Chapter 13 Repayment Plan

A Chapter 13 is a repayment plan where certain creditors are paid back in full and others receive a payment of less than what is owed to them. The repayment plan is typically between three and five years depending on the household income of the person filing. The amount of the payment varies drastically from one situation to the next. Some people pay back only 1% of their debt and others pay back 100%. The payment can also be changed through the course of the plan if a person’s situation changes.

Ideally, a payment in a Chapter 13 should be the difference between a person’s net income and necessary living expenses. Necessary living
expenses include rent, transportation, daycare, food, healthcare, and clothing among other things. The court also allows expenses for school activities and entertainment. The idea is that a person filing a bankruptcy is agreeing to pay his/her disposable income into the Chapter 13 for a set period of time or a
commitment period. After this time, the debtor gets a discharge which wipes out any leftover unsecured debt that was not paid back during the repayment plan. Certain debts like student loans survive the Chapter 13 discharge. If at any point a person manages to pay off all the claims filed in the case, then
the case ends.

Chapter 13

The payment in a Chapter 13 can be determined by a few other things as well. Certain types of debt set a floor in the case. Basically, enough money must be paid into the bankruptcy to pay these debts in full for the plan to be approved. These debts include priority taxes (typically comprised of the last three years of taxes) and arrears on domestic support orders. There are other debts that a person filing bankruptcy may chose to include in their case. These set a floor of their own. If a person is filing a bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure, then a person can use a Chapter 13 to catch up on their mortgage arrears through the repayment plan. All the arrears must be paid to do this. A person may also choose to pay for a vehicle though the plan to avoid a repossession or in some cases to pay a lower amount for the vehicle than the contracted amount. That debt must be paid in the plan and creates another floor in the case.

There are many ways to design a Chapter 13 that allow a person to meet these floors. For example, a repayment plan could start off at a lower amount and then the payment could be scheduled to change later on when, for example, a 401(K) loan is finished. This can allow someone who is currently struggling the breathing room necessary to pay enough into a Chapter 13 to cover mortgage arrears and prevent the loss of a home.
It is extremely important to have good legal counseling when entering a Chapter 13 as the rules and requirements are complicated.

Written by Kris Whelchel

Kris Whelchel is an attorney practicing consumer bankruptcy. She handles both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

View all author posts →


Applying for a Home Loan After Bankruptcy

Most of us have been conditioned by movies and television to associate personal bankruptcy with a handful of frightening images—movers hauling away furniture, bank officers laughing at an application for a home loan. But not only are these images inaccurate; they also obscure a very important truth. The truth is that for someone considering filing for personal bankruptcy, the frightening part is already upon them. And the frank truth is that for someone who’s falling behind on credit card payments or medical bills, qualifying for a home loan is unlikely without making some changes.

But there’s good news after bad, and the good news is that, for most people struggling with debt, filing for bankruptcy is the end of the frightening part. Depending on whether a person files under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, their debts will either be discharged or reduced to a short-term payment plan set by their budget. Most creditors will be required to cease and desist attempts to collect, and the former debtor will finally be able to set about building their life without all the chaos and threatening letters. Bankruptcy is, after all, a relief service guaranteed to citizens by federal law, not a punishment.

So how long does it take to buy a house after filing? The short answer is probably around two years. The Federal Housing Administration won’t guarantee a loan until two years after discharge, and most major banks require a minimum of two years after discharge plus proof of extenuating circumstances. A few examples of extenuating circumstances are loss of employment, divorce, and poor health. In fact, most people who file for bankruptcy have suffered these sorts of hardships. These sorts of hardships are a large part of why bankruptcy protections exist. Different banks have their own policies, but for most, applying for a home loan two years after bankruptcy discharge is generally the most practical option.

But before applying for a home loan, a wise consumer should plan. Many creditors, (such as credit card companies) will be happy to extend credit to a former debtor freshly out of bankruptcy. It’s important to take advantage of the reputable offers, as lines of credit, smartly utilized, will help the former debtor to quickly establish an impressive credit score. In fact, a good attorney should advise their client on how best to go about this, so that their client can confidently set the date that they will apply for a home loan with not just a clean slate but also excellent credit.

 

by Reagan Healey

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Can I Work While I Receive Social Security Disability?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can work and still receive disability benefits. As you might imagine, however, there are several limitations and caveats. The first major thing to consider is what type of benefits are you receiving, i.e., disability insurance benefits (“DIB” or “SSDI”) or supplemental security income (“SSI”). Let’s start with the first.

If you are receiving SSDI benefits (disability paid to those who have worked enough to be eligible), you can earn up to $880 per month in 2019 (that’s gross, or before taxes, insurance or any other deductions). If you earn more than $880 in a month, that counts as a “Trial Work Month.” There is no limit to how much you can earn during a trial work month. You get 9 trial work months in the 60 months (5 years) after you are found disabled. These do not have to be consecutive (meaning you could earn over $880 one month, then under for 1 or more months, then over again, and that counts as 2 months). Once you have used your 9 months, you have 36 months (3 years) of an “Extended Period of Eligibility.” During these 36 months, you can still receive benefits, if your earnings for that month are not “substantial” (defined as not over $1,220 per month, gross). There are exceptions/modifications to the substantial earnings rule, such as if your work is done under special conditions (i.e., you receive special assistance, or are given extra breaks, etc.). Another exception is if you have “income related work expenses (i.e., you have to pay out of pocket expenses to get to work, for things like special transportation, etc.).

If you are receiving SSI benefits (disability paid to those with limited income and resources), social security will reduce your benefits by your earnings. They will not count the first $85 you earn in the month, but will then reduce your benefits by 50 cents for every dollar you earn. For example, if you earn $500 in a month, they don’t count the first $85, which leaves $415. They then reduce your monthly benefits by half of that, or $207.50. Moreover, if your income, when added to any other resources, exceeds Social Security’s limits, your benefits stop altogether. The resource limits vary from state to state, but generally you cannot have more than $2,000 if you are single, or $3,000 if you are married (they do not count 1 car and they do not count your residence, i.e., house, apartment, trailer as a resource).

Whatever the case, be sure to always contact social security and inform them of the start, end or change related to any work you do.

by Scott Bowers

Written by Scott Bowers

Scott earned his J.D., cum laude, from Capital University Law School and focuses his practice on Social Security Disability law.

View all author posts →


Can I get fired for filing bankruptcy?

In short – No.  Pursuant to federal law, no employer (either federal or private) “may terminate the employment of, or discriminate with respect to employment against, an individual who”:

  • Has filed bankruptcy
  • Has been insolvent before a case has been discharged
  • Has not paid a debt that is dischargeable, or the debt was discharged

Interesting enough, this protection extends to non-filing individuals that are associated with the debt (like a spouse on a joint debt).

Bankruptcy protection for your employment is based in solid reasoning and advances a common good for all.  Bankruptcy protects you from a creditor’s collection efforts; therefore, it only makes sense that it should protect you from discriminatory treatment by a creditor when that creditor is your employer.  An employer may not discriminate against you for filing bankruptcy if you were going to advance or get a promotion and not give you that promotion due to your filing bankruptcy.  In addition, an employer may not demote you for filing bankruptcy.

