Denise had been navigating the complex and often daunting world of Social Security benefits since 2015.
Her disabilities prevented her from working full-time, and her initial attempts to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) were met with challenges and setbacks.
“I was discouraged and extremely frustrated,” Denise said. “I was worried that nothing was going to come out of my efforts because it was taking so long.”
Legal Aid Paralegal Lisa Webb, Kona Office, took on Denise’s case, patiently going through several hearings and appeals. Lisa refused to give up until the result was favorable.
“I was denied four times!” recalled Denise, who was grateful for Lisa’s unwavering commitment. “She worked with me, that made a difference. She helped me until something came out of it. Even after getting denied, Legal Aid took it right back.”
“Denise has been able to manage a part-time job only for the past couple of years,” said Lisa. “That is also what I believe changed the administrative law judge’s mind: when I opined that we do not argue that she can't do some work but that she cannot do full time work.”
The outcome was nothing short of remarkable.
In June, Denise was granted over $38,000 in SSI back pay from May 2015 through August 2021 (when she got married), providing her with a financial lifeline that she desperately needed. This allowed her to meet basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, as well as pay for necessary medical bills.
The next battle is to get her disability benefits.
“Since the judge deemed Denise disabled back in April 2015, she will be eligible for the SSDI so she is filing a new application,” said Lisa. “If she is awarded the SSDI, she will get that back pay as well.”
It has been a long road for Denise but she is optimistic, especially with the help of Legal Aid.
“We won the last time and Lisa is still with me,” she said. “I almost gave up but even when I wasn’t on it, she was on it. I know that staying with Legal Aid is going to help me because we got through one and it was successful.”
“I am very happy; I feel blessed,” Denise added. “Legal Aid took away some of my worries. Just this happening, the successful outcome and the way it happened, it gave me more hope in Legal Aid.”