After trying for almost a decade, RegitzMauck finally prevailed in establishing Shirley Donaldson’s common law marriage to her late husband, which resulted in her receiving a lump sum payment of $45,000 for past due benefits and doubling her monthly Social Security payments.
Ms. Donaldson’s husband was a U.S. Veteran who passed away in late 2012. When Ms. Donaldson applied for her Widow’s Insurance benefits in 2014, the Social Security Administration denied her claim on the grounds that she was not validly married to her husband at the time of his death.
Mike Regitz agreed to represent Ms. Donaldson pro bono to overturn that decision, which led to an eight-year ordeal involving three evidentiary hearings, a lost case file, and multiple appeals. And because the Social Security Administration would not provide Ms. Donaldson with any information regarding her husband’s benefits until the marriage was conclusively established, there was no way for Ms. Donaldson’s legal team to know what benefit, if any, Ms. Donaldson would receive even if they were to prevail.
“Over that long stretch of time when we kept getting denied and appealing, getting denied and appealing, there were many opportunities to give up,” said Regitz. “But there was never any doubt in my mind that a common law marriage existed, so we just kept persevering until we got the answer we were looking for and were entitled to.”
The fully favorable decision was issued on October 21, 2022, so in addition to the doubling of her monthly social security benefits, Ms. Donaldson was entitled to back benefits dating from the time she initially filed her claim in 2014. Those back payments added up to approximately $45,000, a significant portion of which Ms. Donaldson is using to make some much needed home repairs.
Regitz represented Ms. Donaldson through the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program as part of the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans program, which provides pro bono services to veterans and their families. Regitz, who helped found the Dallas Veterans Legal Clinic in 2009, and his law partner Dustin Mauck, each of whom have been twice named Outstanding Clinic Attorney Volunteer for the Veterans Legal Clinic, regularly provide legal counseling and representation on a pro bono basis to those who have served our country. RegitzMauck believes that lawyers have a special obligation to ensure that those who have sacrificed so much to protect our judicial system have full access to it.
RegitzMauck PLLC is an intellectual property boutique based in Dallas, Texas. The firm focuses on providing value-based legal services to cost-conscious clients seeking high quality legal representation in intellectual property, cybersecurity, and data privacy matters and disputes.