People often ask me, ”What is the most important resource for a person affected by multiple sclerosis (MS)?” Is it a particular website, program, book or app? In my experience, it is none of these.
The most valuable resource is the people who support you. These are the individuals “in your corner,” ready to encourage and assist you through the inevitable ups and downs of MS.
Television host Meredith Vieira commented on this topic in a recent interview alongside her spouse, Richard Cohen, who is living with MS. Vieira stated, “Any illness is a family illness. All are living with it.”
Actor Shemar Moore, of the CBS hit show Criminal Minds, also understands the importance of connection and interdependence in the fight against MS. Moore raises awareness by participating in the National MS Society’s Bike MS event and is profiled in the Society’s Momentum Magazine.
Moore says of his mother Marilyn Wilson-Moore, who was diagnosed with MS in 1998, “She did so much for me, it would be wrong for me not to give back and fight for her. This thing (MS) is real, but we are not going to let it beat us.”
According to the National MS Society:
- MS attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves) and is thought to be triggered, in genetically susceptible individuals, by one or more environmental factors.
- Diagnosis generally occurs between the ages of 20 and 50, with more than twice as many women as men being diagnosed with the disease.
- People living with MS may experience symptoms that are mild, like numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision.
MS Awareness Week 2014 (March 3-9) is a time when people everywhere are creating connections stronger than the ones MS destroys. During this special week, take action to help others learn more about MS and what they can do to make a difference. Go to MSConnection.org to create a connection image and share why you connect.
Not sure what to say? Draw inspiration from Meredith Vieira and Shemar Moore, as well as reality TV star Jack Osbourne, model Alessandra Ambrosio, country singer Clay Walker, TV personality Phil Keoghan and many others. If you or someone you know is affected by multiple sclerosis, visit the Digital Activism Page to see how you can make your connections count.
Ask For Help
Finding answers and making sound decisions relies on having the right information at the right time. The National MS Society provides answers to your questions and access to information about all of your options.
Our MS Navigators are highly-skilled professionals equipped to offer a personalized response to your unique needs, up-to-date information, referrals and other practical resources. To find programs and services in your area, visit the National MS Society or contact an MS Navigator at (800) 344-4867.
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is excited to host the 2014 AAPD Leadership Awards Gala on Tuesday, March 18, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
Every year, the AAPD Gala is a chance for disability advocates to celebrate the progress of the disability rights movement in gaining equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities.
This year, AAPD is honored to have a large international community supporting disability rights. Currently, more than 20 embassies from around the world are confirmed to attend, including the Ambassador of Sweden and the Ambassador of Portugal. Ambassador Björn Lyrvall of Sweden will be accepting the International Ally Award for Sweden’s outstanding work on disability rights and policy.
AAPD is proud to honor Google for their progress in creating universally designed technology. Google Glass promises to be transformative for people with all different abilities. Google Glass has features such as hands-free voice command software, which is especially useful for people with mobility limitations, and the potential for face and object recognition for people who are blind, and speech to text features for people who are deaf. The possibilities are seemingly endless and begin to level the playing field for people with disabilities in the field of technology.
Actor Danny Woodburn, best known for his role in the television show Seinfeld, will be presenting the AAPD Image Award to Jenni Gold for her documentary “CinemAbility.” Danny Woodburn is a champion for people with disabilities and Little People, and AAPD is honored to have him at the Gala to present the Image Award. Jenni Gold is an award-winning director whose film, “CinemAbility,” addresses the influence of the media in framing society’s understanding of disability. In the film, actors including Danny Woodburn, Ben Affleck, Jamie Foxx, and William H. Macy discuss the portrayal of people with disabilities in entertainment and the power of the media to transform our understanding of disability.
AAPD is pleased to honor Talila Lewis and Jason DaSilva as the prestigious Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awardees. The Hearne Leadership Award recognizes emerging leaders in the national disability rights movement. Talila Lewis is the founder and president of Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf (“HEARD”), an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that promotes equal access to the legal system for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Jason DaSilva is an award-winning filmmaker whose documentary “When I Walk,” captures DaSilva’s transformative experience living with multiple sclerosis.
