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The Solar Eclipse and Customer Service in 23 Seconds or Less

2017 August 17

Allsup headquarters is in the path of Monday’s solar eclipse. We’re pretty excited about it even though the totality will last only 23 seconds.

But a lot can happen in that amount of time, and this week we asked team members to think about what else could happen in 23 seconds. At Allsup, we are privileged to have an opportunity to help individuals with severe disabilities navigate an often frustrating, confusing and lengthy process of applying for disability benefits.

How can our employees make a positive difference in someone’s life in a “blink of an eye”? I’m pleased to share some responses.

“Always show compassion to customers, even when they are upset because you don’t know what they are struggling with.”

“Waiting on hold that extra 23 seconds to speak with a [Social Security Administration] representative can mean the difference in the claimants’ past due benefits being released within days instead of weeks or even months.”

“Focusing on issues, not the personalities that call in. Some claimants are in pain or may not be having a great day and it rubs off on their mood. We have to look past that and stay focused. The goal is to help.”

“Do what you say you are going to do.”

“I make sure that all forms going out to the claimant are correct and marked so they know exactly where to sign.”

“Some claimants are scared and apprehensive due to their medical issues, so being nice and respectful and showing empathy sets them at ease some.”

“Assure the claimant in 23 words, ‘I know this is tough and long. You are not alone. Allsup is here to help and we will get through this together.’”

“Sometimes, as Allsup team members, we are the only ones that our claimants speak to on a regular basis. Some of our claimants do not have any family or friends to talk to or help get them through this tough time in their lives. We, as Allsup team members, have to be there for our customers and be that person, who during that short period of being on the phone, can make that person feel secure and know that somebody cares for them and is working on making their case better at that time and focusing on them.”

Our employees will take a few minutes to enjoy this rare event, but as soon as the sun emerges from the moon’s shadow, we’ll be back doing what we’ve been doing for the last 33 years―helping individuals obtain the benefits they deserve, and making every second count.

The Chronic Illness Paradox ―Loneliness in Numbers

2017 August 9

By the Old Sarge

You feel pretty darn lousy when you’re sneezing and hacking from a cold or the flu, but at least you know you’ll be feeling better in a few days.

People suffering from a chronic illness aren’t so lucky.

A chronic illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, lupus, or multiple sclerosis are long-term disorders that may never be cured. According to PBS.org, 125 million Americans suffer from a chronic illness, and that number is expected to jump to 157 million by 2020.

Along with the illness itself, as many as one-third of the people battling a chronic illness also suffer from depression and anxiety. Medical experts say that learning how to deal with the accompanying depression and stress is just as important as treating the underlying chronic illness itself.

It’s not difficult to understand why. A chronic illness can cause a major disruption in life as you know it. You may be forced to quit working, or suddenly become dependent on others to get through the day. Constant fatigue, insomnia and limited mobility also are common accompanying ailments to a chronic illness.

Some people experience severe isolation and loneliness when they  no longer have a workplace in which to socialize and have difficulty getting around.  More research is being done on the negative health effects of loneliness, with a recent study calling the “loneliness epidemic” a public health threat.

The Cleveland Clinic and Psych Central offer some advice on dealing with a chronic illness and depression:

  • Find a support group. Sharing your experiences with others can help by showing you that you’re not alone in your struggles. If you’re reluctant to join a “live” group, find an online group where you can remain anonymous.
  • Get involved and become a participant in your treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Seek family and couples counseling because your illness probably affects your entire family.
  • Look for individual counseling. Some people are more comfortable talking about their private feelings in one-on-one sessions with a professional counselor.
  • Eat healthy. Follow all dietary instructions from your healthcare providers.
  • Learn to accept your illness and do what you can to lead a better life.

Another helpful tip is to keep a personal journal of your day-to-day activities. Putting your day on paper may help you identify problem areas. Example: You had digestive problems in the evening and a quick check of your journal reminded you that you ate guacamole for lunch. Could the guac be the problem?

A chronic illness often leads to job loss and financial problems. If you lost your job because of a chronic illness, click here to see how empower by Allsup® can help you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Apply for Disability the Right Way the First Time With empower By Allsup®

2017 August 2

By the Old Sarge

I know a woman named Sue who applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and was denied. She wasn’t alone. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denies about two-thirds of all initial SSDI applications.

