(WSVN) - He is a little person with a big problem. After working his whole life, the 11th surgery left him struggling to walk. He can’t work and needs disability, but can he get it? To find out, he turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When Keith was young, his father prepared him for what his life might be like.
Robert Smith: “We had a friend that had a little person; everybody called him a midget. I saw everything that that little boy went through, and I said, ‘He’s not going to go through what he did.'”
And with his parents’ support and guidance, the 4-foot, 1-inch Keith feels he’s been able to lead a fairly normal life.
Keith Smith: “Now I’m used to it, and I feel like a regular person. I blend in with the crowd.”
Keith is certainly a confident person. In high school, he ran for homecoming king and won.
He’s had a job as a salesman in a lumber yard and a second job as an entertainer.
Keith Smith: “It’s like a side job for me, so I’ve been doing it for 15 years plus. I love it. I’ve got over 50 costumes, for St. Patrick’s as leprechaun, Christmas mini Santa Claus or an elf. I’ve done Donald Trump at Club 11.”
But mixed in with the fun, physical problems. Eleven surgeries over his lifetime.
Keith Smith: “Being a little person, we have a lot of issues in our lives that we we go through, and we have to have surgery for different things.”
The latest surgery on his neck has left him struggling to walk.
Keith Smith: “I’m still numb from the side, all the way down to my toe, to my feet.”
Without money coming in, Keith moved back home with his parents.
Keith Smith: “If my parents weren’t here, what would happen to me? I would be living probably in the streets, under a bridge, homeless shelter or something like that.”
In February, Keith applied for disability to try to get a little money and health insurance.
Robert Smith: “He’s been born here, paid taxes, worked all his life, and he’s a perfect example of a person that needs it, and they’re turning him down.”
Keith doesn’t want disability for the rest of his life, just temporarily, until he can walk normally again.
Keith Smith: “I’m not able to go to work, which I wish I could. I would go tomorrow if I could. This is a hold back, and once I get back to normal, I’m going to be back to being me.”
But right now, everything is on hold, as he wonders if he will be able to get disability.
Keith Smith: “It’s like a waiting game. It’s like, when is the waiting game over?”
Well, Howard, technically who is entitled to disability?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “There are two types of federal disability, and anyone is eligible if they meet the requirements. One disability benefit, called SSI, is for people who didn’t work or pay enough to qualify for Social Security. The other type is for people who are eligible for social security, it’s called SSDI, and it pays up to three times as much as SSI. Keith is eligible for SSDI. The problem is, it can be years to get an answer from the federal government.”
This one shocked us, in a good way. We contacted the Social Security Administration and were told they would look into Keith’s disability claim.
We expected it to take months. Six weeks later, Keith got this notice. He was approved.
Robert Smith: “He was almost jumping up and down, and he’s not able to jump up and down. Everything’s working out since you guys got involved real good.”
Keith not only got this month’s disability check. He also got them going back to the day he applied for disability.
Keith Smith: “I’m happy that Help Me Howard got on the case, and I want to thank you so much for helping me.”
You’re welcome, Keith, and can’t wait to do a follow up to see Keith healed, so he can drop his disability and get back to the work he loves.
Now, if you have a disability issue, Social Security has some tips to see if you qualify and how to qualify. The link is at the bottom of this Help Me Howard.
Determined to whip a problem? Never give up, ’cause we won’t.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
Social Security disability benefits
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