Everyone has a sob story to tell, and I have a sob story to tell, too! But, it would take me about 3 months to tell mine, so in the interest of time and brevity for the reader, I will only highlight and summarize a few of the things that happened to me on my way to celebrate the "Golden Years," and to find myself at the bottom in life, etc.
"Difficulties are meant to rowse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict." William Ellery Channing
Every one in the world...has one common addiction...MONEY! We all need money or some kind of bartering to survive! And, when that person runs out of money...well...different people do different things in life, etc.
Job layoffs; Over a decade or so, I have had SIX job layoffs, and all for good reasons such as companies closing; defense cuts; down-sizing, etc. I have never been fired from a job because of attendance problems or attitude, etc. Three companies closed right under my feet and I was one of the last to leave. So, there is no finger-pointing on my part...that's just the way things go in a world economy, etc.
However, during the decade-long period, there was much stress and depression in my life. ..a roller-coaster ride with all the ups and downs for sure! My first job loss, came when I was nearly 50 years of age, after ten years with the company. At this point, little did I know that things would get worse for me as time went on!
Hospitalized for 3 months; Never in my wildest dreams, would I have imagined, that I would be hospitalized with heart-failure and other medical reasons, and I would spend over 3 months in the hospital.
Lost possessions; I arrived at the VA Medical Center in an ambulance, and because I couldn't make arrangements to get my possessions out of my apartment, I lost everything! The year was 2005, and the year of hurricane Katrina, and I was in the hospital at that time. Now I knew what the victims of Katrina felt like when they lost all their possessions, etc. I had only the clothes on my back! You know the old saying, "You don't know what you've got until you lose it!"
VA Thrift Store; Before I was discharged from the VA hospital, I had to have some clothes. Over the years, I had paid for everything myself...but now...I had to rely on someone else...and wear clothes that were not mine, and I didn't like it one bit! With 28 cents on the dresser, looking to being discharged after more than 3 months, and headed to a homeless shelter...this was the bottom of life for me! I lived at the homeless shelter for next 6 weeks. How could all this happen to me?
Food Stamps; I think most Americans would agree that they like to do things by themselves, and want no hand-outs. I don't want any hand-outs either, but there are times, when you need it...it's a matter of survival in the worst way! I was embarrassed when I first applied for food stamps and at the age of 60 no less. How did I get here in the first place?
Homeless Shelter; One of the most difficult things to do in my life, was to call the homeless shelter, after I was discharged from the hospital, and reserve a bed! I couldn't get myself to do it, so I slept in the car that night! It was in late September when this happened, and the nights were getting a little chilly...so I knew I had to make the call, in which I did the next day! I lived in the homeless shelter and stood in a soup line for over six weeks, etc.
Standing is a Soup Line; The pleasantness of the thoughts of owning your own home; retired and enjoying the Golden Years; and travelling around the country...was just that...a dream! The reality of it all...was standing in the same soup line with all the weathered faces...why am I standing here? Why have things gone so wrong?
"The work of many of the greatest men, inspired by duty, has been done amist suffering, trial, and difficulty. They have struggled against the tide and reached the shore exhausted." C.S. Lewis
Gratitude: As like so many Americans all across the land, who have taken their lumps and bumps on the bumpy road of life, I have lived in a homeless shelter and stood in the soup line. And, I have always been grateful for having a roof over my head and having something to eat, etc. I commend all those people, who do this type of work to help those of us in need.
VA Disability Pension; While I was in the VA hospital, the social workers, took care of the paperwork necessary for the application of a disability pension and for Social Security, etc. The homeless shelter was for only 30 days, so I had to get an extension, which was approved.
VA Pension Check; At this point in my life...there was nothing to look forward to...I was at the bottom!
And, than one day, I got a call from the VA telling me that the pension had been approved, and for me to pick up a check at the VA for about $850.00! When I had that check in my hands...I jumped for joy...words cannot describe how happy I was! I was on Cloud 9...no Cloud 39! I never knew how good it could feel, to go from destitute...to poor and/or poverty! Hooray! WOW! I'm rich! From rags, to riches!
Granted, $850.00 doesn't go very far in this greedy society, so I decided to stay at the homeless shelter longer, to pay a few personal loans; buy a battery and insurance for the car, etc.