Tickets for the AAPD Leadership Awards Gala are on sale now. Don’t miss out on the biggest disability celebration in D.C.
Editor’s note: Allsup is proud to be a sponsor of the 2014 AAPD Leadership Awards Gala.
Folks who once wore the military uniform are used to waiting. Chow lines, parade lines and waiting in line for inoculations before a deployment are all part of the GI experience. That’s just life in cammies.
It’s especially so with the wait for veterans’ disability benefits. In 2013, the VA reported the average days to complete a disability compensation claim was about 348 days. If veterans appeal the decision, it’s likely to take another four years.
The length of time it takes to receive a VA disability decision depends on several factors. They include the complexity of the claim, the number and types of disabilities you claim, and the availability of medical evidence you need to have the claim decided.
At least one member of Congress said enough is enough. On Feb. 8, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., cited the nearly 700,000 military families waiting in a long line to receive word on their VA disability claim or appeal. “As the nation’s military stands down from its war footing, veterans should not have to wage another battle at home, this time against government bureaucracy,” he said.
Burr went on to urge Congress to hold the VA responsible to run the program as it was intended.
Good luck with that. What’s the VA going to do—copy another backlogged program like the Social Security Disability Insurance process? A streamlined VA system is certainly needed, but there are eight time-consuming steps with the application and throughout the VA disability appeals process, so it will never be quick.
One way for veterans to advocate for themselves is to work with a VA-accredited claims agent, such as those who work for Allsup. Their only job is to focus on helping eligible veterans receive the benefits they were guaranteed. These soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines fought for us; Allsup fights for them.
If you are appealing your VA disability claim, contact the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal ServiceSM at (888) 372-1190 for more information.
By Ed of Allsup
A recent report about the surging number of cancer diagnoses is concerning. The World Cancer Report 2014, issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), stated that cancer cases are going to grow by nearly 60 percent in the next two decades.
Today, there are 14 million people diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year. In 20 years, that will reach 22 million, and deaths from cancer will reach 13 million.
A number of factors are at work, including an aging population and lifestyle factors. At the same time, more could be done in terms of preventative care.
In my line of work, this means that my fellow senior disability representatives and I will see more people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits because of cancer diagnoses.
Cancer And Disability Insurance
It’s true many forms of cancer can be treated and people’s lives can be extended. But the impact of a cancer diagnosis cannot be understated.
Cancer has become more visible because of all the efforts to raise awareness, but it’s still devastating to individuals and their families when one of their loved ones is battling these diseases.
Some cancers are fast-moving and severely debilitating. Others become debilitating because of the radiation, chemotherapy and other forms of treatment.
Cancers that make up the largest categories receiving Social Security disability benefits include breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer (melanoma), and head and neck cancers. In 2012, nearly 280,000 people received SSDI benefits based on cancer claims.
If you or a loved one must stop working because of a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to seek SSDI benefits. After all, you and your former employer paid for this insurance when you were still working.
Find more about your options under, “Why You Want SSDI” on Allsup.com.
To ask questions or receive a free evaluation for SSDI benefits, call (800) 678-3276.
You may think that having a rare disorder means dealing with very specific and unique problems and that no two disorders are alike.
Though different rare diseases impact patients and families differently, the rare disease community has come together around the world to raise awareness for the shared difficulties that come with living with any rare disorder.
With this solidarity, we commemorate Rare Disease Day, annually celebrated on the last day in February as an international day of hope.
On Feb. 28, Rare Disease Day brings awareness to the unmet needs of the 30 million Americans and millions more across the world living with rare diseases.
A rare disorder is one affecting less than 200,000 people in the United States, to date; the NIH has identified nearly 7,000 such diseases. Combined, 1 in 10 Americans has a rare disorder. That is 1 in 10 Americans who typically struggle to get access to expensive treatments, if effective remedies exist at all.