You also probably know someone like her.

Sue represents thousands of SSDI applicants whose benefits are delayed or denied every year because of errors, incomplete information and missed deadlines. She may have forgotten to sign one of the many government forms. Perhaps she did not provide the medical evidence SSA needed to approve her application. Maybe the way she answered SSA’s questionnaires did not adequately show how her condition made it impossible for her to work. It could be that she transposed a digit in her Social Security number.

A denial at the initial SSDI application level means you are thrust into the massive disability backlog. More than 1.1 million people in America are languishing months and years waiting in line for an SSDI decision.

Like most of life’s challenges, it’s always best to get it right the first time. And Sue and all the others like her could have gotten her Social Security disability application right the first time and avoided delays and the bureaucratic headaches by unleashing the power of empower by Allsup. This super software is a dual online tool that takes more than 30 years of disability experience and puts it to work for you.

First, empower by Allsup helps you determine the likelihood of qualifying for SSDI. If it looks like you are a good candidate to meet the SSA’s rigid eligibility requirements, it will guide you through the application process with simple and clear step-by-step audio and written instructions.

When you apply for Social Security disability with empower by Allsup, you increase your chances of being approved at the initial application level. Overall, with Allsup, you have a 50 percent greater chance of being approved for disability benefits. Best yet, once you do qualify, the same technology will help you return to work if your health recovers to the point that you’re able to do so.

Don’t be like Sue. Do SSDI right the first time with empower by Allsup.

ADA Was a Good Start—empower Takes Equality A Step Further

2017 July 25

By Allsup

Twenty-seven years ago, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

At the historic signing, Bush 41 said, “… every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass though once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

For many people with disabilities, the ADA meant they now had the opportunity to fully participate in the workforce without discrimination.

But can they? Are those once-closed doors truly open today?

The answer is a qualified “maybe.” Let’s take a quick look at a June 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the characteristics of people with disabilities in the workforce.

  • In 2016, 17.9 percent of persons with a disability were employed. The employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 65.3 percent.
  • For all educational groups, jobless rates for persons with a disability were higher than those for persons without a disability.
  • The unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 10.5 percent, about the same as the previous year, but the rate for those without a disability declined to 4.6
  • On the bright side, employed persons with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those without a disability.

The numbers certainly could be better, but it is a start.

But do people with disabilities really want to go back to work? After all, aren’t most people drawing Social Security disability just slackers scamming the system?

The answer to the second question is an emphatic “no.”

After more than three decades helping people apply for disability, we at Allsup know the exact opposite is true. We’ve successfully represented more than 275,000 people, and most of them say they want to return to the workforce. Our most recent study indicates that 56 percent of our customers plan to return to work when they are medically able to do so.

That’s why we invested 33 years of SSDI experience and a lot of sweat into empower by Allsup.

empower by Allsup is a dual-purpose online software tool that helps you determine if you may qualify for SSDI, and then guides you through the application process.

Better yet, if you do qualify for SSDI benefits and your health later improves to the point you can go back to work, empower by Allsup also can help you do that. With easy online access, empower by Allsup gives you 24/7 support and a better chance for your SSDI application to be approved because we help you get it right the first time.

empower by Allsup truly ushers in a new era of equality.

Realizing the Promise of the ADA

2017 July 18

Twenty-seven years after it was signed into law, people are still running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The landmark legislation, signed on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities, and assures equal opportunity and access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications.

However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights division, many businesses and local governments are not in full compliance, and their programs and services are still not accessible to people with disabilities. Following are some reasons why some local government agencies and businesses are still not ADA compliant:

  1. They  mistakenly believe their existing programs and facilities are protected by a “grandfather” clause, so they don’t take steps to provide facility or program access or modify the policies, practices and procedures required by law
  2. They mistakenly believe that they have no duty to make changes to historically significant buildings and facilities (or to the programs offered there) to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
  3. They feel they “can’t afford to do the right thing,” as portrayed in the DOJ’s video, “Ten Small Business Mistakes.”  In reality, there are many relatively low-cost things businesses and governments can do to improve accessibility.

Employment

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination because of a disability. Reasonable accommodations include restructuring jobs, making workstations accessible, re-designing worksites, and modifying schedules, equipment and policies.

