old! I suppose his Parents who would be 85 or older should be alive and be taking care of him? Your the kind of MUTT thats needs to be put in their place!

  6. Erin says:

    This story touches my heart this could be ANY ONE of us! This man is trying to be an independent person and live the best way he knows how! He should be given a chance to do that! I am sad that some people have NO empathy!!

  7. Rocky says:

    bad situation here every way u look at it, but we all have to face the possability of nursing home thing, or retirement, getting old is no fun……..

    1. Sam says:

      Yeah, but we aren’t discouraged by the state from saving enough money to get into a good nursing home, or to pay for home care later in life.

      So yes, there is the possibility that I can end up in a nursing home, but I am likely to be able to afford a private nursing home where I’m going to be treated like a person, rather than a body that hasn’t yet died.

      In short, the state saved a measly $1.7 million. They will pay out more than this, probably, to put Charles and folks like him in nursing homes. In turn, instead of being able to do something approaching work and have a life, Charles will spend the rest of his life in the cheapest nursing home the state can find for him.

    2. sue says:

      he is 65 !!!! let’s put you in a nursing home when you turn 65. People need to be kept out of a nursing home as long as possible. This courageous man went to work every day and helped other people, he needs some help, not a nursing home. I’m with where are all the Republicanb Christians ???? They are all talk about Jesus, but they do not follow the values of Jesus in anyway, shape or form. Charles is the real Christian here.

      1. nooneyouknow says:

        And what the the Democrat Christians doing – forcing this gentleman to retire. Or are Democrat not Christian. Didn’t know that Christianity was partisan. Oh and by the way, Obama is chasing the money, too. But I guess that’s acceptable in your eyes.

        1. sue says:

          it is just that the tea party and the majority of republicans are all about religion, no abortions but keep executions. gays should not be given any rights, I.e equal housing rights, employment rights, and yes some kind of civil ceremony of marriage. the republicans keep talking about taking government out of our lives except for their bible thumping beliefs. if they had their way we would never have control over the most basic things in our lives, or our right to privacy. back to this article. I would like to see the moral majority step in and show complete outrage on how this man is being treated. they will not, cannot let the gov interfere before someone condems me for not using caps, too bad

      2. Miles Monroe says:

        So we should use Joe Biden as our example of charity? He donated a whopping $369 last year compared to Mitt Romney’s millions donated.

        1. sue says:

          to the Mormon church

      3. Christina Kuhn says:

        Woah, I’m a Rebublican Christian. Lots of us exist. I think the real problem is that people on BOTH sides of the spectrum are ignorant when it comes to folks with disabilities. My husband has CP, too, and I know exactly what the struggle entails. You can’t live in your own home if you pay $1200/month for a mortgage and only get $700/month in SSDI. My husband lost all of his benefits and support when he married me. It has been difficult on both of us, but we believe in marriage and serving God rather than shacking up. There are a lot of terrible atrocities that folks with disabilities face, purely because people are ignorant. Yes, this program should certainly continue for this guy. A simple SSDI monthly check won’t cut it. People with disabilities may need a little more physical and financial help than those of us without a disability, but as you can see, this man CLEARLY is very capable. So is my husband. I hear you…. it makes me sick, too, the ignorance of people. But please don’t rule out Repubs as non-Christians because it’s really an ignorance issue. Most people on BOTH sides are ignorant.

  8. kurt Gustafson says:

    to all who make rude coments question why? charles is fortunate that he is able to live and work, there are many other people that are disabiled and cant work or live on there own. I give charles great criedit to be able to live a life he does considering evrey day is a stuggle charles is only asking for your help to call your senator and tell me to please extend the age and assets on the program MA- EPDso charles and many others out there can continue their life without the the treat of of things bein taken from them and put into group homes

  9. pretzeldude says:

    You idiots that have no feelings for this guy better remember “But for the GRACE of God there go I”.

  10. tom says:

    IWhat about the safety net that Romney talks about?

    1. Well? says:

      This is it. Institutional them even though its not what best serves this man or society.

  11. BettyC says:

    I wonder what options he may have through Social Security and Medicare. Even if he didn’t have Social Security wages he may still qualify for Medicare. Maybe one of those Social Security Lawyers can do some pro bono for him and get him some help.