Now, the protection is a bit tricky when it comes to applying for a new job.  Government employers may not discriminate nor refuse to hire you because you filed bankruptcy.  In fact, to get a government job or gain a promotion, you may be required to file bankruptcy.  For example, a former client had to file bankruptcy to get a promotion that would gain her Top-Secret clearance.  The rationale is that she would not be susceptible to bribes or coercion for access to the Top-Secret information in return for money for her debts.  On the other hand, there is no protection for gaining employment with a private employer.  A private employer can deny you employment based upon your bankruptcy filing.

In short, bankruptcy laws are designed to protect a debtor achieve a fresh start.  When you reach that point where the debt gets too overwhelming and you want freedom from your debt, bankruptcy affords you that opportunity.  In addition to discharging your debt, bankruptcy law allows you the chance to start over.  Starting over is not starting over with nothing as you can keep most property that you need to reorganize.  In addition, you can keep your job and continue earning an income after the bankruptcy is completed.

 

by Jeff Bursell

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


When a bankruptcy case is filed…

When a bankruptcy case is filed, section 541 of the Bankruptcy Code provides that all the debtor’s legal and equitable interests become assets of the bankruptcy estate.  Commencement of a bankruptcy case creates an “estate”.  Put simply, your stuff isn’t yours anymore; it belongs to the bankruptcy estate.  Generally, your creditors must look to the assets of the estate for satisfaction of their claims. The estate consists of all property interests of the debtor at the time of case commencement, subject to certain exclusions and exemptions. For the most part, your bankruptcy estate consists of all of the property that you own when you file for bankruptcy.

What property is included in the bankruptcy estate?  All of it—without exception. When you file for bankruptcy, you tell the court about your property by listing it on Schedule A/B.  The types of property you’ll list include:  real estate (residence, building, or land); vehicles (cars, vans, trucks, tractors, sport utility vehicles, motorcycles, watercraft, motor homes, ATVs, etc); personal and household items (furnishings, electronics, collectibles, sports equipment, firearms, clothes, and jewelry); financial assets (bank, stock, and retirement accounts, business interests, legal claims, tax returns, etc); business-related property and any other assets you own

Categories of Property

Property you own and possess when you file. If you own something and it’s in your possession, it’s part of your bankruptcy estate, even if you owe money on it. Property you possess but that belongs to someone else (like your friend’s DVD collection) are not part of the estate.

Property you own but don’t possess when you file. Even if you don’t possess an item of property that you own, it’s still in your bankruptcy estate. Examples of this type of property include security deposits held by your landlord, money in a lawyer’s trust account, the daughter’s car titled in your client’s name, or property that you’ve loaned to someone.

Property you are entitled to receive. If you have the legal right to property but have not yet received it, it’s still in your bankruptcy estate. Examples include wages, commissions, tax refunds, vacation pay, an inheritance, insurance policy proceeds from an event that has occurred already, and accounts receivable.

Some types of property that you acquire within 180 days after filing for bankruptcy. If you acquire or become entitled to the following items within 180 days after you file for bankruptcy, the property becomes part of your bankruptcy estate:

  • an inheritance
  • property you receive or have a right to receive from a marital settlement agreement or divorce decree, and
  • death benefits or life insurance policy proceeds.

Revenue generated by other property in your bankruptcy estate. This would encompass any earnings produced by contracts that were in effect when you filed for bankruptcy. For example, if you wrote a book before you filed for bankruptcy, any royalties you collect afterwards are part of your bankruptcy estate.

Property that you fraudulently transferred prior to your bankruptcy. If you sold property during the two-year period prior to your bankruptcy for substantially less than property is worth, or if you gifted valuable property during this period, the transfer may be “fraudulent” and the property considered part of your bankruptcy estate. The trustee can sue to get the property back.

Preference payments. Bankruptcy law does not allow you to “prefer” one creditor over another. If you paid creditors more than a certain dollar amount before your bankruptcy filing (the time period differs depending on the type of creditor), the payments may become part of your bankruptcy estate. This means the trustee can sue your creditor to get the money back.

Protecting your Assets in your Bankruptcy Case

Every state has different rules on what property the debtor is allowed to protect and what value the debtor is allowed protect or “exempt” for that property. The Bankruptcy Code allows an individual debtor to protect some property from the claims of creditors because it is exempt under federal bankruptcy law or under the laws of the debtor’s home state. 11 U.S.C. § 522(b). Many states have taken advantage of a provision in the Bankruptcy Code that permits each state to implement its own exemption law in place of the federal exemptions. In other jurisdictions, the individual debtor has the option of choosing between federal exemptions or the exemptions available under state law. Thus, whether certain property is exempt and may be kept by the debtor is often a question of state law.  Minnesota allows debtors to choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. This means that your attorney has examined both sets of exemptions and elected the exemptions that better protect your assets.

 

The bankruptcy petition filed includes a schedule of “exempt” property And law allows married couples filing jointly to each claim a full set of exemptions, unless otherwise noted.

An exemption limit applies to any equity you have in the property. Equity is the difference between the value of the property and what is owed on the property. For example, a car valued at $5000 with a loan of $4500 has an equity value of only $500.

 

Filing bankruptcy under Minnesota exemptions does not mean that you have to give up all of your property. Through exemptions, you can keep a certain amount of your assets safe in bankruptcy. Many exemptions protect specific types of property, such as a motor vehicle or your wedding ring. Sometimes an exemption protects the entire value of the asset. Other times, an exemption protects up to a certain dollar amount of an asset. If you can exempt an asset, then you don’t have to worry about it being taken or affecting your bankruptcy.

If your specific asset does not have an exemption or goes over the dollar amount allotted to protect the asset, then that asset becomes fully or partially non-exempt (not protected in your bankruptcy).  To keep a non-exempt asset in bankruptcy, a debtor must generally pay the trustee the value of the non-exempt asset.  The debtor also has the ability to turn that asset over to the trustee if they do not want to pay to keep it.

 

by Dawn Ravn

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Chapter 13 is a Repayment plan …

A Chapter 13 is a repayment plan where certain creditors are paid back in full and others receive a payment of less than what is owed to them. The repayment plan is typically between three and five years depending on the household income of the person filing. The amount of the payment varies drastically from one situation to the next. Some people pay back only 1% of their debt and others pay back 100%. The payment can also be changed through the course of the plan if a person’s situation changes.

Ideally, a payment in a Chapter 13 should be the difference between a person’s net income and necessary living expenses. Necessary living expenses include rent, transportation, daycare, food, healthcare, and clothing among other things. The court also allows expenses for school activities and entertainment. The idea is that a person filing a bankruptcy is agreeing to pay his/her disposable income into the Chapter 13 for a set period of time or a commitment period. After this time, the debtor gets a discharge which wipes out any leftover unsecured debt that was not paid back during the repayment plan. Certain debts like student loans survive the Chapter 13 discharge.  If at any point a person manages to pay off all the claims filed in the case, then the case ends.

The payment in a Chapter 13 can be determined by a few other things as well. Certain types of debt set a floor in the case. Basically, enough money must be paid into the bankruptcy to pay these debts in full for the plan to be approved. These debts include priority taxes (typically comprised of the last three years of taxes) and arrears on domestic support orders.  There are other debts that a person filing bankruptcy may chose to include in their case. These set a floor of their own. If a person is filing a bankruptcy to stop a foreclosure, then a person can use a Chapter 13 to catch up on their mortgage arrears through the repayment plan. All the arrears must be paid to do this. A person may also choose to pay for a vehicle though the plan to avoid a repossession or in some cases to pay a lower amount for the vehicle than the contracted amount. That debt must be paid in the plan and creates another floor in the case.

