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Talking To Your Doctor: Social Security Disability Insurance and Arthritis

2015 June 29

elderly-handsBy Ed of Allsup

It’s a pretty good bet that all of us of a certain age suffer, at varying levels, from arthritis.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, it’s not a single disease—there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.

Social Security medical listings highlight two distinct types of arthritis. These listings are used by Social Security disability examiners who determine eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

  • Osteoarthritis (under the musculoskeletal system 1, medical listing 1.02) is the most commonly seen as people age. Symptoms include joint pain and a significant loss of range of motion.
  • Inflammatory arthritis (under the immune system 14, medical listing 14.09) which includes rheumatoid, juvenile and psoriatic arthritis, affects the immune system and usually is more serious.

As with all Social Security disability claims, people suffering from either form of arthritis must have their condition thoroughly documented to increase their chances of having their disability claim allowed.

That means their doctors must have a complete, documented medical history, and the only way the doctor can do that is to receive accurate and complete information from you. Don’t be stoic.

If your physician asks how you’re feeling, tell him.

It’s not an idle question—he really needs to know how you’re feeling. If you’re in constant pain, but it’s not so bad that particular day, tell him. If your hands and knees are more troublesome than normal, tell him.

It’s also important that you see your doctor on a regular basis so he can document the impact and the progress of your arthritis.

The more information your doctor has, the better he can treat you. Similarly, the more information the Social Security Administration has, the more apt it is to make the proper determination on your SSDI claim.

Make sure your doctor retains copies of all your X-rays, MRIs and blood tests in your records. If you’re not sure if that’s being done, ask him to do so.

You may not be sure your arthritis is severe enough to apply for Social Security disability. Click here for answers to your questions or information on how to apply for SSDI benefits, or call (800) 279-4357.

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Agent Orange Exposure Recognized For Air Force Veterans

2015 June 22

dan-allsup-blogBy The Old Sarge
Battles for members of the military come in different forms—and veterans of the U.S. Air Force just won one of theirs.

For years, military personnel who flew aircraft during the Vietnam War argued that they should receive healthcare and VA disability compensation related to Agent Orange exposure on those missions.

A big part of this push came from veterans themselves. Maybe you’ve seen some of these veterans telling their stories and sharing the health impact of those missions.

The U.S. Department of Veterans estimates up to 2,100 former service members may qualify for healthcare and disability payments.

The new federal rule took effect Friday, June 19, and it covers personnel who flew or worked on Fairchild C-123 aircraft in the U.S. from 1969 to 1986. The VA provides more details on its website.

Risks And Rewards Of Service

Military service brings with it a lot of risks and rewards. Hundreds of these individuals took the risks, and it is the right thing to do to recognize the cost to them and their families.

Hundreds of former service members have been dealt a severe impact to their health and activities of daily living through exposure to Agent Orange. Diseases including diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, lung and respiratory cancer are among those connected to Agent Orange exposure.

My own time in service was with the Air Force, and I probably know some of the guys who will benefit from the VA’s rule change. It’s also good to know that Allsup can help many of these Air Force veterans through this process, now that their sacrifice has been acknowledged.

This is a remarkable achievement for all those advocating for the rule change—another hard fought battle won.

Click here for more about the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service®, or call (888) 372-1190 if you are filing a VA disability appeal.

Recognizing Disability Professionals Week – June 15-19, 2015

2015 June 15

blogBy Jim of Allsup

Experience has shown me that it takes a talented, dedicated, compassionate person to make a difference for individuals with disabilities.

I know that from the years I worked at the Social Security Administration and the 31 years since founding my company, Allsup, to assist people with the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

About 65,000 people work at the Social Security Administration, many of whom deal directly with individuals who have disabilities. Nearly 17,000 people work in the state Disability Determinations Services (DDS) offices across the country.

I’ve known some great, caring people in these offices, doing hard work and serving the public through the Social Security disability benefits program.

SSDI has been getting more than its fair share of criticism and hard knocks in recent months. But let’s remember it provides an incredibly important safety net for the American workforce—whose 151 million workers are currently insured for benefits.

Behind this program are thousands of disability professionals tasked with an incredible array of responsibilities and expectations.

I’d like to suggest that this week, Disability Professionals Week—June 15-19—we remember the people who are doing a great service to help individuals with severe disabilities.

Tens of thousands of individuals experience catastrophic medical diagnoses, like terminal cancer, and experience life-changing injuries and illness, each year. They turn to the SSDI program, and there they find many caring people who want to make a difference.