Social Security; Weeks went by, and by this time, I had left the homeless shelter, and moved into a room on the poor side of town. I think the room in the dorm was more dangerous than the homeless shelter, where I was always looking over my shoulder, etc. During this time, I also got a PO box to get my mail.
One day...I got, what looked like a check from Social Security. I WAS a check and a back-payment for nearly $3,000.00! WOW! Obvioulsy, Social Security had been approved as well...and this is how I found out...with a check! I was on Could 47 by this time! How good it felt to smile...for a change!
I wasn't getting taxpayer's money in the form of SSI...I was getting the money that I earned over the 47 years in the work place! It was early retirement money! I was so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o- HAPPY!
Pace-maker implant: In June, 2006, a pace-maker was implanted, and on August 28, 2009, surgery was performed to change a lead on the pace-maker.
VA Pension Terminated; What the VA giveth...the VA taketh away! The rules stated at the VA, that I was supposed to report all income, and when I reported the Social Security income...the disability pension was terminated! This action by the VA, left Social Security holding the bag, and now my income was cut in half, and now I had less wiggle-room, but at least I was able to move to the sunny side of the street up near the college.
Medicare/Medicaid: After the VA pension was terminated, I had less wiggle-room. One day, I got a letter from Social Security, informing me that I would soon qualify for Medicare after a two-year waiting period on a disability. This was more good news for me, as I have been wanting to get out of the VA Medical Center, because I have been screwed so many times, so this could be the ticket to ride, and to get my own HMO in the private sector.
But, I would have to pay for Medicare ($95.00/mo) and I was a little squeezed at this time. So, I went to the local Medicaid office for the state of New Mexico, and told them my sob story and filled out the paperwork. Within a month, I received a letter informing me that the NM Medicaid would pay for Medicare! I was over-joyed to get more good news! During the next year, I saved all the money I would have spent of Medicare, and when my case was re-evaluated the following year, Medicaid terminated my case because I was now over the limit.
Since that time, I was able to make more cost-cutting moves, but I have kept Medicare and joined a local healthcare HMO. At least for now, this is one of the best decisions I've made.
For three years, I've lived in a nice apartment near the university. The loss of the VA pension is under appeal for over two years, and I don't expect to get it back.
In the meantime (in early 2008), and now that I'm older than the mountain...I decided to do all the paperwork and applications for the subsidized housing such as the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Section 8 housing program; the senior (203 program) and so forth. I knew my background check would be fine, and I got accepted with all the programs I applied for. More good news for me!
Subsidized Housing; (Senior apartments);
In 2009, I now live in a senior apartment place, in which I seen a million times, on my way to the post office down the street. But, I never dreamed I'd be living here! It's a real nice place, and I live on the 5th floor overlooking this one-horse town called Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city of about 500,000 population...and don't forget to count the horse!
So, how does it feel to live in subsidized housing? There are 165 residents living here, and I know everyone has their own story to tell about how they got here. I worked 47 years of my life in an honest way, and I can do nothing about what has happened to me. I can only get up...dust myself off...and keep going just like all the others here.
"I have no regrets in my life. I think that everything that happens to you happens for a reason. The hard times you go through helps to build character...making you a stronger person." Rita Moreno
Get the Help You Need; If the reader is like me...you don't want hand-outs of any kind. You probably want to do and earn everything yourself. That's an honorable thing to do...but sometimes you can't.
In the United States, we all live in a democracy, and we all pay taxes, to help those in need and for many other reasons. There were times, when I didn't know how to ask for help and I suffered for it.
YOU MUST LEARN TO ASK FOR HELP! You've paid taxes all your life to help the government operate...and now it's time for the government to help YOU operate!
For over 47 years, I made an honest living, and there are times when a person doesn't want to do what he or she has to...but you have to do it!
Advice; Young or old, I think the most important thing a person can do, is to have a clean record...free from traffic tickets; late rent/mortgage payments; child support payments, etc. If a person has any blemishes on their record, it would be wise to clean house. I can't say it enough...you must...must...must have a clean record! If you do that, you can qualify for help in the future from the government. You may never need it...but it's like a little insurance policy if things go wrong, etc.
I encourage everyone, young and old, to swallow their pride (if they have to) and to find the courage it takes to get the help you need! You'll be a better person because of it! GOOD HEALTH TO YOU AND GOOD LUCK!
Copyright; 2008; Jerry Aragon/The Humor Doctor