There are many ways to design a Chapter 13 that allow a person to meet these floors. For example, a repayment plan could start off at a lower amount and then the payment could be scheduled to change later on when, for example, a 401(K) loan is finished. This can allow someone who is currently struggling the breathing room necessary to pay enough into a Chapter 13 to cover mortgage arrears and prevent the loss of a home.

It is extremely important to have good legal counseling when entering a Chapter 13 as the rules and requirements are complicated.

Written by Kris Whelchel

Kris Whelchel is an attorney practicing consumer bankruptcy. She handles both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

View all author posts →


Widow Benefits

When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse may be entitled to benefits.  If the surviving spouse is over the age of 60, he or she is eligible to receive their spouse’s benefits.  However, if the surviving spouse is disabled, they are entitled to these benefits at the age of 50.  The disability needs to occur during the prescribed period that is the disability started within seven years of the spouse’s death and the disabled spouse reaches the age of 50 during that seven-year time span.

If the living spouse does not have children collecting benefits from the deceased spouse, the surviving spouse is entitled to receive 71.5% of the decease’s SSDI benefit amount.

To be found disabled, the surviving spouse must provide medical evidence that he or she has a physical or mental health impairment.  The impairment must prevent the individual from earning substantial gainful activity and be expected to last at least 12 months or until death.  In 2019, substantial gainful activity means earning $1220 or more before taxes in a month from employment.  In addition, the impairment either must meet a listing or that the impairments limit the individual from doing any work in the national economy.  However, at the age of 50, Social Security considers the individual’s age and it may be easier to qualify for disability.

If a person believes he or she is unable to work due to a medical condition, is 50 or older, and their spouse is deceased, they can contact Hoglund Law 1-855-513-4357 to have an attorney review their claim.

Written by Deborah Bensch

Deborah Bensch graduated from Southern Illinois University Law School in May of 2006. She has been with Hoglund Law since the fall of 2011 practicing solely in Social Security Disability. Prior to joining Hoglund Law, she practiced in public interest law.

View all author posts →


What will my Social Security Judge ask me at my Disability Hearing?

Q & A with 25+ year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney

 

Q:  What will my Social Security judge ask me at my Disability hearing?

A:  While each Social Security hearing is different, there are two main kinds of questions your Social Security Disability judge may ask you:  Questions about your physical limitations and questions about your mental limitations.  Questions about your physical limitations can include:

  • What physical problems limit your ability to work?
  • What chores do you do at home? How do you do them?
  • Have any of your doctors asked you to do exercises? If yes, do you do them?
  • How long can you stand at a time before you need to sit? Why?
  • How long can you sit before you need to stand? Why?
  • How long can you walk in blocks before you need to stop? Why?
  • How much can you lift at a time?
  • Do you drive? How far?
  • Do you shop for groceries? Do you go alone?

Questions about your mental limitations can include:

  • What mental problems limit your ability to work? Why?
  • Do you see a psychiatrist or psychologist for your mental health? If yes, who?
  • What medications do you take for your mental health? Do they have side effects?
  • What mental health symptoms do you have despite taking medications?
  • How well do you get along with other people? Who do you keep in contact with?
  • Can you care for your basic needs?

Q:  How should I prepare for these kinds of questions at my Social Security hearing?

A:  While it is important to know what kinds of questions you will be asked at your hearing, I recommend that my clients simply pay attention to the judge’s questions and answer them directly and simply.  Do not write out answers ahead and try to read the answers.  Do not ask your attorney in the hearing about how to answer the judge’s questions.  Do not be defensive about your answers.  Also, think of examples of limitations you have day-to-day that will help the judge picture your limitations.  For instance, when asked about how well you get along with people, you may answer the question, and then add how often you may need to be alone in your room, and then comment on a specific time this recently happened.  Your attorney should be ready to ask you for examples of how your physical or mental issues have actually impacted your life.

Q:  How should my Social Security attorney prepare me for the questions at my hearing?

A:  Every Social Security hearing is different depending on unique combinations of medical problems.  Your attorney should go through your medical records and ask you about any discrepancies between what you and your doctors think is wrong.  This way, you can think through what the judge may need to understand about your medical issues and treatment.  Also, your attorney may need to ask you about how often you have your symptoms and how long they last.  For example, if you have migraines or seizures, the judge at your Social Security hearing will need to know how often your experience these issues and how long each episode may last.  Finally, your attorney should help remind you of the basic timeline of events in your medical record, such as injuries or surgeries.  This will help you answer questions about how you have felt over time leading to your hearing.

Q:  How do my answers at my Social Security hearing help the Social Security judge?

A:  After speaking with you at your hearing, your Social Security judge will ultimately decide whether your physical and mental limitations would allow you to return to your past kind of work or other work full-time.  Based on your age and medical problems, your attorney at your Social Security hearing can explain to you what factors may allow you to be approved for Social Security disability benefit.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

View all author posts →


Bankruptcy & Child Support

Bankruptcy allows most debts to be wiped away and is meant to give the debtor filing a bankruptcy a fresh start. However, some debts do survive bankruptcy.

Child support is not a debt that can be discharged in a bankruptcy. Child support has been placed in a special category of debts that automatically survive a bankruptcy discharge.

When a person, who owes child support, files a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, that person must still pay the ongoing child support obligation as well as any arrears. The ongoing support will continue through the bankruptcy and after the bankruptcy as if no case was ever filed. Any arrears will pass through the bankruptcy and continue to exist as if the bankruptcy never occurred as well.

When a person, who owes child support, files a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, that person must continue to pay their ongoing obligation and any arrears will need to be paid through the Chapter 13 repayment plan. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is essentially a repayment plan where a person can pay back certain debts over the course of a three- to five-year period.

A Chapter 13 can provide a method to get back on track with child support arrears as it allows a person to have a repayment schedule where all the person’s disposable income is used to bring the child support obligation current. In some circumstances, entering into a Chapter 13 repayment plan will stop license suspensions or other legal action.

Either bankruptcy can allow a person a chance to focus their efforts on paying back a debt that cannot be eliminated.

Written by Kris Whelchel

Kris Whelchel is an attorney practicing consumer bankruptcy. She handles both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.

View all author posts →


How Can my ALJ Misunderstand my Evidence at my Social Security Hearing?

REAL EXPERIENCE SERIES:

Q & A with 25+ year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney

Q:  What can my Social Security ALJ misunderstand about my evidence at my Social Security Disability benefits hearing?

A:  ALJ’s, as your Social Security judge is called, will form opinions about you based on your employment history and medical treatment record.  These opinions, right or wrong, can influence how your hearing goes even before you walk into the hearing room.  Unfavorable hearing decisions are created by templates that attack weaknesses in claims—even if they are merely assumptions.  Unfair or not, you need to be aware of the kinds of assumptions your ALJ may make about you.  Fight errors!

Q:  What might the ALJ assume about me?