Two-thirds of those Americans are children who rely on Rare Disease Day to shine a spotlight on their hope for a brighter future.
This year marks a special Rare Disease Day with the theme “Join Together for Better Care.” In the rare disease community, we recognize that each family, every patient story and every policy success has a host of people in the wings that have made it possible.
Maybe there was a home health nurse who went above the call of duty, or a case manager who helped ensure coverage for an expensive medicine; these are just a few examples of the unsung heroes to whom we dedicate Rare Disease Day 2014.
Six years ago, NORD partnered with EURODIS to become the official U.S. sponsor of Rare Disease Day, and our efforts to bring awareness have grown ever since.
NORD has several events planned including:
- State house events for rare disease advocates, the media and the public to bring awareness to legislators in several states.
- Awareness events at major universities and research institutions, such as Rutgers and the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center.
- An online Tweet chat Tuesday, Feb. 25, with Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News.
- The Handprints Across America photo gallery for individuals to share their story
- Online tools and resources for people to plan events in their own community.
To learn more about everything NORD has planned for Rare Disease Day 2014, visit rarediseaseday.us. Share your support and enjoy the fun as we “Join Together for Better Care.”
By Paula of Allsup
One of the perks of turning 65 is you become eligible for Medicare. But you probably have lots of questions about how Medicare works. Many people are especially confused about Medicare supplement insurance, or Medigap. What is it, and why would you need it?
Why You Might Want A Medigap Plan
People buy Medigap plans to cover the costs that Original Medicare, Parts A and B, does not cover. Original Medicare provides coverage for a wide variety of healthcare services, but you must pay deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance. These expenses can add up quickly.
For example, if you have a stay in the hospital, your deductible will be more than $1,200. With doctor visits, you must pay a $147 deductible for the year. Then, Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost and you pay the other 20 percent. And there’s no yearly limit on what you pay out of pocket with Original Medicare.
A Medigap plan helps to fill the “gaps” in Original Medicare by paying some or all of these “leftover” costs.
Beware Of This Medigap Pitfall
If you miss your Medigap open enrollment period, you could be shut out of Medigap.
Companies that sell Medigap plans are required to offer you a policy during your open enrollment period, which lasts for six months and begins on the first day of the month in which you’re both 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. After that, companies can charge you a higher rate or deny coverage if you have a pre-existing condition.
This can be tricky if you are covered by an employer plan when you turn 65. If you sign up for Part B as secondary insurance to the employer plan and then miss your Medigap open enrollment period, you may have difficulty getting a Medigap policy later if you decide you want one.
Is Medigap My Only Option?
A Medigap plan is a great choice for many people, but others prefer the lower premiums and streamlined coverage they can get with a Medicare Advantage plan, an alternative to the Original Medicare program. Many Medicare plan decisions also depend on when you retire.
The decisions you make when you first enroll in Medicare can be critical. It’s good to know that there are experienced Medicare plan specialists like the Allsup Medicare Advisor® to answer your questions and help you with your choices.
Call (866) 521-7655 to talk to a Medicare specialist now, or send information to receive a free Medicare evaluation by clicking here.
By The Old Sarge of Allsup
You’re ill or injured to the point that you can no longer work. Should you apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Or both?
It’s a good question, but because of the similarity of their acronyms—there’s a lot confusion about these two important programs.
Here’s a quick explanation of the differences:
SSI is funded by general funds from the U.S. Treasury and some states supplement the payments with additional money.
It’s intended for people who are over 65, are blind or disabled, and have little income or resources.
It has nothing to do with your work history. Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), it is based solely on your current ability to work and your income and assets. In 2014, the maximum amount of income a person can earn and still receive SSI benefits is $721.
SSDI benefits are funded by the FICA taxes that you and your former employer paid while you were working.
