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Susan Michele Schaefer

Susan Michele Schaefer

Cardea Law Group, LLC
  • Social Security Disability, Bankruptcy, Probate ...
  • Alabama, Indiana, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Accredited
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Client Reviews
Sandra H. November 19, 2021
Professional and Knowledgeable Attorney Schaefer was wonderful to work with. She is very knowledgeable regarding the laws and procedures for filing social security disability. She she gave a detailed and comprehensive review of the process. She gave several supporting references regarding the guidelines, laws, and procedures related to filing for disability. She was supportive, encouraging, patient, and empathetic. She responded to all communication in a timely manner. She was respectful and courteous in all interactions. She kept us informed in all steps along the way. She made navigating the myriad levels of paperwork and reviews less painful and arduous. Working with her made a major difference in the outcome. Working with someone who knows the processes and procedures took away a lot of the stress and frustration that could have come with trying to navigate the system alone. I recommend Attorney Schaefer for anyone in need of the legal assistance she provides
Claimed Lawyer ProfileOffers Video ConferencingQ&ASocial MediaResponsive Law

Susan Michele Schaefer has over 30 years of professional experience. She began her career as a trial attorney before establishing a decades-long career at the Social Security Administration (SSA). She is also accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Practice areas include Social Security disability, VA disability, bankruptcy, and wills and estates.

She has a wealth of knowledge about disability from extensive field experience at the Disability Determination Services, and at the Office of Hearings Operations as a Hearing Office Director, Supervisory Attorney, and Senior Attorney, and at Social Security National Headquarters as Deputy Director, Branch Chief. Ms. Schaefer know how the system works and will help you get the benefits you need.

Practice Areas
    Social Security Disability
    Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt Relief
    Probate Administration
    Estate Planning
    Guardianship & Conservatorship Estate Administration, Health Care Directives, Trusts, Wills
Additional Practice Area
  • Veterans Administration Disability Law
Video Conferencing
  • Zoom
  • Free Consultation
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Contingent Fees
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
Alabama State Bar Association
ID Number: 9216G15Y
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Indiana Supreme Court
ID Number: 14112-64
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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Accredited
ID Number:
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  • English: Spoken, Written
Professional Experience
Cardea Law Group, LLC
- Current
We will provide you with advice and guidance throughout your case. We will advocate on your behalf and make a comprehensive presentation of your case. We know how the system works and can cut through complicated bureaucratic procedures to help you win your case.
Deputy Director, Branch Chief
Social Security Administration
Provided disability policy advice to SSA executives. Also led research and drafting of regulations, rulings and policy guidance.
Hearing Office Director, Supervisory Attorney
Social Security Administration
Supervised attorneys and paralegals in Social Security hearing offices.
Trial Attorney
Emerick and Diggins, PC
Trial attorney in a general practice law firm.
Valparaiso University School of Law
J.D. (1988) | Law
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Indiana University - Indiana University-Bloomington
B.A. (1984) | English
Indiana University - Indiana University-Bloomington Logo
Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Performance in Medical Policy
Social Security Administration
Professional Associations
American Bar Association
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Indiana State Bar  # 14112-64
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Alabama State Bar
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Speaking Engagements
Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims, Social Security Ruling 16-3p, Chronic Fatgue Advisory Committee, Washington, D.C.
Health and Human Services
Drug Addiction and Alcoholism (DAA) and Disability, National Association of Disability Representatives Conference, Washington, D.C.
National Association of Disability Representatives
Accredited Attorney
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Websites & Blogs
Cardea Law Group, LLC website
Cardea Law Group Blog Articles
Legal Answers
93 Questions Answered
Q. SSDI application declined
A: To be eligible for SSDI disability benefits, you must meet BOTH a recent work test and a duration work test. The number of credits necessary to meet the recent work test depends on your age. In general, the rules are as follows: Before age 24 - You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts. Age 24 to 31 – You may qualify if you have covered credits for working half the time between age 21 and the time your disability began. As a general example, if you have a disability at age 27, you would need 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27). Age 31 or older - You must have at least 20 credits in the 10-year period immediately before your disability began. In 2022, you receive one credit for each $1,510 of covered earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. The amount earned to receive one credit changes depending on the year. See Special rules apply if you were self-employed and had net annual earnings of less than $400. For more information, see Here is what you can do: Go to your My Social Security account and review and verify your earnings for accuracy. If you find that the recorded earnings do not match your W-2s or other records, inform Social Security of the discrepancy so that they can correct your earnings record. If you think that you do meet the coverage requirements, appeal the Social Security decision within 60 days. You may want to consult with a disability attorney about your particular situation. Many offer a free initial consultation.
Q. Is a SsA representative payee allowed to marry the beneficiary they represent or will it. Cause issues?
A: There is no restriction about a beneficiary being married to the person who is their representative payee. In fact, Social Security prefers to appoint a responsible relative, friend, or other interested party to serve as a representative payee, then they consider others, such as an organization to be payee. The restrictions to being a representative payee are found in 20 CFR 404.2022 and 416 CFR 622. Here are a couple of examples: a person with certain convictions cannot serve, and a person who themselves require a representative payee cannot serve. See the regulations for the full list of restrictions. You also ask whether being a representative payee married to the beneficiary would cause issues. Since you will have certain responsibilities in the management of the benefits, you have to follow the rules. In the event you and your spouse disagree on how the benefits will be spent. Social Security recommends the representative payee and the beneficiary talk about how the benefits are spent. You as representative payee can show you how much in benefits is being received and how much is being spent on basic needs. Here is a Social Security pamphlet with an overview of being a representative payee at If you decide you do not want to be representative payee for your spouse, you can request that Social Security appoint another responsible party to the role. For more information, see
Q. If my wife receives SSDI and withdrawals from 401k will she lose her benefits
A: No, your wife would not lose her SSDI benefits if she withdraws from her 401k retirement. Since individual retirement plans have no effect on SSDI eligibility, your wife would not have to report 401k withdrawals to Social Security. She would report things such as her new address if she moves or a change in her direct deposit information, as well as any wages earned from returning to work. Be aware that retirement plan income can stop a person from receiving SSI or may reduce the amount of monthly SSI payments. For more information about reporting to Social Security when you receive SSI, go to
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Contact & Map
Cardea Law Group, LLC
P.O. Box 681586
Prattville, AL 36068
Telephone: (334) 440-6261
Monday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Tuesday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Wednesday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Thursday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM (Today)
Friday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed
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