Handicapped Man Faces Homelessness After Financial Crisis Demolishes Trust Fund

Mar 18, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

As part of the Huffington Post's efforts to bear witness to the effects of the current economic environment on ordinary Americans, we're rounding up some of the most compelling stories reported by local news organizations around the country.

Thomas Ryan is a 62-year-old mentally retarded man living in New Mexico who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 17 years old. Thomas's father had the foresight to create a trust fund for Thomas--but the money was wiped out by the financial crisis.

Thomas cannot function without full-time medical care. According to Thomas's sister, Victoria Ryan, his behavior includes "increasingly violent outbursts" due to his Traumatic Brain Injury. Thomas's trust fund, which pays for his medical care, will only last another year and a half.

Victoria looked towards government programs for help, but has been told that long waiting lists mean that her brother will not be eligible for 7 to 18 years. "When I ask, 'What will become of him when he is broke?' the answer is 'he will be homeless.' There is NO safety net."

In fact, Victoria can't even put Thomas on the waiting list for government programs, because she can't prove that her brother was retarded before the age of 18, which is an eligibility requirement. His school records have all been purged and the family doctor has passed away, leaving Victoria with few options.

She has found the whole process disheartening. While Victoria describes herself as "a very far left progressive," she is "not so sure that going through government channels is the way to go when I see the inefficiency and waste that passes for help for the developmentally disabled or Traumatic Brain Injury victims."

In the end, helping Thomas requires navigating so many broken systems--health insurance, finance, government bureaucracy--that Victoria no longer knows where to turn. She finds herself "plugging away daily trying to find a crack in the system, a loophole or some solution--there is always a thread of hope that I latch on to, but I have NO IDEA what I will do when I run out of leads to follow up on."

Calling herself as a "big picture person," Victoria knows Thomas's situation isn't unique. She believes the whole system is broken: that while the health care companies engage in "profiteering," we turn a blind eye towards the "homeless, helpless, and ill people among us."

While Victoria works to ensure that Thomas doesn't become homeless, his trust fund withers away. Soon enough, it will be gone entirely: "This is all about watching his money flowing out like one of those hourglass timers. It is a race against time."

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