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Clearing Up The Confusion On SSDI Onset Date

2014 December 22

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

After over four decades of working with Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims, I’ve learned that one of most common areas of confusion is when SSDI payments begin after an applicant is approved for benefits.

As with any government program, SSDI eligibility and determining the onset date of a disability can be confusing.

Sometimes the date that people believe they became disabled may be different than what the Social Security Administration determines.

An example: You were diagnosed with a serious heart condition on Feb. 1 of this year, but you continued working until Aug. 1. When you filed for Social Security disability benefits, you listed the earlier date as the date of your disability.

The SSA, however, will consider Aug. 1 as the onset date. The rationale is that if you were able to continue working, and earning at least $1,070 a month, you weren’t disabled.

The agency is more interested in determining the date that you were no longer able to work than it is the date that you believe you became disabled. And it’s a valid argument—if you can work, you aren’t eligible for SSDI benefits.

Medical Documentation Is Key To SSDI

The SSA views medical evidence as the primary element when determining the disability onset date. That’s why it’s important for your doctors to know—and document—every aspect of your impairment and treatment.

The onset date of your disability is a critical element when determining when you’ll start receiving SSDI benefits, which is five full calendar months after the onset date.

Example: If the onset date is Jan.1, the entitlement date is June 1. If the onset is Jan 2, however, you won’t begin receiving benefits until July.

The onset date also determines when you’ll be eligible for Medicare benefits, which is 24 months after you begin receiving cash SSDI payments.

Our Allsup experts will be answering common SSDI and disability questions throughout the coming year. Please fee free to send us a question by clicking  “Leave A Comment,” and we can address them in a future post.

Click here for a free Social Security disability evaluation, or call Allsup to speak with an SSDI specialist at (800) 678-3276.

Every 65 Minutes Another Vet Takes Their Life

2014 December 19

Vet-Logo
By R.J. Stratton, USN (Ret.), president, The Team Veteran Foundation

Americans need to be made more aware of a growing problem.

Every 65 minutes, 22 vets die from suicide—and these numbers do not include family members.

The issues facing our veterans and their family members are not something new, but they don’t get enough attention.

People are either unaware, or the issue is being ignored. This is the very reason why The Team Veteran Foundation and the A.L.I.V.E. Program (Advocacy for Life In Veterans Empowerment) were created: to make a difference.

Founded in 2012, the Team Veteran Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

Our mission is to reduce or eliminate suicides among veterans and their family members. We are committed to continuously improving the quality of life for veterans and their families by bridging the gap with knowledge and understanding. (See our logo.) We are creating values that make a difference in the lives of those who sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy in this country.

The foundation is a group of dedicated individuals from across the country. They include experienced U.S. military veterans of all branches and civilian community leaders with a passion for assisting veterans and their dependents.

The foundation needed a vehicle to accomplish their mission, so they created the A.L.I.V.E. Program. It was designed to be a stand-alone program operated by The Team Veteran Foundation and dedicated to providing military veterans and family members with programs and services they deserve, but have not been able to access.

More importantly, A.L.I.V.E. addresses the issues that lead to suicide among veterans and their families. The A.L.I.V.E. Program is endorsed by the American Legion on a national scale.

Funding for the foundation and the A.L.I.V.E. Program comes from private sources, donations and contributions, and is supplemented from time to time by government grants. All funds are used to reduce and prevent suicides among veterans and family members.

Help us help those who signed a blank check for the very freedom enjoy in this country.

Like us on Facebook and visit our website today to donate at www. TTVFoundation.org
“We Got You!”

Medicare Plan Changes Now That Annual Enrollment Is Over

2014 December 15

Tricia-blog-photoBy Tricia of Allsup

The biggest opportunity for millions of people to review their Medicare coverage has ended.

Now what? Well, people who may regret their choice of a Medicare Advantage plan have a fresh opportunity from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14, 2015, to switch to Original Medicare. Original Medicare is Part A, which covers hospital services, and Part B, which covers medical services.

If your Medicare Advantage plan included prescription drug coverage, then you also have the ability to shop for a Part D prescription drug plan.

In addition, if you were under your “trial right” period to explore Medicare Advantage, you also may be able to return to the Medigap plan you previously purchased.

Opportunities For Changing Medicare Plans

Allsup Medicare specialists often handle questions about switching coverage outside of the Medicare annual enrollment period.

There are a few important opportunities that you should know about.

