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Orlando Pulse shooting victim claimed disability after left unable to repay social security $20000

A man who survived the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016, having been shot four times in his lower back and once in his arm, was told he must repay disability payments to the tune of $21,000.

The Social Security Administration claimed Tony Marrero was never eligible to receive the disability benefits despite being left in pain and having to undergo several surgeries to repair the damage left by gunman Omar Mateen in the June 2016 Orlando shooting.

The agency sent him letters telling him to repay $20,792 since August 2018 but has only recently dropped their case against him following an investigation by a local Florida TV station.

Tony Marrero was shot four times in the back in the deadly Orlando terror attack at Pulse nightclub in June 2016

Marrero was also shot in the arm and left unable to work at his job at a local theme park

Marrero was also shot in the arm and left unable to work at his job at a local theme park 

‘I’m really overwhelmed. I got shot four times in my lower back. The muscle was completely shattered and I had a hole in my back,’ he told ClickOrlando. ‘My left arm was completely shattered. I was supposed to lose this arm, but I didn’t give up, and I told the doctors to give it some time because I have movement in these two fingers.’ 

Marrero said his injuries prevented him from going back to work at one of the area’s theme parks.

‘I could not work. I was out of work for a year-and-a-half,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t able to walk. I wasn’t able to use this arm properly. Not only that, I worked at a theme park, so psychologically and mentally, I wasn’t prepared to be around big crowds.’

Marrero signed up for benefits which were crucial to him maintaining his way of life including his home and car.  

Marrero claimed disability and received just under $21,000 in benefits which the Social Security Administration then demanded he repay

Marrero claimed disability and received just under $21,000 in benefits which the Social Security Administration then demanded he repay

Once he had been cleared to return to his job Marrero began receiving letters from the Social Security Administration, which read: ‘Our records show you were not entitled to disability benefits.’

The letter claimed that he was receiving around $1,000 per month but that he was not entitled to receive anything whatsoever.

The agency demanded Marrero repay all of the money had had received. The demands also affected his credit report to the extent that he has been prevented him from getting a mortgage.

‘I didn’t ask for this,’ he said. ‘I didn’t ask for none of this to happen to me, but it did. So, who’s going to help me now? What do I do?’ 

The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando following the fatal shooting in June 2016 where 38 people died

The Pulse Nightclub in Orlando following the fatal shooting in June 2016 where 38 people died

Marrero worked at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida

Marrero worked at the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida

‘I have ’til June 30 to find a new home, and I can’t even buy a new home after selling mine. I’m angry. It’s a sense of how dare you? I have all the proof in the world. People know who I am. People know what I’ve been through. You can see my scars. How dare you tell me that I wasn’t qualified?

It is not clear why the Social Security Administration had denied Marrero benefits retroactively however upon reexamining his case they have cleared him of the $21,000 debt owed. 

Shortly after the shooting, doctors hailed Tony’s survival a ‘miracle’ because despite being shot four times in the back, none of the bullets reached his spinal cord or major organs. 

Marrero with his friend Luis Velma at Pulse on the night of the tragedy. Vielma was killed. He  said it was a brilliant night until the gunman attacked

Marrero with his friend Luis Velma at Pulse on the night of the tragedy. Vielma was killed. He  said it was a brilliant night until the gunman attacked

Shortly after the shooting, doctors hailed Tony's survival a 'miracle' because despite being shot four times in the back, none of the bullets reached his spinal cord or major organs

Shortly after the shooting, doctors hailed Tony’s survival a ‘miracle’ because despite being shot four times in the back, none of the bullets reached his spinal cord or major organs

Tony Marrero is pictured in the days following the attack in critical condition in hospita.

Tony Marrero is pictured in the days following the attack in critical condition in hospita.

Describing the night of the shooting on the Ellen show in 2016, he said he lost his best friend Luis Vielma, 22.

Tony said: ‘That night my best friend Luis texted me and invited me to go to Pulse.

‘We became best friends working at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and we were about to leave and as soon as we started heading to the door, that’s when we heard the gunshots.

‘Me and Luis we looked at each other and we just hit the ground, that’s the last time that I saw him.’

He added: ‘It was horrible, people were screaming, crying, people saying their goodbyes. He shot me four times in the back.’

He said after falling to the ground he was separated from Luis and he landed next to a couch. 

He added: ‘I don’t know what came over me but something told me “protect yourself” and I picked up the couch and the only thing I did was protect my head.’ 


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