I have a lot of these folks in my organization, too. Please accept a big thank you to all of you disability professionals who are making lives better.

Don’t “Dis” Post-Traumatic Stress

2015 June 8

PTSD-blogBy Tai of Allsup

I don’t know if kids still say it, but when I was a young adult, the word “dis” was slang for disrespect, as in “Don’t dis your elders.”

When it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the “D” stands for disorder. But some people say “reaction” should be used instead. The reason: They consider the term disorder a “dis” to those who have endured trauma.

In other words, the word “disorder” implies that there is something abnormal about post-traumatic stress. But would changing the terminology from post-traumatic stress disorder to post-traumatic stress reaction make a difference in how the condition is viewed?

Terminology, Trauma And Stigma

Terminology can make a big difference in public perception, as well as personal acceptance. Knowing that you need help dealing with normal reactions is much different from thinking that something is “out of order” with you.

According to the National Center for PTSD, following trauma, most people experience stress reactions, including difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered. When these symptoms do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, that’s when it may be considered PTSD.

Stigma is a huge barrier to care when it comes to mental health.

In the U.S. military, where the prevalence of PTSD is well-documented, there is reluctance to seek mental health treatment because of stigma and concerns about how documented treatment will affect a military career.

PTSD Awareness In June

June is PTSD Awareness Month. The National Center for PTSD estimates 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women twice as likely as men to have PTSD.

Many of the symptoms of PTSD, such as memory problems and difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, disorganization and increased irritability, make it difficult or impossible for individuals to remain employed.

For those who cannot continue working, Social Security Disability Insurance is an important resource.

Others may be able to work with job accommodations, such as written instructions and lists, reduced distractions, and longer and more frequent work breaks. Whether they are working or not, individuals with post-traumatic stress should have access to treatment and not feel stigmatized for seeking help.

Instead of labeling them as having a disorder, reminding trauma survivors that their reactions are normal, and that they may simply need help dealing with them over time, could encourage more to seek support and treatment.

It could also help employers view post-traumatic stress in a new light, dispelling fears and increasing understanding about post-traumatic stress reactions, their triggers, and ways to accommodate employees with PTSD.

Changing the terminology from “disorder” to “reaction” won’t change the impact post-traumatic stress can have on individuals and their families, but it could make us more mindful of how we perceive individuals who have endured traumatic experiences.

You can help raise awareness by joining Allsup in taking the Raise PTSD Awareness Pledge. Just click, complete the form and email it to ncptsd@va.gov.

Click here for a free evaluation or information about applying for Social Security disability benefits with PTSD.

Common Mistakes From A Social Security Disability Expert: Not Telling Whole Truth With Activities Of Daily Living

2015 June 1

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

The Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to know how an alleged impairment affects the daily life of applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

They want to know if you can drive your car, if you can go shopping, if you can still tend to your backyard garden and if you cook your own meals. Can you still feed and bathe yourself? How long can you stand or sit?

They’re not just being nosey. It’s a matter of determining if, and how much, your disability affects your ability to work and live a normal life.

What Goes Into Activities of Daily Living

The SSA gets many of these answers from the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) questionnaire, a multipage form that asks simple questions that don’t always call for simple answers. The information that you supply may very well make the difference between your claim being awarded or denied.

Answer the questions accurately, but completely. Details count. For example, one question may ask if you can do your own grocery shopping. You may respond that yes, you can, but fail to mention that a neighbor has to drive you to the store, that you use a motorized scooter to navigate the aisles and that you must ask an employee to reach an item on the top shelf.

Unfortunately, the only information the SSA has is that you can do your own shopping and your answer may cause your claim to be denied.

Another question may ask if you can work in your garden or flowerbed. You may say that you do, but neglect to add that after doing so for 30 minutes, you have to go to bed for the rest of the day because your body is wracked with pain by the effort.

Help With Social Security Disability Application

When you just provide some of the truth, you may be missing the most important information for your SSDI claim. Sometimes you can give the SSA just enough information to deny your claim for Social Security disability benefits.

Help with accurately completing the ADL is one more reason to work with an experienced SSDI representative when you apply for Social Security disability benefits. An Allsup disability expert will help you complete this all-important form with accuracy and ensure the SSA has all the information it needs to make a proper decision on your SSDI claim.