    1. Jay says:

      My exact thoughts. The man has worked for the past 18 years, wasnt he making an income that paid into SS? t Because of his age and disabilty wouldnt he be eligible for Medicare, and SS Disability income? My former brother in law never worked a day in his life collecting a pay check, yet, he draws SS! I I would be on the horn contacting Social Security to see what benefits he is eligible for. Its pretty damned bad when one TRIES to be a productive citizen and then gets the rug pulled out from under them. I HOPE he is able to find the help he needs. Hang in there.

  12. Murph says:

    It is just the beginning.Wait til you elect your Faux TV GOP heroe’s.! Soylent Green is something the very rich need to stay that way. You and I will all be wafers for them to snack on soon!

  13. luvs says:

    I am sure Romney or Santorum would help.


  14. babs says:

    How is this man any different from any disabled person? If they need state assistance, according to laws in place, their income must be under a certain level. This has been going on for years, it is not new, that is why it is so hard for younger recipients to get off welfare or afdc. He is in the system, and he must abide by the rules of the game.

    Change the state laws or rules, make it easier for people to get help when needed and move on to become independent! No we can not do that, we want to kick everyone off of any assistance.

  15. Dr. Paul Ron says:

    “Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.” ~ H. L. Mencken


  16. MIke says:

    I do not fully understand. From reading about the MA-EPD program, it is a medical assistance program for those who work between ages 16-65 and are classified disabled. I don’t see how he is being forced to retire from his job because of this program. Maybe we should be asking the school he works at if he is being forced to retire from his job? If so, then why? I am pretty sure there are federal discrimination laws that could help him keep his job. The issue is he loses this medical assistance when he turns 65. He also gets Medicare when he turns 65 and if still working would have whatever medical plan the employer is providing. Am I missing something? If not, then why aren’t we asking the school district?

  17. Voice says:

    The milk of Human kindness has curdled.

  18. Wuzzerdad Lewis says:

    This is Bogus, he is disabled, he will get SSDI and Medicare, he will be fine.

    1. Christina Kuhn says:

      My hubby used to get both before we were married (he also has CP). It wasn’t even enough to pay his rent. You might be able to get a cheap Section 8 apartment, but it won’t get you anything beyond that. Certainly, home ownership would be gone. How would you feel if you worked hard all your life and lost your house? Food for thought….

    2. Joe Bite-meee says:

      Of course it’s bogus, but “jourrnalists” these days need to dig up sympathy stories out of desperation (em. on “stories”). They know they cannot report on the dictator Obama, or other communists, because that would be an automatic termination and loss of pension and benefits. Even this one is taking a risk, but of course the blame will fall on the republicans for wanting to toss the poor guy into the streets.

  19. Christina Kuhn says:

    I wish I could meet this guy. He is a role model for many people, with or without disabilities. I would tell him my husband’s story. My husband has CP and uses a wheelchair and would rely on a caregiver too if I didn’t do his care needs for him. He is very intelligent and is currently seeking work. When we were married, he lost ALL government assistance because my teaching job salary is too “high.” We spent a ton of money every year on health care needs, even after we pay our insurance premiums. Our insurance still will not cover my husband’s new badly needed wheelchair because apparently it’s not “medically necessary” even though his old chair was cutting off his circulation. And he’s trying to get a stander, which we also have to pay out of the pocket because again it’s not “medically necessary” either (I guess standing isn’t medically necessary for us able-bodied people, right?). People with major disabilities deserve some kind of specialized funding whether it is from the government, church organizations, or elsewhere, because they cannot always earn the money they need to be fully self-suffiicient, and they were born that way. I would love to see more compassion for the disabled, but I guess compassion is going by the wayside worldwide along with the economy. 😦

    1. Jay says:

      Christina, contact United Way, they may help you get that wheelchair, if not them, theyll be able to send you to someone who will.

  20. Vincent says:

    How many of you do not understand that the government is forcing this man out of work? The solution is not to empower that same government even further.

    If he ages out of one government program that fails him, putting him in an expanded program that is doomed for bankruptcy is not a solution, it’s a fantasy.

  21. Kim says:

    Please write letters, email and call your legislators NOW ! We need to help Mr. Van Heuveln NOW! Stop with the stupid political comments & get busy , we can help him, make your voice heard now !