A:  Here is a list of different scenarios that occur in Social Security hearings, assumptions that may arise from them, and how to combat them at your hearing:

  1. When your medical treatment is sparse or nonexistent, your ALJ may assume you are healthy. In this situation, your Social Security attorney needs to ensure that your ALJ at your hearing understands that you may have lost your insurance, been homeless, lacked physical access to treatment, or that chronic conditions do not require the need for ongoing care.  In the last case, conditions such as cerebral palsy or low IQ may not warrant annual treatment or medications.  So, once you apply for Social Security Disability or SSI benefits, treat regularly for ALL your medical conditions that limit your ability to work.  Retesting for chronic conditions may be necessary as well.  Also keep in mind your ALJ is not a doctor.  He or she may make assumptions about your remote treatment history for your chronic medical problems.  For this reason, touch on your remote medical history at your hearing!
  2. When your work history is poor, your ALJ may assume you are simply not motivated to work. In this situation, your Social Security attorney needs to ensure that your ALJ understands that you may have remained at home to care for children, care for a sick family member, or had unreported work.  SSA can see your work history.  It is difficult to prove you cannot work if it appears you have never tried.  Speak with your Social Security attorney about this.
  3. When you currently do not take medications, your ALJ may assume you are either healthy or non-compliant (failing to follow your doctors’ treatment). In this situation, your Social Security attorney needs to ensure that your ALJ understands that you may have had: (1) an addiction history that precludes you taking pain medications, (2) no access to insurance, or (3) a history of adverse reactions to other medications you are expected to take.  Make sure that the ALJ, and your doctors, understand your reality.

In my experience, Social Security hearings are error-prone because assumptions are made all the time about what is NOT in the evidence.  While your claim is pending, find trustworthy medical providers who follow through on treatment, make timely specialist referrals, and order the right testing.  You deserve the best medical treatment, and the best treatment gives you a better odds of either returning to work or proving disability.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

View all author posts →


Debt Consolidation Versus Bankruptcy

A debt consolidation or frequently called debt management plan is a voluntary program to help clients resolve credit problems and pay debts through one monthly payment. The client typically pays their payment into a type of escrowed savings account and the servicer of the debt management plan will typically negotiate with creditors to attempt to lower interest rates, stop late and over-limit fees, lower monthly minimum payments and pay off debts in fewer than 5 years. The disadvantages of a debt management program are that the servicer cannot always guarantee that all creditors will engage in the plan, and at times the creditors will still pursue outside legal action against the client which will still create a need for a bankruptcy filing to protect money and property. Additionally, the creditors will still be reporting negative remarks on the client’s credit report during the debt management plan, as they are not receiving their regular monthly payments in a timely fashion.

While many people engage in debt management plans in order to avoid bankruptcy, many times they will still pursue bankruptcy at a later time due to issues with credit resolution and lawsuits during that plan. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can effectively discharge the debt in a 90-day period, provide legal protection and with Hoglund Law, our clients are enrolled in a program 720creditscore.com in order to rebuild their credit within 2 years. This is a much shorter time frame and much greater benefit than a debt management plan. If Chapter 7 is not an option, often times a Chapter 13 will still greatly benefit someone considering a debt management plan, as the client would only be required to pay their disposable income (what they can afford versus what they owe) into the plan over 3 or 5 years while offering them legal protection from creditors. Additionally, Chapter 13 clients are also enrolled in the credit repair program to ensure they will have a high credit score when they are done with their Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Therefore, it is important to consult with a bankruptcy attorney who can assess your options to ensure protection and the best avenue to rebuilding credit. Under most circumstances, a debt management program is going to be a last resort in the event that bankruptcy is not beneficial to their situation.

Please contact Hoglund Law to set up a free consultation to go over all the options that may be available to you to handle your existing debt.

Written by Ann Hagerty

I have a passion for working directly with clients and helping them navigate difficult financial decisions. I love practicing in bankruptcy because it is one of the rare opportunities in life where someone can start fresh and free themselves of financial stress.

View all author posts →


Child Support and Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance

Some Social Security Disability applicants have child support obligations. Those obligations do not go away when an individual is forced to stop working due to his or her medical conditions. If those obligations are not paid on time, it is quite possible that the arrearages can add up over time while an individual fights for his or her disability benefits. If and when benefits are awarded, those benefits can be garnished depending on the program he or she is approved for.

There are two different disability programs. One, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on financial need. The other, Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI), is based on an individual’s work history and how much he or she paid into the system. By rule, SSI benefits cannot be garnished for any reason or by any entity. RSDI, though, may be garnished to pay past-due child support. This includes any backpay an individual receives, not just ongoing monthly benefits.

Those who receive RSDI often also get auxiliary benefits for their minor children. Those benefits are sent to the adult who has majority-custody of the children in question. These are not a substitute for child support obligations that must be paid.

In situations such as these it is prudent to consult an attorney for assistance in petitioning the court to lower your child support obligations. This will not reduce an individual’s past-due child support obligations, but may reduce your future obligations due to a significant change in his or her circumstances.

 

By Adam Kachelski

Written by Adam Kachelski

Adam Kachelski is a 2014 graduate of the University of Wisconsin School of Law. He lives and works in Cincinnati.

View all author posts →


Credit card and medical debt

Credit card and medical debts are two of the most common debts that our clients are struggling with when we meet them for the first time. Thankfully both credit card and medical debts can be included in a bankruptcy filing. In a chapter 7 bankruptcy all credit card and medical debt is fully discharged (wiped away). In a chapter 13 bankruptcy, a portion of your credit card or medical debt is repaid through a structured payment plan based on what you can afford to pay towards those debts.

While you cannot pick and choose which debts to include or not include, you can choose to voluntarily repay any creditor after the bankruptcy is over. This means that you cannot choose to file bankruptcy for your medical debt only or your credit card debt only. You must list all debts that you have at the time of filing. For example: if you have $15,000 of medical debt that you want to get rid of but a credit card with a $5,000 balance that you want to keep, both debts must be listed, and both will be included in the bankruptcy. In this example, when the bankruptcy is over you would no longer have any legal obligation to pay the $5,000 credit card back, but you could choose to do so voluntarily if you wanted. It is very likely, however, that the credit card company will close the account either way. It is best to start fresh entirely once your bankruptcy is complete.

 

by Megan M.R. McCarthy

Written by Megan Rowley McCarthy

Megan joined Hoglund, Chwialkowski and Mrozik in September 2014, as an associate bankruptcy attorney.

View all author posts →


I have epilepsy, Am I Eligible for Social Security?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition, which may also be called a seizure disorder. This means that you experience seizures, which are not caused by another medical condition. There are multiple types of seizures, and the symptoms vary to mild, infrequent episodes, to multiple daily episodes. You may experience behavior or vision changes before a seizure comes on. The seizure itself might be a grand mal episode, which is the type more people are familiar with, where the person experiences full body shaking. Another type of seizure are absence seizures, or staring spells, where the person doesn’t move or twitches only one body part.

Epilepsy is usually diagnosed by neurological examinations, laboratory tests, imaging such as an MRI of the brain, and by EEG tests, which look at the electric waves of the brain to help diagnose epilepsy. In some cases, people experience frequent seizures without epileptic activity of the brain. These types of seizures may be best treated by a combination of neurological and psychological methods. Epileptic seizures are mainly treated by medication with close monitoring.

There are two main ways the Social Security Administration (SSA) can find you disabled because of your seizures. There are rules called the Listings of Impairments, and epilepsy is defined very clearly in Listing 11.02. The SSA recognizes the two main types of seizures, and calls them generalized tonic-clonic and dyscognitive seizures. For generalized tonic-clonic, you must prove you have episodes at least once a month for three consecutive months while compliant with treatment. For dyscognitive seizures, you must prove you have episodes for at least once per week for three months, while compliant with treatment. If you are unable to prove this frequency, they will consider fewer episodes, however you must prove you have severe limitations in your physical functioning, ability to remember and understand information, your ability to interact with others, maintain appropriate concentration and persistence with your functioning, and that you have an inability to take care of yourself because of the seizure episodes.

