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Atticus Client Success Story: How Earlene G. Won Benefits

Written by
Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney
Jackie Jakab
Lead Attorney
Published February 13, 2024
1 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality disability advice for Americans who can't work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and have helped over 10,000 Americans apply for disability benefits.

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Working as a cashier at a grocery store involves standing for long periods, lifting and reaching for items on a conveyor belt, and constant customer interaction and communication. Shifts at the checkout counter can take a toll on the body and mind, but when Earlene G. found herself leaning on her cash register for relief from pain, she realized there was an underlying issue beyond the typical challenges of her job.

Earlene’s full-body pain was diagnosed as arthritis. “It was scary. I knew I couldn’t manage the pain from the kind of work I was doing, because I would be standing a lot,” she says. 

Like many people with injuries or illnesses that impact their ability to work, she wrestled with the consequences of stepping away from her job. “How can I support myself if I have no income coming in? How can I help my family? How can I pay my bills?”

She kept punching in for shifts — and experiencing pain — until her employer encouraged her to apply for Social Security Disability benefits. With the help of her mother, Earlene found Atticus online and was connected with a disability attorney to help her navigate the disability application process. 

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“She was very, very nice,” says Earlene of her lawyer, Rebecca C. Padilla from Potter, Cohen, Samulon & Padilla . Because Gayles is under 50, the Social Security Administration challenged her case and denied her initial application, but her lawyer navigated the hurdles at each stage of the appeal process.

Earlene felt support every step of the way. “I felt very comfortable — I felt love, really,” she says. Her lawyer offered a listening ear throughout the process. For Earlene, the biggest relief was having an attorney complete the necessary paperwork and prepare her for the judge’s questions at the hearing. “It took a lot of stress off of me.”

Earlene won her disability benefits and can manage her condition and take care of her family with the monthly disability benefits. And for others navigating the disability application process, Earlene offers this advice: “Don’t give up!” The process can be time-consuming and draining, but she urges applicants not to give up too easily or quickly. 

As the best form of praise, she recommended Atticus to her closest friend, who is currently working with a disability lawyer and is well on her way to winning benefits. “I’m very happy about that."

Atticus Client Earlene G. Quote

Learn more about the application process

To learn more about the disability application process, check out our extensive resources with information on how to qualify and apply for disability benefits.

FAQs for Applying for Disability in California

How much does disability pay in California?

The payment amount of short-term DI benefits in California depends on your former wages. The maximum amount you can receive is $1,620 per week.

In California, the average monthly SSDI check is $1,524.99, and for SSI, the average monthly payment is $578.62.

Does citizenship and immigration status affect eligibility for disability in California?

No, citizenship and immigration status do not affect eligibility for short-term DI benefits in California. You may be eligible to receive short-term DI benefits if you have paid into the California DI Fund, regardless of your immigration status. Eligibility for federal programs like Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income differ. While immigration status does not directly affect SSDI eligibility, you must have a Social Security number to qualify.

A noncitizen may qualify for SSI if they meet the income and resources requirements and are lawfully admitted for permanent residence or granted conditional entry.

What conditions automatically qualify you for disability in California?

Certain medical conditions automatically qualify for disability benefits, regardless of your location. The Social Security Administration’s compassionate allowance program allows people with serious conditions to receive benefits more quickly.

How long does it take for California disability to be approved?

For DI benefits, you should expect to wait approximately two weeks before receiving payment. There is a seven-day unpaid waiting period before your DI benefits begin.

The wait time for Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income is much longer, and it can take more than two years to receive approval after applying for federal benefits.

Does the California Disability Insurance program protect my job?

No, DI benefits do not offer job protection. This state insurance program provides partial wage replacement benefits, but it does not give you the right to leave your job and return after. 

You may be able to get job-protected leave under separate laws, such as the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for more information.

Related resources:

Everything You Should Know About Disability Benefits (SSDI and SSI)

By Sarah Aitchison

An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Applying for Disability Benefits

A hand drawn image of the lead disability lawyer.
By Jackie Jakab

See what you qualify for

How long has your condition made it hard to work?

Jackie Jakab, Disability Attorney

Jackie Jakab

Lead Attorney

Jackie Jakab is Atticus’s Legal Director. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and has counseled thousands of people seeking disability benefits.
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