  22. Kim says:

    Please write letters, email and call your legislators NOW ! We need to help Mr. Van Heuveln NOW! Stop with the stupid political comments & get busy , we can help him, make your voice heard now !

  23. Bill Jones says:

    He will get a pension from his employer, he being 65 will get the MAX for Social Security and he will get Medicare.

    What a great nation we live in.

    1. j o says:

      He may or may not get a pension from his employer based on what length and position (full vs part-time) his job entailed under the MA-EPD and SSDI programs, which only allow you to make a certain amount of money. He will not get the “MAX” for Social Security because he is disabled and Social Security taxes are not taken out of his paycheck. He will be eligible for Medicare as I am sure he is now, however he will have to pay for that out of his own pocket. Probably $100 EVERY month. He will also have to pay a spend down of $600+ EVERY month for medical bills including perscriptions to actually “get” Medical Assistance benefits. Unless there is a “Special Needs” trust in place for him, he will lose his home and any other “limited to 10k” assets, and be placed in a state nursing home.

      1. j o says:

        And, that, Bill Jones, are the actual facts.

  24. Kathy Shaw says:

    This is SAD and VERY WRONG!…. Millions are spent each month to support the lazy, living on WELFARE, that have never worked a day in their lives, and in many cases, netierh have their parents, but the gov’t can’t afford to help this WORKING man, who also happens to be disabled? What is WRONG with this picture? This man has worked his entire life, is still a productive citizen despite his own personal problems and the same people who are telling him TO BAD, are the same people paying for cellphones, housing, medical care, foood and everything else for illegals, the lazy and the garbage in D.C.?

  25. marc twain says:

    I am rated as a 100% “Service-Connected” Disabled American veteran, yet the VA & SSA & CONgress continue to work hard to KEEP disability benefits in the hands of lawyers & “Judges” who DEFRAUD US Disabled American veterans of honest services & benefits. Where is the Iowa delegation ? Where is Debra Bice, chief thief, ODAR ?

  26. Erin Smith says:

    This is devastating. What an amazing man who deserves so much more. Charles, I pray the legislature will do the right thing for you and others in the same situation.

  27. mburt says:

    The school was paid by the gov’t to ’employ’ this person, and now he has aged out of the program that ‘hired’ him. All he was doing was a work for welfare plan. He has never been off the dole in the 18 years he worked.

    1. j o says:

      The school never received any money for employing him.

  28. Richard Kuhns says:

    •Neglect – the failure to provide services to an eligible adult by any person, firm or corporation with a legal or contractual duty to do so, when such failure presents either an imminent danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the client or a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm would result (660.250, RSMo).
    •Financial Exploitation – A person commits the crime of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person if such person knowingly and by deception, intimidation, or force obtains control over the elderly or disabled person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive the elderly or disabled person of the use, benefit or possession of his or her property thereby benefiting such person or detrimentally affecting the elderly or disabled person (570.145, RSMo).

  29. Kim says:

    Please call, email your County Comissioner, in St Paul, please voice your thoughts to change the system ! Speak truth to power NOW!

    It is sad that these types of situations occur daily for so many people in our state….

  30. Marie says:

    It doesn’t sound like he had a ‘standard’ job with the school district. If he did have a ‘standard’ job w/benefits, why would he need to be on a special medical assistance program? That would explain the lack of benefits/pension/other retirement benefits for him. Was his salary also paid via a special fund? It’s all politics, cut benefits in one program, ignoring how that will create greater costs in another program. If people vote in fiscal conservatives, this is an example of the results the citizens will get. It always amazes me when people want lower taxes and less government ‘waste’, then complain that programs that are beneficial to them are cut.

  31. Economic Assistance Worker says:

    As a county financial assistance worker, I can tell you there are a number of things about this story that are incorrect.
    Medical assistance does not pay or cost $677.
    A spend down only means he pays the amount per month that he is over income, then medical assistance will pay for the rest. If he is $100 over the income limit (for example) that is the amount he would have to pay.
    Jo is applying facts and numbers that are not known from this story.
    Wuzzerdad is correct, this story is bogus, or at best, not fully researched and missing some basic facts.
    Charles is going to be better off than a lot of other newly jobless folks who are just now finding out exactly how poor you have to be to get government help.

  32. window treatments for bay windows says:

    You can certainly see your skills within the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

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