Disabled Henderson man fights for return of benefits - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Disabled Henderson man fights for return of benefits

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Steve Castronovo received a bill for more than $19K in back benefits Steve Castronovo received a bill for more than $19K in back benefits

A disabled Las Vegas man claims he was denied Social Security benefits soon after his boss at Wal-Mart gave him a temporary pay raise.

"I'm hanging from a thread, and that's how I feel," said Steve Castronovo during an interview in his Henderson condominium.

Castronovo has tried to earn a living, but a lifetime of mental disability hasn't always left him with an advantage. For roughly 15 years, Steve earned benefits through the Social Security Administration's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program.

For extra cash, he works at a Wal-Mart store on Serene and Eastern avenues.

"I was out there pushing carts there for the customers," Castronovo said.

Then, in the summer of 2010, Castronovo said his boss gave him an extra dollar an hour - for working in the summer heat. The money was intended to help him purchase extra water, sunscreen and a hat.

In that year, the Social Security Administration set a monthly earning limit of $1,180 for individuals not at retirement age. Castronovo says the temporary raise put him $41 over the limit.

That is when he started receiving letters from Social Security. One letter claimed he was not disabled under the administration's rules. Another letter demanded the return of benefits in the amount of $19,104.

"They cut me off completely," he said. "I don't have two nickels to rub together. How am I supposed to pay these people back?"

Gerry McCambridge has been friends with Castronovo since childhood, and wanted to help him out by creating a Facebook page dedicated to Castronovo's cause.

"He goes out. He gets a job. He contributes to society, and he gets penalized for it," said McCambridge.

Both went to the local Social Security Administration office to set the record straight.

"The man at the Social Security office says if we can show proof that the extra money he made was a work-related expense, then everything would go away," recalled McCambridge.

But Castronovo claims his boss at Wal-Mart refused to provide that documented reason for the temporary raise.

FOX5 contacted Wal-Mart and received this response: "We can empathize with Mr. Castronovo and his situation. We have been working with him to understand how we can help and see if there is specific documentation we can provide that may help him with a resolution with the Social Security Administration."

Castronovo just wants it to all go away.

"Totally ridiculous. All over $41," he said.

As of Wednesday evening, Castronovo said he has not yet received any documentation from Wal-Mart. He has a court date on Feb. 7 to present his case on the matter of the $19,104 social security says he owes.

FOX5 attempted to obtain comment from the Social Security Administration, but the request was not immediately returned.

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