A U.S. Department of Labor survey reported that finding ways to return employees to work after the onset of a disability is the number one challenge to retaining employees with disabilities for medium and large companies. For small companies, it is the actual cost of the accommodations.

Putting the ADA to work

The goals of the ADA will not be realized if the law isn’t enforced. Local governments and businesses can rely on the ADA National Network and the Job Accommodation Network to help them comply with the law and fulfill the ADA’s promise of inclusion and participation.

Individuals who must quit working due to a disability can look to empower by Allsup® to help them with their SSDI claim, explain their ADA rights, and prepare them to return to work if they are medically able.

It has been 27 years since the ADA was signed into law, and we still have a lot of work to do to fulfill its promise. You can be a part of the nationwide ADA celebration by clicking here to sign a pledge to continue efforts to fully implement the ADA.

Sign Up to REV UP!

2017 July 11

We may be in the midst of a summer heat wave, but folks at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), are gearing up for a cool fall election day on November 7.  The REV UP (Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!) Campaign features National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW), July 17-21, and you can get involved by signing a statement of support here.

According to AAPD, there are more than 35 million people with disabilities eligible to vote when registered. This number does not include the ripple effect of family, friends, and service professionals who vote in line with their disability interests.

Yet, people with disabilities register and vote at rates that continue to lag behind voters without disabilities. NDVRW empowers people with disabilities of all ages, ethnicities, genders, religions, and political affiliations to get involved and be heard by registering to vote, updating active registrations, and educating themselves about the electoral process.

During National Disability Voter Registration Week, REV UP Campaigns around the country will register and educate voters about issues and candidates, promote voter turnout, engage candidates and the media on disability issues and protect eligible voters’ right to participate in elections.

The event brings together disability rights advocates; local, state, and national disability organizations; civil rights organizations; elections administrators; and supporting organizations, such as  Allsup, to increase nonpartisan voter registration, education and participation in the disability community.

This year, through a partnership with EveryLibrary, hundreds of libraries in nearly all 50 states have signed on to promote the goals of NDVRW through programming, outreach, public education and voter registration partnerships or on-site services.

For more information on REV UP! activities and voter resources in your community, click here.

You Must Have a Work History to Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

2017 July 10

By Allsup

There’s no free lunch when it comes to drawing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Like any insurance policy, you must pay regular “premiums” before you can collect the benefits. The FICA taxes that you paid while you were working pay your SSDI premiums.

SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that operates independently from the retirement and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. It provides monthly benefits to people under full retirement age (65-67) who can no longer work because of a disability expected to last at least one year or is terminal. Learn more about what you need to know when you apply for disability.

Besides meeting the definition of being disabled, the SSA also requires you to be “currently” and “fully insured.” That means that you must have worked long enough and recently enough to earn enough work credits to qualify.

SSA work credits are based on your total wages, and you can earn up to four credits each year.  For example, in 2017, you earn one work credit for each $1,300 that you are paid. Once you’ve accumulated $5,200 in wages, you’ve earned the four credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits.

The number of credits you need to qualify for SSDI depends on your age, but generally, you need 40 credits. Twenty must have been earned in the 10 years before you became disabled, but younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

Of course, you still must meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability, and you may need professional SSDI representation assistance to do that. Click here to see how empower by Allsup can help you quickly determine if you have enough work credits, and may qualify for SSDI benefits.

Responding to NAMI’s Call to Educate, Empower and Engage

2017 July 6

I attended The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) national conference in Washington, D.C. last week. Its theme of “Educate, Empower and Engage” is significant when it comes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The following points are based on conversations with dozens of NAMI staff, volunteers, parents, consumers and advocates who had questions about SSDI and shared their experiences.

Educate

Get help with the SSDI application process at the very beginning, starting with an eligibility assessment. Most people who apply online through SSA’s website for SSDI are denied. They don’t have enough work credits, do not submit adequate medical records, do not fill out SSA’s forms properly or do not respond to SSA’s requests for additional information.

Getting help at the initial level, starting with an eligibility assessment, will ensure you don’t needlessly invest time and emotion and add to the current disability backlog. Many websites offer tips on how to apply for disability. However, Allsup’s online tool, empower by Allsup®, is the only one that incorporates return-to-work information and is backed by more than 30 years’ SSDI experience. If an attorney or representative tells you to apply on your own and come back when you are denied, find another rep.