  • Your Medicare plan is going away. If you have a Medicare plan that is not being renewed for 2015, you have a special enrollment period to choose a new plan. You should have received a letter of notification, and you have until Feb. 28, 2015, to choose new coverage.
  • Medicare & disability. If you have already been on Medicare due to a disability before age 65, you get a brand new initial enrollment period when you turn 65. This can be a great opening to make key changes to your Medicare coverage, including purchasing a Medigap policy in combination with Original Medicare.
  • Enrolling in Part B. Perhaps you already have Medicare Part A coverage because you turned 65 earlier, but now you are ready to enroll in Medicare Part B. You can do this from Jan. 1 to March 31, during the general enrollment period. Once you purchase Part B, you also will be able to sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage from April 1 to June 30.
  • Special enrollment periods (SEPs). SEPs also can be allowed if you experience changes in your life, for example, moving to a new city address or leaving a skilled nursing facility or long-term care hospital.
  • Five-star Medicare plans. You also may have Medicare Advantage plans or Part D prescription drug plans with a five-star rating in your area. This gives you the opportunity to move to a higher quality-rating plan, and you can do this one time during the year leading up to the next Medicare annual enrollment period.

Confused yet? The other big event that thousands more people will experience in the coming year is when they turn 65.

Allsup Medicare specialists are available to answer your questions about Medicare plan choices and options. Contact the Allsup Medicare Advisor at (866) 521-7655, or click here for a free Medicare plan eligibility evaluation.

Military Sexual Trauma Victims May Be Eligible For VA Disability Benefits

2014 December 9

military-uniformBy The Old Sarge

Combat tactics, war planes, uniforms and weapons—there’s been a lot of changes in the military over the last few decades.

One of the big changes is the number of women in the military and their duties. Until 1976, women in the Air Force were known as WAFs, or Women in the Air Force. They were sort of an afterthought to the real Air Force.

Back then, instead of shooting M-16 rifles or flying F-16 Fighting Falcon, military women were nurses, secretaries, or members of the base band. Instead of learning how to apply camouflage or load bombs, they were taught how to apply lipstick and makeup so as to present a proper feminine image.

How things have changed. Today, nearly 215,000 women wear the uniform, and they make up more than 14 percent of our armed forces.

Unfortunately, and predictably, riding on the coattails of integration of women in the military came dramatically increased reported instances of rape, sexual harassment and abuse. Called military sexual trauma (MST) by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), MST refers to sexual assault or threatening sexual harassment, which includes unwanted sexual touching and threatening and offensive remarks. Both men and women can be victims of MST.

All veterans suffering from MST are eligible for free VA counseling and healthcare. On Dec. 1, the VA announced it has expanded mental healthcare eligibility to treat conditions resulting from MST, primarily to members of the Reserves and National Guard participating in weekend drills.

Victims of MST also may be eligible for VA disability compensation. If your MST-related disability claim, such as for post-traumatic stress syndrome, has been denied by the VA, one of our VA-accredited claims agents may be able to help.

Call (888) 372-1190 for more information on Allsup Veterans Disability Appeals Service®.

 

 

Share Good Cheer, Buy Holiday ‘Presents With Purpose’

2014 December 4

presentBy Tai of Allsup

If  Black Friday was a bust, Small Business Saturday didn’t satisfy,  and Cyber Monday made you moan—try “Presents with Purpose” available year-round.

As Allsup’s manager of Strategic Alliances, I have the privilege of working with organizations whose missions are to care for, cure, cheer and support individuals and families living with chronic illness and disabilities.

These groups, their volunteers and their work often go unnoticed by those not personally impacted by the conditions they represent.

Giving With Big Personal Impact

If you don’t have a spinal cord injury or disorder, you probably didn’t receive a New Beginnings backpack from the United Spinal Association, filled with resources to help you manage a new way of life.

If your daughter doesn’t have lupus, you may not have heard about the Lupus Foundation of America-Heartland Chapter’s weekend summer camp for teen girls.

If a loved one never suffered a stroke, the National Stroke Association’s latest iHOPE webinar to help survivors and their families won’t be on your calendar.

However, for millions of individuals affected by these and other conditions, the programs, advocacy and research made possible by health-based nonprofit organizations are life-changing.

These organizations offer hope and healing. They are transparent in their agendas to prevent and ease suffering, promote health and create caring communities around individuals who often feel isolated and alone.

This holiday, consider making a contribution to one of these organizations in honor of your gift recipient. Or, purchase an organization’s logo merchandise.

Gifts Of Jewelry, Clothes, Food & More

There are a number of great gift items available, including ornaments, T-shirts, scarves and jewelry. You also can make a donation in honor of someone to commemorate the holiday season. Here are a few links to give you some ideas and get you started:

Know of any “Presents with Purpose?” Post them to Allsup’s Facebook page and tweet them at #presentswithpurpose.

November is American Diabetes Month®

2014 November 18

Dawn-SeayBy Dawn Seay, executive director, American Diabetes Association-Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

If you combine the victims of breast cancer, AIDS and heart disease, they wouldn’t add up to the total of people who will succumb to diabetes.