The best way to provide proof of this is to have consistent treatment with a neurologist or other epileptic specialist. They would ideally be involved in monitoring your medication and encourage you to keep some sort of diary or journal of the frequency of your episodes. It would be important to keep track of all the symptoms related to the seizure, including any warning signs, length of the episode, any post seizure symptoms, and details regarding your compliance with prescribed medications.

Another way that the SSA can find you disabled is if they find that despite your condition, you are so limited by your seizures that you would be unable to perform any work in the national economy. If your condition doesn’t quite meet the Listing, then the SSA will consider whether your seizures make it unlikely that you would be able to sustain working at least eight hours a day, or if your seizures would affect your concentration so much that you would be unable to learn any position, you would be excessively distracted, or you would be a hazard on the job.

Filing for disability can be a lengthy process, but people with epilepsy can certainly qualify as long as you are treating consistently, compliant with medications, and have well-documented episodes.


Retirement Accounts in Bankruptcy

A common question when someone is considering filing for bankruptcy protection is whether they can keep their retirement account through the process or if they would need to surrender the funds to the creditors. The good news is that in a majority of bankruptcy cases, retirement accounts are exempt from creditors, so you will not lose your retirement account in the bankruptcy.  It is important to point out that the retirement account exemption applies to funds while they are in a qualified retirement account. If the funds are cashed out of the account prior to filing a bankruptcy, the cashed out funds will no longer be protected as retirement funds.  You should always consult with an experienced attorney before cashing out any retirement accounts.

Of course there are always special circumstances where a typical retirement account may not be protected. In order for a retirement account to be exempt, the account needs to be ERISA qualified. The most common retirement accounts, 401(k), 403(b), TSP, PERA, MSRS, TRA, are generally all qualified accounts. IRA’s are also generally qualified, but the courts have ruled certain IRAs are not exempt. These include inherited IRAs or IRAs from a divorce. If you have an IRA and the funds were all from your earnings, it is exempt and protected from creditors. There are also other accounts that people may consider their retirement funds, but would not be protected as a retirement account in a bankruptcy. These include stock accounts and non-qualified annuities. But they may be protected under another exemption.

Bankruptcy exemptions can be complicated and there are many gray areas. You should consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to know for sure what retirement accounts are exempt and protected from creditors through the bankruptcy process and wait to make any changes to those accounts until after consulting an attorney.

Written by Gina Beckman

1. Gina Beckman is a graduate of St. Thomas School of Law, where she studied bankruptcy law and was accepted into the bankruptcy clinic. She was also accepted into an externship with a bankruptcy judge. She has been practicing bankruptcy law for 4 years.

View all author posts →


Can you Keep your House and Automobile in a Bankruptcy?

Filing chapter 7 bankruptcy Is a big decision that comes with many worries and questions.  Some of those worries include whether you can keep your house or whether you can keep an automobile in a chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The equity in your home and your automobile is protected by “exempting” it from your chapter 7 bankruptcy case. Every state has different rules on what property the debtor is allowed to protect and what value the debtor is allowed protect or “exempt” for that property.  (this is listed as your state’s exemptions).  Each state also determines whether its residents can use the state exemptions, the federal exemptions or whether you have the ability to choose what works best for your situation.

If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, generally you can keep your house as long as:

  1. The equity in your home is fully exempt, which means fully protected by the state laws of bankruptcy, and
  2. As long as you are current on your home.

If you have fallen behind on your house, a chapter 7 will not help you keep your house or get current on your house payments.  A chapter 7 may help you remain in your home a bit longer – but inevitably will result in foreclosure.  At this point, a Chapter 13 could be a viable option to help you keep your house; as long as your income allows for you to provide for a chapter 13 payment and cure the arrears on the home

 

If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, generally you can keep your automobile as long as:

  1. The equity in your automobile is fully exempt, which means fully protected by the state laws of bankruptcy, and
  2. As long as you are current on your automobile.

As with a house, if you are behind on your automobile, a chapter 7 will not help you keep your automobile or get current on your automobile payments.

 

by Dawn Ravn

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Filing Bankruptcy: Before or After a Divorce?

Divorce is one of the most common reasons that people consider filing bankruptcy. On top of being a taxing time emotionally for many, it can also be a large financial burden. Along with other issues, the impact on both parties’ financial situations and their debts can be too much for some to handle.  Bankruptcy can be a solution for this, and there are many things to consider when it comes to the timing of such an undertaking.

The first thing for most to consider is whether they should file jointly, or separately. There are many benefits to filing jointly. The filing cost is the same whether the bankruptcy petition is joint, or individual, and filing jointly often has little increase in attorney’s fees, while filing individually can double those fees, or more.  There may be other factors to consider, such as your income and how that can affect your eligibility for certain types of bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 is a very quick version of bankruptcy often referred to as a liquidation. This type of bankruptcy is designed to handle certain kinds of unsecured debts such as credit cards and medical bills and can be completed in only several months.  However, household income and expenses can affect your ability to qualify, therefore waiting until after a divorce can sometimes be the quicker and easier route for an individual to take.

Chapter 13 is a more comprehensive type of bankruptcy in which certain debts are paid through a 3 – 5 year plan, either in part or in full. This type of bankruptcy can be the better choice for some, in order to protect certain assets or to address certain kinds of debt. Income is again a consideration here as it could affect how much the plan payment is.  Also, some divorces can be contentious, and it may be wise to consider the relationship with the ex-spouse before entering into a 3 – 5 year legal process with them amidst a divorce proceeding.

Bankruptcy can help make a divorce proceeding easier by eliminating the need to decide which spouse will be responsible for which debts through that process, especially through the quicker process of a Chapter 7 liquidation. In such cases filing bankruptcy before a divorce can be especially helpful when combined with the cost saving considerations of a joint bankruptcy discussed earlier.

If you want to discuss when filing bankruptcy may work best for you, speak with an attorney today.  Many attorneys offer free consultations and can help guide you towards the decision that will best help you.

 

by Barry Moore

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Are there disadvantages to filing bankruptcy?

The answer to that question completely depends on your financial situation before filing.  If you have perfect credit, can pay your bills on time and in full each month and could pay off all your medical and/or credit card debt in less than a year, then there could be disadvantages to filing bankruptcy.

However, if you are searching for bankruptcy information, chances are you do not fit into this category.  If you have debt that you cannot service, if your credit score is sink faster than the Titanic or if you are facing constant threat of a lawsuit, then the advantages of filing bankruptcy far outweigh the disadvantages.

The real question to research is – what are the advantages to filing bankruptcy?  The number one advantage to filing bankruptcy as opposed to not filing is your ability to obtain a fresh start.  The United States does not have a debtor’s prison, but the strain from debt piling up can act as a prison to financial freedom.  In most cases, you can discharge your debts (such as credit cards, medical, other loans and some taxes), keep your assets and move forward with life in about three months.

Once you file bankruptcy, your credit report will have to be cleaned of all inaccuracies.  You should know that you are protected by Federal Law when it involves the information contained on your credit report.  Bottom line – your credit report should be accurate.  For example, if after bankruptcy, one of your credit lines is still showing a balance or still in collections, then you have a right to demand that they fix the credit report.  You want to dispute all inaccuracies to make sure that your FICO score is not lowered because one of your credit lines fails to report accurate information to your bureaus.