Visit Allsup.com for more information on applying for SSDI or getting help with a disability appeal. Another option is to call (800) 678-3276 to get answers to your questions from an SSDI specialist.button

For Most Working Americans—Social Security Disability IS Their Disability Insurance Policy

2015 May 22

memorial-blogBy Tricia of Allsup

What does it meant to work? Well, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates about 155 million people are part of the labor force. Through their work, they generate earnings and benefits for themselves and their families, and they are part of the economic engine that drives progress in the U.S.

The benefits they earn include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. About 151 million workers are fully insured for SSDI benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

Your Ability To Work = More Than Cash Value

Disability Insurance Awareness Month in May allows organizations like Allsup a chance to raise awareness about this valuable resource: Your ability to work.

This month, Allsup disability specialists will receive hundreds of calls from individuals who can no longer work because of a severe, life-changing disability.

It is truly devastating. And—it’s really difficult to comprehend the impact, unless it has happened to you. Click here to read stories from Allsup customers who experienced a life-altering disability.

The harm to your health alone is disastrous.

Then there is the impact on your daily activities, day-to-day finances, health insurance coverage, debt, household needs, family priorities, spouse and children’s futures and retirement.

These are important reasons for buying private, long-term disability insurance. If you have not taken LTD benefits seriously, I recommend you take another look at the cost and value equation.

Of course, experiencing a disability is so much more than the cash value of your earnings. But the need for money becomes incredibly urgent. It’s typically the most important worry for those who apply for SSDI benefits.

U.S. Economy Relies On Nation’s Workers

More than 100 million workers do not have long-term disability insurance. However, about 151 million workers are fully insured for SSDI.

These millions of working taxpayers should be concerned that this important federal benefit remains available to them. It will be a life-sustaining measure for many of them in the coming years following unanticipated, long-term disabilities.

The nation’s workers also should be concerned that the Disability Insurance Trust Fund is facing the exhaustion of its reserves in the upcoming year.

SSDI is the primary disability insurance policy for most U.S. workers. That’s a pretty important argument for preserving this vital benefit. It represents more than the cash value of those benefits.

It represents confidence and faith in the importance of the American worker.

If you or a family member has experienced a severe disability, click here for an easy form to receive a free evaluation for SSDI eligibility. You also may reach an Allsup disability specialist by calling (800) 678-3276.

Riding Shotgun: Return To Work With Social Security Disability Benefits

2015 May 18

AssetHandlerBy Tai of Allsup

When I was a child in Hawaii, a hungry alligator lurked under my bed, so I was mindful not to let an arm or leg extend over my mattress. Ever. My cousin thought this was hilarious. She taunted me with offers of letting me take her privilege (as the elder cousin) of riding in the front seat of my grandmother’s car if I would just let a hand or foot dangle unprotected for a few seconds.

I often daydreamed about how wonderful it would be to ride alongside my Tutu in the front seat of her 1970 Monte Carlo, with unobstructed views of sugarcane fields and sparkling blue beaches—the sunshine caressing my face and fresh air rushing through the giant front passenger window. But I was too afraid of the child-eating alligator to take my cousin’s dare.

So, my memories are from the backseat. My view was from a small rectangle of glass, and my breeze was recycled air that had already flown through my cousin’s long brown hair.

How often do we settle for the backseat because we are afraid? How often are our fears unfounded?

Fears About Trying To Work Again

Fear comes up often when I speak to individuals who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits about returning to work.

They tell me they are afraid of losing their benefits. They are afraid their physical condition will get worse. They are afraid that they don’t have the right job skills. They are afraid employers won’t hire them. They are afraid that employers won’t be willing to make accommodations.

They are afraid that even if they are successful, they will have to go through the SSDI application process all over again if they aren’t able to maintain employment.

Some also tell me that they would rather be working. For many, returning to work is not feasible. For others, the only thing that keeps them from attempting to return to work is fear. I understand.

The alligator under my bed did not exist, but he was real to me.

The Allsup True Help® Web Event, “True Help Returning to Work,” is for individuals with SSDI who are willing to peek under the bed.

Ticket to Work participants and experts from organizations including Ability Beyond, DirectEmployers Association, Allsup Employment Services Inc. and the National Stroke Association will share insights on the employment possibilities for people with disabilities, benefits coordination, and options and resources available for individuals who receive SSDI. The goal of the program is to dispel fears.

I don’t daydream about riding shotgun anymore. These days I drive.

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Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day—Confused?

2015 May 14

veteran-reunitedBy The Old Sarge

Armed Forces Day is right around the corner on May 16.

