There is power in persistence. Never, never, never give up, said Winston Churchill.
Gina persisted with the help of Legal Aid, and now she has a testimony of successfully getting her social security back pay.
Gina is a Native Hawaiian from Hawaii Island facing health and disability challenges. She travelled regularly to Oahu for doctor’s appointments. During one of her visits, her doctor suggested that she reach out to Legal Aid for assistance in filing for social security benefits.
“I didn’t know what to expect and what to do,” recalled Gina when talking about her meeting with Legal Aid Paralegal Lisa Webb, Kona office. It was her first time seeking Legal Aid’s services.
“Lisa has done a great job for me,” said Gina. “She was always there to answer my questions and let me know where I stand.”
Gina had applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in July 2020 with Legal Aid’s help. The Social Security Administration (SSA), however, denied her three times, claiming she was not qualified as a disabled person under the rules of SSA.
Gina felt helpless and frustrated.
“After I got denied the third time, I told Lisa I was going to give up,” she said. “Lisa said to try again. When she pursued it, it went through. She was there since Day One of this process.”
Good thing she stayed with Legal Aid and trusted our expertise.
“We had a hearing before the administrative law judge in May 2023 and Gina was given a fully favorable decision. I am very happy for her,” said Lisa. “We were able to prove that she had a disability and has been unable to work. SSI finally agreed.”
Gina’s SSI back pay from August 2020 to July 2023 was over $21,000 but the State reclaimed half, leaving her over $10,000 worth of back pay.
“I feel good to know that I am able to get that back pay,” said Gina. “It’s really going to help me out by taking care of me. With all my complications right now, I don’t know if I am able to get back to work. But sure, I would love to.”
In the meantime, there are more battles to be won as SSA calculates Gina’s remaining back pay for her SSDI, which would be an additional several thousand dollars, according to Lisa. (Currently, Gina is getting a monthly SSDI benefit; she doesn't qualify for SSI since the SSDI is greater.)
Her resilience paid off. Gina is less worried now. She is happy to be with family on Hawaii Island where her children and grandchildren live.
“If I didn’t get help, I don’t think I would have gotten anything, I would still be trying,” she said. “And maybe I would have given up. Thank you to Legal Aid for helping me.”