These are numbers that qualify for epidemic status, especially in South Florida where 1 in 3 three residents has the disease. The ethnic groups that have the highest incidences of diabetes are African American, Caribbean (of African descent) and Hispanic. South Florida has a large population of those at risk and 1 in 4 residents do not know that they have diabetes.

Diabetes is the fastest-growing and largest epidemic in the U.S., plaguing 30 million Americans. Another 86 million will develop type 2 diabetes if critical lifestyle changes in diet and exercise are not made. The American Diabetes Association estimates the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. is $245 billion, which represents 1 in 5 healthcare dollars spent.

The Toll On Health

  • People with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Diabetes causes nearly 50 percent of all cases of kidney failure.
  • More than half of all amputations in adults occur in people with diabetes.
  • More than half a million American adults have advanced diabetic retinopathy, greatly increasing their risk for severe vision loss.
  • About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

American Diabetes Month is a time to communicate the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of diabetes prevention and control.

To combat this epidemic, the American Diabetes Association and Nova Southeastern University (NSU) have joined forces to establish an Inter-professional Diabetes Education and Awareness (IDEA) Initiative that offers free education seminars and other services to the community through May 2015.

The interactive programs cover a variety of topics including exercise, healthy eating, medication management, eye health, screenings, and a general overview of preventing and managing diabetes.

Workshops are age-appropriate and specifically tailored to meet the needs of adults, young children or adolescents. The public is encouraged to attend these free education sessions.

For information visit www.nova.edu/CHCS/IDEA or email IDEA@nova.edu.

Please share this blog with friends, family and loved ones. With 1 in 4 Americans living with diabetes, we all know someone who can benefit from this information. Sharing only takes a minute and has the ability to change a life. We will create a brighter future for those living with diabetes with your help!

A World With Complex Regional Pain Syndrome As My Constant Companion©

2014 November 12

Samantha-AdcockBy Guest Blogger Samantha M. Adcock, board chair and executive director, Hope Over Pain

I live in a world with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) as my constant companion.

While on deployment to assist the Hurricane Rita recovery effort, I contracted an antibiotic resistant bone infection, osteomyelitis. (The infection is known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA). The osteomyelitis/MRSA and two subsequent surgical procedures resulted in the development of CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD).

Physicians don’t know why it develops, but CRPS is a nerve disorder that usually occurs after a traumatic injury, surgery, sprain, fracture, infection or a period of immobilization.

CRPS/RSD is said to be the most painful chronic disease that’s known today. It’s also a form of causalgia, which is a rare pain syndrome related to partial peripheral nerve injuries. On the McGill Pain Index, causalgia scores 42 out of 50.

How does that compare to other types of pain? Arthritis pain is ranked about 18. Non-terminal cancer pain ranks 24 and chronic back pain is at 26. Natural labor and delivery of a first child is about 35. With a score of 40, the pain associated with the amputation of a digit comes closest to matching the intensity of CRPS/RDS.

Imagine This World

Now, imagine for a few minutes that we’ve traded places.

Imagine this is your new world. You begin and end every day with CRPS as your constant companion.

In your new world…the lightest breeze, touch, vibration, movement or exposure to cold causes excruciating pain. If asked, you couldn’t honestly tell someone when you last experienced a pain free day, or when your pain level had dropped below an 8 (on a scale of 1 to 10) for any significant length of time (two hours or more).

In your new world…you’ve been on numerous medications for the pain, and have experienced a variety of debilitating side effects that have included: loss of cognitive function, inability to concentrate, weight gain, dizziness, uncontrollable muscle movement, tremors, hair loss, elevated blood pressure, etc. There are two things that you haven’t experienced since CRPS became a part of your life…

  1. A night with more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep; and
  2. A day without pain.

In your new world a 10 is lying on the floor, curled in fetal position, unable to move or speak as tears stream down your face…Knowing that all you can do is lay there and endure. The only alternative is unacceptable. You refuse to give up!

Thank you for trading places with me for a little while. While you spent time imaging yourself in my world, I spent my time remembering what it was like to live in yours. My time in your world reminded me that there’s still hope. I have hope.

I have hope…that you remain healthy, happy and whole.

I have hope…that my world never becomes yours.

Editor’s note: November is CRPS Awareness Month. If you live in the San Antonio area, join Samantha and Hope Over Pain on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the CRPS/RSD Awareness & Education Seminar. Click here for more information.

Help Spread The Word to Vets About This Free Webinar

2014 November 10

veterans

By The Old Sarge

Believe it or not (ahem), the bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) don’t always get it right the first time.

If you’re a veteran with a service-connected disability and the VA has denied your claim for benefits—or you received a rating that’s too low—don’t think for one minute that the decision is final.

Far from it. It’s just the beginning; a signal that it’s time to file an appeal.

