Utah man’s SSA disability benefits yanked

What would you do if a medical problem prevented you from working? There are benefits available for those who cannot physically work. But one Tremonton man says he's been trying for years to get approved and when yet another denial letter came, he decided to Get Gephardt. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) -- What would you do if a medical problem prevented you from working? There are benefits available for those who cannot physically work. But one Tremonton man says he's been trying for years to get approved and when yet another denial letter came, he decided to Get Gephardt.

Randy Thompson says he wants to work. His doctors say he can't. Even the state of Utah at one time decided he could not do any kind of work.

So why won't the federal government believe them?

17 years ago, Thompson's back troubles began.

"I had a disc that collapsed on me so I had some lower back surgery," he said.

The problems have only gotten worse since then.

"I can't stand for more than 10, maybe 15 minutes," he said.

After several surgeries, Thompson was forced to quit his welding job about a decade ago. Shortly after, he applied for Medicaid benefits and they were granted.

“[Utah State] said that there were no jobs in the national marketplace that I could work whatsoever with what's going on," Thompson said.

But a few years ago, those benefits were unexpectedly yanked. The federal social security administration ruled that randy is not eligible for benefits. Utah has to follow what the feds say.

"It's just been a zoo," he said.

Thompson has appealed the social security denials twice. His three doctors have offered evidence that Thompson cannot work. That doesn't seem to be enough.

Meanwhile, Thompson‘s medical problems haven't gone away and his financial troubles are mounting.

"I don't have any money,” he said. “All I have is bills, bills, bills that I have no way of paying."

Get Gephardt found that getting answers from the Social Security Administration wasn't easy. We spent months going back and forth via email waiting for responses to our questions about Thompson’s situation.

Finally, four months after our initial contact, SSA finally offered an explanation for Thompson’s denial. By phone, a representative stated that told us SSA denied Thompson’s benefits request, not because of his ability to do his old job, but they think he can do other types of work.

When Get Gephardt pressed what specific types of work the agency thinks Thompson can do, it didn't answer.

Our investigation found that few who apply for Social Security disability benefits ever receive them. Between 2006 and 2015, an average of 34% of applicants got benefits. Of those, only 2% are saw them granted on appeal and another 9% received their benefits after requesting a hearing and pleading their case to panel of human beings.

Thompson has requested such a hearing. He awaits word on whether or not he’ll get that chance.

Thompson says the entire ordeal has been a nightmare.

"It makes me mad because I've lost everything I owned, my marriage is falling apart, I can't hardly take care of myself. I feel lost."

Thompson is scheduled for yet another surgery to fuse his spine.


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