After you get your inaccuracies all fixed, you should focus your attention to your credit score.  To improve your credit score, you can read many of the books available regarding credit score repair.  Our office provides a service for our bankruptcy clients through www.720creditscore.com.  With the help of 720 Credit Score, you can obtain a credit score of 720 in as few as 12 months.

Disadvantages to filing bankruptcy fade away rather quickly when you ask the right questions: where is your credit score now? Can you get out of debt within 1 year? Do you have lawsuits pending?  If your answers to these questions are yes, then bankruptcy could be the most positive thing you do to improve your financial life.  Do not let fear get in the way of financial freedom.

by Jeff Bursell

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


The Two-Way Street of Updating Medical Evidence

A complete medical record is paramount in getting your Social Security disability claim approved. At the hearing level, the most common question I get from my clients is, “are all the records in?” The Social Security Administration recently enacted a new regulation that requires the Administrative Law Judge be provided, or informed of, all written evidence within five business days of the hearing. 20 CFR 404.935.

Attorney representatives typically request, pay for and submit medical records prior to a hearing. For the reasons explained below, timing is key in order to comply with the new 5-day rule.

First, it would be impractical for representatives to constantly hound all of their clients in case some new and material medical evidence has come into existence. Too much time would be wasted and the representation of SSD claimants would no longer be a viable practice. On the other end of the spectrum, representatives must exercise due diligence in pursuing relevant evidence in their clients’ claims.

Second, depending on the state, claimants can wait up to two years for a hearing after the previous denial. Social Security usually sends a Notice of Hearing about 90 days before the date of the hearing. This creates a dilemma. ALJs are very concerned with the claimant’s recent medical evidence, which shows whether ongoing benefits are warranted and whether any medical improvement has occurred or is likely to occur. So, if the file is updated too early, additional updates will be necessary to add new evidence. If the file is updated too late, the 5-day rule might be violated. Depending on the source, requests for records can be outstanding for 30 days or more, despite follow-ups and re-requests, before the records are produced. This results in a small window in which records requests will generate complete submissions just in time but not too late.

The best way to handle this situation is with a team effort. When this issues arises in hearings, I have had multiple judges describe to my clients a “two-way street,” where representatives and clients both have an obligation to communicate with each other. If you don’t notify your representative with your new address or phone number, your representative has no way to reach you and therefore no way to know where you have been going for treatment. They can update with sources they already know about but not with new sources. The longer you do not return their phone calls or respond to their letters, the more likely you will violate the 5-day rule and a strict judge will refuse to consider key evidence. If your representative is unable to reach you after several attempts, he or she is allowed to drop your case.

An ALJ can approve a case without a hearing if the evidence is strong enough, although this is very rare. However, as above, it is impractical for representatives to frequently contact their clients just in case there is new, significant medical information. A representative will always contact their clients to update the file before the hearing. Until then, clients must contact their representatives with new medical information so the representative can obtain the records and submit them to the ALJ. New medical information might be a new doctor, diagnosis, test or hospitalization.

Written by Charles Sagert

Charles A. Sagert is a Social Security Disability attorney in Roseville, MN.

View all author posts →


SS Language

Sometimes the language Social Security uses can be confusing. I am going to go through some of the terms and rules that can be confusing. I am only dealing with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is the benefit you will receive based on credits you have earned by working. Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) has its own rules, and is a need based program.

The term Date Last Insured (DLI) refers to the date at which you have to be found disabled in order to collect Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Social Security figures out the DLI based on credits you have earned by working. You can earn 4 credits per year, or 1 credit per quarter. Social Security deems you eligible for SSDI if you earned 20 credits in 10 years. Put another way, you must work 5 out of the last 10 years. For example, if I worked from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2011, my DLI will be 5 years from the date I stopped working (December 31, 2016). This means if Social Security decides I am disabled at any time prior to my DLI (December 31, 2016), I will receive SSDI. If Social Security decides I am disabled January 1, 2017, or later, my DLI is past and my credits will have expired.

Alleged Onset Date (AOD) is another term that seems straightforward, but can be confusing. When you apply for Social Security, you need to tell them what date you consider yourself to be disabled. Usually the day after your last day of work becomes your AOD.

Another rule that is confusing is the 5 month waiting period to be eligible for SSDI payments. The rule is this: When found disabled, I need to be disabled for 5 full calendar months in order to collect SSDI payments. If I am found to be disabled on January 10, 2016, then I will not be eligible for payments until July 1, 2016.

I have gone over the problems that we get the most questions about, but it doesn’t even represent the tip of the iceberg, as far as Social Security’s rules. The process is usually long and very frustrating. It can take 2-3 years to get your claim before an Administrative Law Judge, which is where you have the best chance of an approval. This is why we recommend getting an attorney to help with the process. The attorney knows Social Security’s rules, and can help you understand them as well.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick borne bacterial infection. You can be infected by the bite of a deer tick. One of Lyme disease’s telltale signs is a rash, called an Erythema migrans rash. This rash typically occurs within the first 2 weeks of infection, and it looks like a bullseye target. Although most prevalent in New England and some of the Midwestern states, you can be infected anytime you are outdoors. Lyme disease has been reported in 49 states (Hawaii has not had a confirmed case of Lyme Disease), and in every continent, except Antarctica.

Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose. Oftentimes, people either do not get a rash. Some people get flu-like symptoms within the first 2 weeks from the infection. Bell’s Palsy can often occur. That is where you lose muscle control on one side of your face, and it appears to droop. Other symptoms can be fatigue, joint pain and swelling, eye inflammation, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms usually occur in the first 2 weeks of the infection. However, these are such general symptoms, they can be diagnosed incorrectly.

Some people have “chronic Lyme disease”. This is officially called Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. This can occur if you are diagnosed months, or even years after the original tick bite. When this happens, Lyme disease can attack your nervous system, cardiovascular system and can often lead to other diseases, such as Hepatitis B, Guillian-Barre Syndrome and even Meningitis. These are auto-immune responses that your body creates as it tries to fight the infection.

Testing for Lyme disease is a 2 step process. The first step is to test the blood to look for Lyme disease enzymes. If this first test is positive, then an immunoblot test is done, typically called a “Western blot” test. If that is also positive, the diagnosis is complete.

Treatment of Lyme disease is the same, whether it is immediately after the tick bite, or months later. Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, it is treated with a 2 to 4 week trial of antibiotics.

There is still much more research to be done on Lyme disease. The use of ongoing antibiotics for Post Lyme Disease Syndrome can cause serious complications, such as liver function abnormalities and infection and blood clots at the site of a catheter used to administer antibiotics. If you suspect you may have been bitten by a deer tick, consult your doctor immediately. If you have been treated for Lyme disease, but are still experiencing symptoms, see your doctor. Your doctor may be able to treat your symptoms.

There are ways of preventing Lyme disease. Reducing exposure to ticks is the best way. If you are outside, apply tick repellant that contains DEET. There are also natural remedies of repelling ticks. Using essential oils, such as garlic, peppermint, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, thyme and geraniol. These natural treatments, however, have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, since essential oils are not regulated by the EPA.  There used to be a Lyme disease vaccination, but production was discontinued in 2002, due to low demand. Experts say the protection provided by the vaccination diminishes over time, so if you received the vaccine in the past, it would most likely not be effective by now.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition in which high levels of nerve impulses are sent to an affected site. Experts believe it occurs as a result of dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous system. This condition most often affects women, and people who are ages 20-35. It is also more common in people with some other inflammatory or autoimmune disorders, such as asthma.