But don’t get that confused with Memorial Day on May 25.

Or Veterans Day observed Nov. 11.

Thoroughly confused? Well, I’ll try to clear it up with a brief history about these three federal holidays that honor our troops.

Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of May and is a way we pay tribute to all military members for their service. Each branch of the military had their own day set aside (Army Day, Navy Day, etc.) until President Harry Truman brought all the holidays together on May 20, 1950.

First observed in 1882, Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was a day to honor all—both Union and Confederate—soldiers killed in the Civil War. By the early 20th Century, the meaning of Memorial Day was extended to include all American service members who died in the defense of their country. Typically ushering in the unofficial summer season, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May.

Originally called Armistice Day, Veterans Day marks the end of World War I, when the fighting stopped at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Celebrated annually on Nov. 11th, Veterans Day honors all Americans who served their country. Some say it is to honor those who served and survived.

(A note to grammarians: Although an apostrophe in Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day may be grammatically correct, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says, “Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an ‘s’ at the end of ‘veterans.’ It is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”)

To see how Allsup helps military veterans receive the veterans benefits they served for, click here.

May Is National Stroke Awareness Month

2015 May 11

stroke-logoBy Guest Blogger Julia Richards, Manager, Stroke Survival Programs, National Stroke Association

In April 2015, a Harris International survey of 2,000 Americans revealed that among brain, heart or lung damage, 66 percent feared brain damage the most.

Stroke is a brain attack. Damage to the brain as a result of stroke can be devastating.

Even though stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term adult disability, few take the necessary steps to prevent stroke.

How your story ends is largely in your control. Eighty percent of strokes can be prevented by controlling modifiable risk factors.

In honor of National Stroke Awareness Month this May, National Stroke Association issues you a challenge!

Take the Step it Up for Stroke Pledge and commit to taking small steps to reduce your risk of a life-altering stroke.

While not all risk factors for stroke are in your control, many of them are. Healthy eating habits, physical activity, and controlling medical risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, are a few of those small steps that can go a long way.

Visit the Make Your Choice website today to learn more about how you can reduce your chances of having a stroke.

While you’re there, remember to take the Step it Up for Stroke Pledge, watch Robin’s story, and then take advantage of some of our Risk Prevention Resources to help you get started.

Common Mistakes From A Social Security Disability Expert: Do You Need An SSDI Representative?

2015 April 29

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

Does Masters golf champion Jordan Spieth really need a swing coach? Does it ever rain in southern California? Do you really need professional help to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits?

Yes, yes and yes. Especially to the last question. Three out of four people have a representative by the time they reach a hearing for their Social Security disability benefits.

Before that, many people miss out on the advantages of having a representative on their side. Many customers who choose Allsup find that, with an SSDI expert, they have an advantage toward receiving their benefits with their initial application. This means they save tremendous time and effort by avoiding disability appeals altogether.

How SSDI Representatives Can Help

If you had to quit working because of a long-term disability, it’s time to apply for Social Security disability benefits that your taxes paid for when you were working.

Filing for SSDI is such a lengthy, complex process that most applicants need an experienced representative to help them wade through the paperwork, medical documentation and Social Security’s requirements. It’s a sad fact that the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies two-thirds of all initial SSDI applications.

Forget to include a piece of medical evidence? You can be denied. Miss a filing deadline? You can be denied. The information you provide about your current activities, work history and medical situation all factor into the SSA’s denial, and people can make mistakes in presenting this information.

These are common errors that an experienced professional will correct before filing your application. By the way, that same representative can save you a lot of time and stress by telling you upfront if you are not likely to be eligible for SSDI benefits.

Questions To Ask a Social Security Disability Advocate

Look at it this way: If the greatest golfers in the world hire coaches to make sure their swings are on track, you can benefit from working with a pro to make sure you receive the disability benefits you paid for.

Once you decide to work with a professional representative, there are a few things to ask:

  • Will you make sure my forms and appeals meet deadlines?
  • Will you take my phone calls and answer my questions along the way?
  • Will you work with my doctors and make sure my medical records are current with the SSA?
  • Will you help me with issues related to my health insurance and access to medical treatment?
  • Will you stay in touch with the SSA and make sure my claim is up-to-date?
  • How much will I pay for your service?

Allsup provides assistance with these questions and more. Contact us and receive a free disability evaluation by calling (800) 678-3276.

Click here to learn more about Allsup’s SSDI representation services. If you know someone who needs a swing coach, click here.