Empower

Be an informed consumer and take control of the process. Applying for SSDI can be confusing and stressful. empower by Allsup takes the guesswork and complexity out of the SSDI application process. In addition to letting you know your likelihood of qualifying for SSDI benefits, it provides guidance throughout the application process and helps you use SSDI benefits to go back to work, if desired and you are medically able.

It provides personalized questionnaires, audio and video guidance, and 24/7 support so you know what is happening with your disability claim. Allsup also offers no-cost healthcare insurance assistance, including help navigating Marketplace and Medicare plans, and Medicaid.

Engage

Banish the backlog. Matthew lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic major depressive disorder and epilepsy. One week before the NAMI conference he learned that he was approved for SSDI benefits after waiting seven years. Nationwide, 1.1 million former workers with severe disabilities wait an average 583 days for an SSDI hearing.

Allsup and other organizations are raising awareness by creating a Banish The Backlog Facebook page. If you are, or have been, stuck in the backlog or care about someone who has, you can share your experiences and suggestions by posting to the page. Liking and sharing the page is good way to engage. As an added bonus, it also educates and empowers.

See you in New Orleans.

Real-life Transformers Won’t Disappoint at #CMSA2017

2017 June 27

Dawn is headed to Austin to share a better way to help patients apply for SSDI.

By Tai, Allsup

My teenage son felt let down and a little angry after spending $13.50 to view the latest Transformers movie, “The Last Knight.” I guess he should have read the reviews before parting with his money. “Rolling Stone” called the movie “all kinds of awful,” and “2017’s most toxic film byproduct.”

I’m sure the reviews for the Case Management Society of America’s (CMSA) national conference will be better. This year’s theme is “Transforming Case Management” and representatives from Team Allsup are looking forward to meeting some real-life “transformers” in Austin next week.

Allsup is a longtime sponsor of this educational conference for healthcare professionals. According to the CMSA, care managers are advocates who help patients understand their health status, what they can do about it, and why those treatments are important. They guide patients and connect them with other professionals and resources. They often connect patients with Allsup, thanks to Dawn Sachteleben, manager of Allsup’s healthcare provider network.

Fueled by the desire to make a difference in people’s lives, Dawn consistently finds new ways to reach out and equip healthcare providers with the information and resources they need to help patients who have to stop working due to a severe disability. Dawn provides training and updates on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and related topics to healthcare providers nationwide.

Individuals and families rely on case managers to help them understand their illness, how to follow their treatment plan, and steps they can take to achieve the best possible health outcomes and quality of life. However, helping people determine whether they are eligible for programs like SSDI is not always a core case management responsibility. Connecting with resources that can do that for them is essential.

“Allsup helps case managers and their patients by providing expert SSDI assistance, including a free online eligibility assessment and information on how to apply for disability,” said Dawn.

“I am a transformer, too—transforming the way people apply for Social Security disability one case manager, one referral and one patient at a time.”

#CMSA2017 participants, you can visit Dawn at booth 444 and like Allsup on Facebook to enter to win a Thursday prize pack.

SSA Warns Kentucky Residents of Disability Scheme

2017 June 26

By The Old Sarge

It looks like criminals are attempting to target and de-fraud those with disabilities in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Specifically, those who may have been represented by local attorney Eric Conn, who has been convicted on federal charges for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) fraud, are being contacted by fraudsters.

According to Gale Stallworth Stone, the Social Security Administration’s Acting Inspector General, Kentucky residents who used Conn’s law firm to apply for SSDI benefits are receiving suspicious calls from people claiming to be SSA employees. The callers offer citizens $9,000 from something called the “Conn Client Compensation Fund”—but only after they send $200 to the “Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

Stone said the SSA is not making these calls and the compensation fund does not exist.

“The scheme appears to target economically vulnerable citizens and use scare tactics to defraud them of their resources,” she said. “Citizens should be very careful and avoid engaging with these suspicious callers. If an unknown caller pressures you on the phone into providing payments for odd reasons, don’t think twice about hanging up.”

The Acting Inspector General urges citizens to call (800) 269-0271 to report any suspicious calls from someone alleging to be from the SSA. You can also call the SSA’s toll-free customer service number at (800) 772-1213 to verify a caller’s legitimacy.

Click here for an Allsup news release concerning Social Security fraud.