Diagnosing this condition is difficult. In some cases it may take years to get a correct diagnosis. Some doctors think that pain receptors in the affected body part become to catecholamines. These are simply nervous system messengers. In other words these messengers carry a pain message from the brain to the affected area. In 90% of cases, CRPS is be caused by some sort of injury, and this triggers an immune response, such as swelling, warmth, or redness of the affected area. Occasionally CRPS can develop without a known injury. However, there may have been an internal injury caused by infection, a blood vessel problem or entrapment of the nerves.

Some symptoms can include pain, swelling, warmth and redness in a localized area. These symptoms can be caused by so many disorders, and that is why CRPS is so difficult to diagnose. Oftentimes doctors will make a diagnosis by ruling out other disorders, such as arthritis, Lyme disease, generalized muscle diseases, clotted veins, or small nerve fiber polyneuropathies (such as from diabetes). The distinguishing feature to CRPS is a history of an injury to the area.

Some treatments for CRPS include: physical therapy, psychotherapy, medication, sympathetic nerve blocks (injections into the nerves to numb pain), surgical sympathectomy (removing the nerve cluster thought to be causing pain), spinal cord stimulation (electrodes implanted into the spine near the spinal cord) and intrathecal drug pumps (a device that pumps pain relieving medication to the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord). There are also some emerging experimental treatments, such as intravenous immunoglobulin, ketamine (a powerful anesthetic given in low doses over a period of days), or hyperbaric oxygen (pressurized air that delivers more oxygen to the body’s tissue and organs).

The prognosis for CRPS varies. Typically children and teens have good recovery. Some people are left with unremitting pain and crippling, which can be permanent. It is thought by some doctors that early treatment, particularly physical therapy, is helpful in limiting the disorder. This is just a theory right now, because more research needs to be done on the condition. There is, however no known cure for CRPS. If you believe you could be suffering from this condition, you should consult your physician. You are your own best advocate for treatment and diagnosis.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


What documents will I need when I apply for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Certain documents will need to be provided to Social Security when you apply for benefits.  Providing original documents in a timely manner will expedite the process.  Some examples of documents you may need are:

  • Your Social Security card
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your children’s birth certificates and Social Security numbers (if applying for them)
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status
  • Your spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security number if he or she is applying for benefits based on your earnings
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Your military discharge papers
  • Your most recent W-2 or tax return

Once documents are gathered, benefits can be applied for in person or online at sss.socialsecurity.gov/applyforbenefits .  Applying for benefits is only the beginning of the process.  Knowing one’s rights along the way is very important to a favorable outcome and as such, you have a right to representation.  For questions related to how to apply for disability or any other issues related to your Social Security Disability claim, please contact us at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, and Mrozik.

by Lyndsey Sharpe

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Medicare Wait Period and Retroactive Benefits

Once disability is determined either at the initial level or by an Administrative Law Judge, you may become eligible for Medicare.  Medicare coverage is available if you are approved for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II and after a 24 month wait period.  This wait period commences upon the onset date of disability. (The date you are determined to have become disabled.)  For many, this wait period will be either completed or near completed by the time you are approved by an Administrative Law Judge as the Social Security Disability evaluation process can take several years.

During the waiting period you may accumulate medical bills.  In some cases Medicare coverage may be retroactive.  If you paid for medical services you can ask your provider to resubmit medical claims to Medicare and generally healthcare providers have one year from the time of service to resubmit claims.  The two parts of Medicare that you will be enrolled in are Hospital Care (Part A) and Medical Insurance (Part B).  The hospital care (Part A) will be provided for free through Medicare as the taxes you paid financed this coverage.  The medical coverage (Part B) which is mostly doctors’ bills, will most likely require additional premiums for which you will be responsible.

There are additional parts to Medicare that are available such as prescription drug coverage and gap coverage.  For questions related to Medicare, how to apply or any other issues related to your Social Security Disability claim, please contact us at Hoglund, Chwialkowski, and Mrozik.

 

By Lyndsey Sharpe

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Chapter 13 Can Release the Pressure of Auto Title Loans

Many car owners turn to car title loans to try and get through a financial crunch. Car or truck title loans have become a much more common attempt to prevent a financial crisis: about 2 million Americans took out these types of loans in 2015. The concept sounds very appealing; there is a family crisis and cash is needed immediately to deal with it. The borrower can keep driving the car they need to get to work or school and the emergency is also handled. There are two types of payment terms for title loans; either all the emergency cash is paid back in one payment a short time later, or the balance borrowed can be paid back in installments over a slightly longer period of time. However, this temporary relief comes at a hefty price for many; a recent federal study found that 1 in 5 vehicle owners who took out a title loan ended up losing the car or truck to repossession. Once the car or truck is taken by the title loan company, the borrower is left without transportation and must again find a way to quickly get cash to have the vehicle returned by paying off the entire balance of the title loan. These loans sometimes have different terms than general financial principles would dictate. Usually, when a car or truck is given as collateral for a loan by the owner, the interest rates are low because the value of the car or truck or SUV serves as a kind of insurance that the financer will not lose any money. The terms of the contract say the financer can take the vehicle and sell it to recover the money borrowed if the borrower does not pay on time. Title loans, however, have some of the highest interest rates in the consumer finance world; typical interest rates can be higher than 300%. These higher interest rates make it much more difficult to pay off these loans. Paying back only the amount borrowed without paying all the interest means there is still a balance outstanding and that remaining balance must be paid as well. Consumers who want to get these types of loans are not able to negotiate lower interest rates with the financers and have to accept the interest rate offered in order to get the loan.

Cash-strapped consumers can get out of the financial corner these loans can create by meeting with an experiences attorney and using a powerful concept in a Chapter 13 reorganization called cramdown. Car and truck owners can restructure the loan secured by the vehicle as part of the overall reorganization and keep their necessary transportation. Terms that are otherwise not flexible can be made more manageable by reducing the interest rate to a court-ordered level and giving families enough time to pay the balance at the new interest rate over more time than typically allowed under the initial contract. Chapter 13 cramdown of car and truck loans are just part of the relief available to consumers who have debts secured by their vehicles and a consultation with an attorney who is familiar with the relief available to people in a chapter 13 case can mean the difference between having the financial pressure created by pursuing creditors trying to repossess someone’s only means of transportation and having a financial plan in place that works and allows for financial peace of mind.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Why am I paying an attorney to help me file bankruptcy when I am doing all the work?

This is one of the most common questions I receive during the free consultations provided by our firm. It seems like a fair question at the outset, but the reality is, filing for bankruptcy is more complicated than most people realize. There is a lot of document gathering that needs to be done by the client that cannot be done by the attorney. This gives the impression that the client is doing all the work. However, there are a lot of nuances to the bankruptcy code that can have devastating affects if not addressed properly. That is the reason that it is wise to pay an attorney to help file your bankruptcy.

One of the biggest nuances is protecting the equity in your home. There are limits on how much equity an individual can protect before they may have to turn over other assets. The attorney must help the client understand what assets, if any, may be at risk. A plan must then be formulated on how to handle those assets; whether it is to sell before filing or pay the bankruptcy estate to keep the asset. If you don’t own a home, there are still plenty of other reasons to hire an attorney.