SSDI eligibility is not based on your income, but you do have to be fully insured by SSA standards. That means that you must be under full retirement age, have worked five of the last 10 years, have paid FICA taxes and meet the SSA’s definition of disability. This includes being unable to work because of a disability. In 2014, the average SSDI monthly benefit is $1,148.
And, yes, it is possible to qualify for both SSI and SSDI monthly benefits.
Call (800) 678-3276, or click here to see if you qualify for either—or both—of these important programs.
By Paula of Allsup
One of the results from the Affordable Care Act is a brighter spotlight on the Medicare choices seniors have when they turn 65. The Huffington Post recently outlined the factors for men and women who are reaching 65 and becoming Medicare eligible in 2014.
Because so many baby boomers are working past 65, they have more issues to consider when it comes to enrolling in Medicare. Another story in the Wall Street Journal highlights some of the pitfalls as well.
Medicare enrollees must examine coverage they have through their employer, whether they should enroll in Parts A and/or B, as well as who pays for their primary healthcare benefits—their employer or Medicare? These are just a few of the questions to answer.
More information is available to explain the complexities involved for Medicare enrollees who are turning 65.
A recent report from the Medicare Rights Center shows that healthcare costs are a sizable portion of Medicare beneficiaries’ budget (about 14 percent of their budget expenses compared to 5 percent among non-Medicare households).
Medicare: Window Of Opportunity
The most important point to make is that seniors should not let their 65th birthday go by without taking a serious look at their Medicare plan choices and options.
Missing this window could mean gaps in healthcare coverage or penalties that can add up to hundreds of dollars more per year on their premiums. Unfortunately, these are lifetime penalties.
Following their initial enrollment period, Medicare beneficiaries need to take a look each year at their Medicare plans to make sure they provide the coverage they need at a cost they can afford.
The healthcare landscape changes annually—which means that Medicare plans can alter the premiums and costs they charge, the doctors and providers that participate, as well as medications covered and those costs.
In addition, those who are younger and have Medicare because of a disability have a second opportunity to re-evaluate their Medicare options when they turn 65.
Do you know a Medicare enrollee or someone who is turning 65 this year? Find out more about how to prepare well, and receive a free Medicare evaluation by clicking here or call (866) 521-7655.
Allsup provides materials and resources for seniors, as well as their financial advisors and employers. Visit Medicare.Allsup.com to learn more.
By Tricia of Allsup
February is Wise Healthcare Consumer Month, and one way you can get wise about your healthcare is to get up-to-date on preventive care. This is true for everyone, including those with existing disabilities.
Preventive healthcare is care you get to prevent illness or to find illness early, when treatment is likely to work best. For example, preventive care includes vaccines and screenings for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and other conditions.
Preventive care not only can help you stay healthy, it can also save you money.
Say that your doctor screens you to find out if you are at risk, or in the early stages of diabetes. If diabetes is diagnosed early, you can take action and get treatment. But if you don’t learn that you have the disease until it has progressed, you may be looking at some serious costs to your health and a stack of medical bills.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or, in this case, a penny of prevention may be worth a dollar of cure!
Preventive Care Without The Cost
Did you know that most health insurance plans now offer free preventive care? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as healthcare reform or Obamacare, requires that most plans cover preventive care without charging co-payments or coinsurance.
This includes most health plans, as well as Medicare and Medicaid.
If your health plan has a deductible, don’t let this stop you from seeking preventive care. Even if you haven’t met your plan’s deductible, you can still get preventive care at no cost. Find out what preventive services plans must cover on the Healthcare.gov website.
What If I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
Visit your state’s health insurance exchange or the federal marketplace to find out about your health insurance options.
If you have a low or moderate income, you may be able to buy a private health insurance plan with a lower premium or reduced costs. You and your family members also may qualify for public programs such as Medicaid.
Health insurance plans on your state exchange cannot refuse to cover you or charge you more if you have an existing health condition.
Check out Allsup’s resource page to find out how to contact the health insurance marketplace in your state.