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Susan Michele Schaefer

Susan Michele Schaefer

Cardea Disability, LLC
  • Social Security Disability, Gov & Administrative Law, Bankruptcy ...
  • Indiana, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Accredited
Claimed Lawyer ProfileQ&ASocial MediaResponsive Law

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.

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
  • Gov & Administrative Law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Foreclosure Defense
Additional Practice Area
  • Veterans Administration Disability Law
  • Free Consultation
  • Contingent Fees
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
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 Disability, LLC
- Current
We will advocate on your behalf to prove your disability. We know how the system works and can cut through complicated bureaucratic procedures to get your case approved at the earliest level of the administrative process. Cardea Disability LLC advocates will make a comprehensive presentation of your case to agency adjudicators using disability policy terms and rules. Our approach is a proven way for you to be approved and gain access to disability benefits.
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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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
Legal Answers
18 Questions Answered

Q. My son lost his SSI benefits when he was 3 due to child support. Will it be hard to qualify for SSI when he turns 18?
A: I am sorry to hear that your son lost his SSI benefits due to an income/resource issue. Since SSI is a needs based program, there are limits to the amount of countable income/resources. I strongly urge you to contact a disability attorney now to consult about establishing an Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) account for your son and again establishing SSI eligibility. ABLE became law on December 19, 2014. A practical use for an ABLE account is for shielding child support and other such income from being counted so that eligibility for SSI is protected. An ABLE account is flexible enough that payments deposited into the account can easily be used to pay for many of the expenses a child may have. For some background see, At age 18, your son would have eligibility determined under the adult standards. It would be a good idea to consult with a disability attorney prior to that time.
Q. My dad gets SSI, living alone. If my dad moves to my new 2nd home, paying rent to me, will his SSI remain the same?
A: Your dad's living arrangement could affect his SSI, so care will need to be taken so that he continues to get his maximum amount of SSI benefits. With only a few precautions, what you and your dad are planning is a very doable arrangement. Your dad can get the maxim SSI benefit if her lives in your household and pays his fair share of food, shelter, and utilities. Generally, Social Security determines his fair share is by adding food, shelter and utilities expenses and dividing by the number of people (adult and children) living in the house. If your dad lives with you but doesn't pay food and shelter costs, Social Security considers that he is receiving in-kind support and maintenance from you and will reduce his SSI benefits. Even if your dad pays only a small part of the cost of food, shelter, and utility costs, Social Security may not consider this his fair share and may reduce his SSI benefit. The amount of reduction could be up to one–third of the SSI Federal benefit rate. For general information about the one-third rule see Since your dad plans to pay rent for the room and utilities in your home, the rent would need to be the fair market or going rate to rent a room with utilities included in the area. (You may want to have a rental agreement signed for this arrangement as well). If he also pays his own food expenses, he would not be receiving any in-kind support and maintenance. I is a good idea to consult with a disability attorney before you make these changes so that they can discuss the particulars of your dad's situation.
Q. I was diagnosed with diastolic congestive heart failure i cannot work. Am i eligible for ssi?do i need a lawyer?
A: I strongly recommend that you consult with a disability lawyer as soon as possible since you have a severe medical condition. Most disability lawyers have free consultations and will be able to discuss with you the financial requirements you have to meet for SSI and the medical requirements to get a favorable Social Security decision. SSI is a program that pays benefits to individuals with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. There are rules as to what income and resources are countable. For example, the limit for countable resources is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple. To get a basic understanding of the financial requirements, go to The rules on whether or not a person is disabled are complex. Social Security considers an individual “disabled” if you have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for 12 months, and results in marked and severe functional limitations; or is expected to result in death. The Listing of Impairments (listings) is a good place to start a discussion with a disability lawyer about your diastolic congestive heart failure. Look at listing 4.02 at You do not have to meet or equal a listing to qualify for Social Security Disability. There is an entire evaluation process that is used to evaluate a person's conditions. A disability lawyer will be able to help discuss all of the rules and steps involved.
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Contact & Map
Cardea Disability, LLC
P.O. Box 681586
Prattville, AL 36068
Telephone: (334) 440-6261
Monday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM (Today)
Tuesday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Wednesday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Thursday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Friday: 9 AM - 4:30 PM
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed