Mauricio Rivas, a 52-year-old native Spanish speaker with a severe deformity of his right leg caused by a car accident, came to us after representing himself at a hearing seeking critical Social Security disability benefits. Although his injury had made it impossible for him to continue his past work in the construction and restaurant industries, Mr. Rivas was denied benefits. Significantly, although Mr. Rivas is a monolingual Spanish speaker, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) had not offered him the services of an interpreter and had not asked him any questions about his ability to read or write in English—issues that were critical to his case and his disability claim. Legal Aid represented Mr. Rivas at the Social Security Appeals Council and successfully argued that the ALJ had erred by failing to inquire into Mr. Rivas’s literacy. The case was remanded for a new hearing and, with Legal Aid’s help, Mr. Rivas was finally approved for benefits. Mr. Rivas can now meet his basic needs
and live his life with dignity—because of Legal Aid.
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