Army veteran Brett Buchanan can show you how to best present an effective VA disability appeal during a webinar titled, “What You Need to Know About Veterans Disability Appeals,” scheduled for Nov. 30, from 3-4 p.m. EST (2-3 p.m. CST). A former Army artillery officer, Brett is a VA-accredited claims agent. His full-time job with Allsup is to help veterans receive the VA disability benefits they earned when they wore the uniform.

Click here to register for the free program.

During the webinar, Brett will walk veterans through the appeal process so they know what to expect. He said the more veterans understand the process and their options for assistance, the better they can prepare for a successful appeal.

Because of recent changes in VA regulations, Brett told me, it’s important for a veteran to appeal a denial, especially if the claim is related to military sexual trauma (MST) or environmental and psychological trauma.

For example, new regulations went into effect this year regarding disabilities that the VA considers to be secondary to a service-connected traumatic brain injury (TBI), making some veterans eligible for additional disability benefits.

In another relatively recent development, the VA began assigning MST-related claims to more experienced decision-makers with MST-specific training.

The webinar will include:

  • Overview of VA disability programs
  • Basic criteria for approval of disability benefits
  • Advanced criteria for approval of the Compensation Benefit
  • Application and appeal process
  • Why veterans need help

For more information on Allsup’s VA disability appeal services, call (888) 372-1190 or visit Veterans.Allsup.com.

Veterans With Tricare For Life And Medicare—During Medicare Annual Enrollment

2014 November 4

blogBy The Old Sarge

It’s Medicare open enrollment season until Dec. 7, but I really don’t care. Because I’m an Air Force retiree, I’m eligible for Tricare For Life and don’t need a Medicare Advantage plan or any other Medicare supplemental insurance.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Defense, Tricare is a healthcare insurance program for military service members (active, retired, National Guard, etc.), their families and certain former spouses.

When military veterans reach age 65 and Medicare eligibility, they and their spouses are automatically covered by Tricare For Life.

TFL participants are required to enroll in Medicare Part A, hospital insurance, and Part B, medical insurance. There is no charge for Part A, and most people pay $104.90 a month for Part B. That number doesn’t change in 2015.

How Tricare Works With Medicare

Medicare is the primary payer for healthcare expenses and TFL picks up the rest.

For example, if I visit a Medicare-approved doctor, Medicare pays 80 percent of the costs and TFL pays the rest of the bill, up to its allowable charge.

There are, however, a few exceptions for medical services covered by Medicare Part B, but not covered by TFL, such as chiropractic care.

While I know that the military promised me free healthcare for the rest of my life, you won’t hear me complaining about TFL’s relatively meager annual premiums of $277.92 for an individual and $555.84 for a family. It’s a great bargain no matter how you look at it.

And TFL enrollees can forget about the annual hassle of reviewing complicated Medicare supplemental plans to make sure we’re fully covered.

Many Others Making Medicare Plan Choices Now

On the other hand, if you have a Medicare-eligible family member or friend not covered by TFL, remind them that we’re in Medicare’s open enrollment period.

About 54 million people have the chance now, until Dec. 7, to make changes in their Medicare plans for 2015.

If they need a helping hand to find their way through the bureaucratic maze, tell them about the Allsup Medicare Advisor® service. They can also call (866) 521-7655.

We might be able to save them big bucks.

More Money In 2015—Slight COLA Increase For SSDI, Other Beneficiaries

2014 October 31

moneyBy Tricia of Allsup

If you are receiving Social Security disability, retirement or veterans disability benefits, you’ll see a modest 1.7 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase in your monthly check beginning in January.

More than 2.5 million retired federal government and military retirees also will receive a 1.7 percent COLA raise.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), COLAs are based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). CPI-Ws are calculated on a monthly basis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recent COLA increases have been relatively small because of low inflation rates.

There were no increases in 2010 and 2011.

But in 2012, there was a COLA increase of 3.6 percent; in 2013, 1.7 percent; and 1.5 percent in 2014.

Managing Extra Money, Making Careful Choices

With the increase next year, the SSA reported that the average Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) monthly benefit will rise from $1,146 to $1,155, or about $228 per year.

Every little bit helps, but it’s not a huge increase and it has to be managed carefully.

It’s great to have a little bit of added income, but there’s a practical reality attached. You’re getting a raise, but that’s only because your cost of living is increasing.

For example, the USDA has reported that food inflation will continue in 2015, which means higher prices for staples like eggs, dairy, meat and produce.

People with disabilities can expect their healthcare expenses to go up next year, too, so it’s a good time to examine your Medicare options during open enrollment season, which ends Dec. 7.

Click here to learn more about the Allsup Medicare Advisor, or call (866) 521-7655 for help with making Medicare plan choices that may give you a brighter 2015.