Another potential asset at risk in a bankruptcy is a tax refund. Depending on how large your tax refund is going to be and how many other assets you have, it may be that you need to wait to file your bankruptcy so you don’t have to turn over a portion or all of you tax refund over to your bankruptcy estate. Careful planning by an attorney could save you more money than you pay in attorney fees.

So while your attorney may ask you to gather a lot of documentation to file your case, you could be out more money than if you had hired them.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


Debts and Divorce

If you have been involved in a divorce, you may be wondering what happens to the debt that was divided in your divorce agreement. You may also wonder what happens if your ex files for bankruptcy. These answer depend on a few factors surrounding you and your ex.

If the debts you split in your divorce agreement were joint, you are still on the hook for paying the full amount even if your ex is awarded the full debt amount in the divorce. However, you can be reimbursed by your ex if you back the debt. To do this may require to go through the court system if your ex does not voluntarily pay you back. Going through the courts to collect may cost you more than filing for bankruptcy.

On the flip side, if you were awarded a joint debt in the divorce agreement, filing for bankruptcy does not get you off the hook to reimburse your ex if they pay the debt. Filing for bankruptcy only prevents the creditor or collection agencies from collection efforts. The divorce agreement can still force you to pay damages to your ex for violating the divorce decree.

If you are considering a divorce, it may be wise for you and your spouse to file bankruptcy together before filing for divorce. Doing so can cut down on the headaches described above. It can also cut down on the costs of your bankruptcy and your divorce. Contact us today for a free consultation to review your options.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


A Default Judgment Has Been Entered Against Me, How Can I Protect Myself?

If you missed the deadline to fight a lawsuit against you and you do not have a viable defense, a default judgment will be entered against you. Once the judgment is entered against you, the creditor will be able to initiate a garnishment action by which they can attach to money in your bank account or wages.

The creditor will issue a garnishment summons on a third party such as your employer or bank, by which the third party will be required to withhold the funds from your wages or set aside funds out of your financial account.

A creditor cannot generally garnish more than 25% of your wage earnings or any at all if you make less than $290/week. If you have a levy on your bank account, you will need to fill out a form claiming 75% of the amount taken is exempt called a “Debtors Exemption Form” and providing documentation that the income in your account came from wages. If the garnishment is through your employer, they will generally calculate the 25% and set it aside for your creditor.

Additionally, if you received any of the following sources of government assistance in the past 6 months, you are considered to be 100% exempt from garnishment:

  • Minnesota Family Investment Program
  • Work First Program
  • Medical Assistance
  • General Assistance
  • General Assistance Medical Care
  • Emergency General Assistance
  • Minnesota Supplemental Aid
  • MSA Emergency Assistance
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Energy Assistance and
  • Emergency Assistance.

If you believe you are exempt from garnishment, you need to fill out the same “Debtors Exemption Form” indicating all your funds are protected, along with proof of the assistance received and the previous 60 days of bank statements. You cannot simply call the creditor’s attorney; you must respond to the garnishment summons in writing by claiming the exemption.

Garnishments are very serious and can cause serious financial hardship for anyone trying to deal with the involuntary repayment of your debt. Bankruptcy is another way to stop the garnishment and is often times an opportunity to recover some of the funds that were taken from you. If you wish to avoid further garnishments or levies, please set up your free consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.

Written by Ann Hagerty

I have a passion for working directly with clients and helping them navigate difficult financial decisions. I love practicing in bankruptcy because it is one of the rare opportunities in life where someone can start fresh and free themselves of financial stress.

View all author posts →


What Should You Know about your Social Security Lawyer?

Q & A with Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney

 

Q:  What should you know about your Social Security Lawyer?

A:  If you have a Social Security Disability or SSI claim, denials lead to a Social Security hearing with a judge and usually at least one expert witness.  At the hearing, you should have an attorney with you.  Attorneys only charge you if you are approved.  You should know the following things about your Social Security attorney:

  1. Verify that your “attorney” is actually a licensed attorney. Non-attorneys can represent people at Social Security hearings.  If you want an attorney—especially one who is skilled in cross-examination and legal argument—ask the firm which state or states the attorney doing your hearing is licensed in.  All licensed Social Security attorneys are licensed in at least one state.  Once you know this, you can verify this online.  If you learn your “representative” going to your hearing is not an attorney, you have the right to change who is helping you.  If your Social Security hearing is already scheduled, you can contact the hearing office to ask about how you can change your representation.

 

  1. Ask about your Social Security attorney’s experience. The most important experience is your attorney’s understanding of Social Security law and medical concepts.  Ask your attorney doing your hearing about years of practice in Social Security law, the number of Social Security hearings he or she has completed, and about how your medical evidence may allow you to be approved.  Reach a comfort level with the answers.  Otherwise, you can ask a multiple attorney Social Security firm to switch the attorney assigned to your hearing, or fire the firm altogether.  This is your right.

 

  1. Verify that the firm you are hiring actually will do your hearing. Surprisingly, some firms merely sign up new clients (meaning YOU!) and then pawn them off the regional attorneys who are not employees.  This means two things.  First, you have no idea who your attorney may be at your hearing.  Second, the firm you are hiring has not trained your attorney.  These are significant issues to learn about.  Find this out from the firm listed on your “fee contract.”

I hope this blog will prove helpful when hiring a Social Security attorney.  If you have questions about your own Social Security claim, you can call our law firm (and our Hoglund Law Offices lawyers) at 855-780-4357.

 

Andrew W. Kinney, Esq.

Written by Hoglund Law

The attorneys of Hoglund law are licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC is based in Roseville, Minnesota. In addition to handling cases involving bankruptcy & social security, Hoglund, Chwialkowski & Mrozik, PLLC handles faulty drugs and toxic exposure.

View all author posts →


What Medical Evidence Can Win Social Security Disability Benefits?

Q & A with 25-year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney

 

Q:  How does Social Security look at medical evidence?

A:  Social Security requires medical evidence to prove that you have medical problems that limit your ability to work.  That means you must regularly treat for your physical and mental health issues.

Q:  What kind of medical treatment is important?

A:   You need to get medical treatment that helps you get better or, at a minimum, keeps you as healthy as possible.  It is an error to see doctors only to prove something to someone else.  While Social Security lawyers may know what medical treatment you should pursue based on the law, remember:  Your doctors know best.  It is a grave mistake to take medical advice from any attorney.

“It is a grave mistake to take medical advice from any attorney.”

At Hoglund Law Offices, we encourage our Social Security disability clients to regularly get the right medical treatment from doctors they trust.  We also encourage our clients to ask about specialist treatment when their primary physicians determine it is necessary.  Communication with doctors is key.  Failure to treat properly is leading cause of lost Social Security claims.

“Failure to treat properly is leading cause of lost Social Security claims.”

Q:  What specialist medical treatment is best?

A:  This depends on your medical issues.  Ask your primary care physician if a specialist can help you best.  For example, your primary care physician may recommend a particular rheumatologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, neurosurgeon, or some other specialist to diagnose and treat your specific medical problems.  Also, do your own research about the choices you have.  Your primary care physician may later supplement that treatment.

Q:  What medical treatment does Social Security expect?

A:   Social Security requires examinations and testing that confirm your medical diagnoses.  Social Security also requires medical evidence that proves how you are limited by your medical problems.  At Hoglund Law Offices, we regularly seek opinions about our clients’ medical limitations from treating providers.  A medical opinion can be the most important evidence in a Social Security disability claim.  For questions, call our law offices at 855-780-4357.

Andrew W. Kinney, Esq.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

View all author posts →