Wednesday, December 5, 2012

JOE BETTERLY - A U.S. Army Veteran, Denied U.S. Citizenship and Benefits

     Joe Betterly is a sixty-six-year-old American. He is of Japanese descent, but he was adopted by Americans, and brought to America in 1958.
     When Joe grew up, he served in the United States Army. He has a California Identification Card, and a Social Security Card.
     But now that he needs help from the United States Government, our government denies that this homeless veteran is an American.
     Joe’s last job was working in a kitchen at a country club. But then, he had a stroke, and was unable to continue working.
     He applied for Social Security Disability.
     But the United States Government denied him benefits. They said that his immigration status was alien, and therefore, this U.S. Army veteran was not entitled to Social Security Benefits.
     As you might imagine, Joe is a little bitter about this.
     Joe has been homeless for about three months now. He had been living with his father. But when his father died, Joe had no place to go. And he couldn’t work because of his stroke.
     What is the hardest part about being homeless for Joe?
     "Asking for help," Joe says.
     "Today, it’s based upon who you are. If people like you, they’re going to help you. If not, then you don’t get any help."
     Joe seems to have the feeling that people just don’t like him.
     I don’t ask him if he thinks that it’s because he’s Japanese. I don’t ask him if he thinks that it’s because he’s old, and can no longer work.
     There are some things that you just don’t ask a man.
     "People are significantly changed, these days," Joe says.
     "People are less caring.
     "People have less respect.
     "People seem to be more self-centered.
     "It sucks.
     "The majority of people just don’t care any more.
     "One day, I was out on the street corner, flying a sign, and I counted the number of cars that went by me without offering me any kind of help. Do you know how many cars went by me before one car stopped? Five-hundred cars! Only one car out of five hundred cars cared enough to stop."
     If Joe had a magic wand, so that he could be or do absolutely anything, what would he be or do?
     "I’d be helping the homeless," Joe answers.
     "And I’d have enough money to help."
     I ask Joe if he has a message for the world.
     "I hope someday that the world will become more peaceful, and will get together and share feelings, and will become more responsive."
     I ask Joe what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
     "This is me. If I have something that can help someone else who is in need, I would help him. I would guide him. I would care for him. I would share my beliefs in God and in Jesus.
I ask Joe if he has anything else that he wants people to know about him, or about his life.
     "The struggle. The denial of what homeless people have to go through. Being unloved. People being uncaring.
     "I want people to know that homeless people are just as important as other people... especially those who fought for their Country. They deserve care. They deserve help. They deserve respect.
     "I’m not angry at anybody.
     "I can’t blame anyone.
     "Do you know what they do with homeless people in Japan? They help you."

     This is the one-hundred-and-fourth in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.

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