James Brady of Hackensack, New Jersey became a minor celebrity last spring when he found $850 on the street and turned it in to the police. Brady was homeless at the time. Police gave him the money in October after no one claimed it— and now Brady is being denied General Assistance and Medicaid benefits for not declaring the income.
Agatha Toomey, director of the Hackensack Human Services Department, said that the rules required her to deny Brady his benefits, as any lump sum has to be reported as income, according to The Record.
“I’m sorry but we had to — I had to — follow regulations,” she said.
Brady, who didn’t realize he had to declare the money, is dismayed after the positive upturn he experienced these past few months. His story had been picked up media around the country and his deed praised by the Hackensack City Council. He moved into an apartment with a housing voucher and began receiving psychiatric care.
“This is stupid,” Brady told The Record. “I had already proven my honesty by turning in the $850. They were treating me like I was a dishonest individual, like I was trying to cheat them out of the money.”
Brady used to work as a news photographer and data analyst before Sept. 11, 2001, when he was scheduled to attend an event at the World Trade Center. His brush with death left him traumatized, and he became, in his words, “like a hermit.” The next ten years were a battle of depression, unemployment and homelessness.
Now Brady fears the consequences of losing his Medicaid benefits, as he is unable to pay for his psychiatric treatment as well as dental work he needs out of pocket.
The United Way of Bergen County has established a fund for Brady. 100% of money donated will go to helping Brady, according to Tim Toronto, the charity’s president. Readers can donate via a link or by mailing a check made out to “BCUW/Compassion Fund/Mr. Brady” to United Way, 6 Forest Ave., Paramus, NJ 07652.