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You Don’t Need To Wait For Veterans Day To Come Around Again

2016 November 30

landoflincoln_honorflightBy Mary Beth of Allsup

In September, Fred Harres was chosen to participate in a once in a lifetime event—a visit to our nation’s capitol and a tour of its many monuments, war memorials and tributes to military veterans. The long day trip was courtesy of the Illinois Land of Lincoln Honor Flight for veterans.

Mr. Harres took advantage of the opportunity and it’s an experience he won’t soon forget.

I know this, because Fred Harres, 83, is my father.

Dad enlisted in the Army in 1953. The Korean War was winding down at the time and he served in Germany for three years as a water treatment specialist. He wasn’t involved in combat, but he did have a few exciting moments.

Like the time when his unit was on maneuvers and his tent burst into flames in the middle of the night. He and his buddies managed to get out of the tent and start dousing the flames, but then Dad realized that one man was stuck in his sleeping bag and couldn’t get out. Dad was able to go back inside the tent and carry his friend to safety moments before the fiery tent collapsed.

The Honor Flight was made up of 80 World War II, Korea and Vietnam war veterans that traveled to Washington, D.C., from Springfield, Illinois, on a charter flight. My sisters and I drove Dad to the Springfield airport very early in the morning and we were there when it returned later that night. Some of the veterans used walkers, some were in wheelchairs and others, like Dad, were able to get around without help.

I don’t think anyone expected the wild scene that erupted in the terminal as the veterans left the airplane. There was an organized parade, complete with a band and a color guard and dignitaries that welcomed the former troops back home. There were many hundreds of people lined up at the airport; so many people that it took eight volunteers to control the traffic.

It was very emotional, especially for the Vietnam veterans, because they sure didn’t have receptions like this when they came home from their war. Dad was one of the last men off the plane, but when he did, he had a huge smile on his face.

And he still smiles today when he remembers the long overdue homecoming. And so do I.

I know this little story is a little late for Veterans Day, but I don’t think we need a special day to remember and honor our veterans.

Allsup has its own way to honor these heroes. Learn more about our Veterans Disability Appeals Service.

It’s Hard To Hula – If You Can’t Feel Your Feet

2016 November 22

By Tai of Allsup

Hawai’i—home to warm sandy beaches, volcanoes and Hawaiians with diabetes. As a state, Hawai’i ranks a respectable 39th in the percentage of adults with diabetes. However, while the state rate is 8.5 percent for the overall population, it is 14 percent among Native Hawaiians.

This is not news. The diabetes disparity in minority populations is well-documented.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 Diabetes Scorecard, compared with non-Hispanic whites, members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to have diagnosed diabetes (see chart). Native Hawaiians are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have diabetes.

Unfortunately, the high prevalence rate in communities of color can make diabetes somewhat “normative.”

Children in my Native Hawaiian family grew up amid glucose testing strips and adults injecting insulin. Diabetes runs in our family, has always been a part of our lives, and many of my relatives viewed their own diagnoses as inevitable.

One of the most visible effects of diabetes is blood vessel and nerve damage to the feet. The dry, scaly, black and blue feet of relatives, swollen three to four times their natural size is among my most vivid childhood images. I was in awe of how giant they were, and incredulous when told they did not hurt. I did not understand then, that nerve damage took away all feeling, including the ability to feel pain, heat or cold. This can lead to infections and other complications. People with diabetes are ten times likelier to have their feet and legs removed than those without the disease.

Fortunately, it’s possible to avoid the potential ravages of the disease, such as amputation, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and early death.

With access to healthcare and diabetes education, the serious health complications related to unmanaged diabetes can be prevented. November is National Diabetes Month, and the National Diabetes Education Program has free resources that can help, including: 4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.

By making healthy food choices, maintaining a healthy weight, getting physical activity, and taking medication as prescribed, people with diabetes can improve their quality of life.

Individuals who can no longer work because of diabetes should determine their eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. SSDI provides a monthly income, access to Medicare, and other important benefits that can help alleviate the stress often associated with spikes in blood glucose levels.

The Affordable Care Act ensures that Americans at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes can receive diabetes screenings, diet counseling and obesity screenings with no out-of-pocket costs. Whether you hula, salsa, clog, tinikling, bhangra, para para, do-si-do or whip and nae nae, you’ll do it much better if you’re taking care of yourself.

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Take Care to Give Care—November is National Family Caregivers Month

2016 November 16

caregiver-poster2016By Tai of Allsup

Who is the caregiver in your family? My Uncle Michael is the caregiver in mine. The youngest of five siblings, he took on the responsibility of caring for his mother during the last decades of her life, as she battled breast cancer, debilitating arthritis and experienced a stroke. It was a full-time job with no pay, brief respites and lots of stress.

Uncle Michael made it possible for me to have pleasant visits with my grandmother whenever I made it back to Hawai’i. He was the one who always answered the phone and handed it to her when I called. Uncle Michael was the reason I was able to share important milestones in my adult life with the woman who had a major part in shaping it. Thank God for Uncle Michael.

In the U.S., roughly 105 million parents, children, spouses, other relatives and friends rely on the support and dedication of a family caregiver like my uncle.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and Caregiver Action Network (CAN), has declared “Take Care to Give Care” this year’s theme.

Caregiving Stress Ties Back To Health Problems

It’s an important message. According to CAN, the stress of caregiving responsibilities leads to a higher risk of health issues. Family caregivers must to pay attention to their own physical and mental wellness, and get proper rest and nutrition.

If you are a caregiver, CAN encourages you to:

  • Put yourself first. With all of your caregiving responsibilities—from managing medications to arranging doctor appointments to planning meals—you often put yourself last.
  • Take care of your health. One out of five caregivers admit they have sacrificed their own physical health while caring for a loved one.
  • Get proper nutrition to help maintain your strength, energy and stamina, as well as strengthen your immune system.
  • Remember: “Rest. Recharge. Respite.” People think of respite as a luxury, but considering caregivers’ higher risk for health issues from chronic stress, those risks can be a lot costlier than time away to recharge.

Taking care of finances also is important. Meeting monthly financial needs was a top concern for caregivers who responded to the CAN/Allsup Family Caregiver Survey.

Allsup helps caregivers and their loved ones navigate complex and financially vital programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, Veterans disability compensation and Medicare. Click here for more information.

Another way to “take care” is to join the Caregiver Action Network. Membership is free for all family caregivers.

If you are the caregiver in your family, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You deserve and need it. If you’re not the caregiver in your family, do something special for the one who is. Find some ideas here.

Do You Know 20 Veterans? Call Them

2016 November 8

nflb_logoBy Tai of Allsup

Do you love a veteran? Tell them. I called my dad after hearing Meghan Voorhees, LCSW, from the suicide prevention team at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, speak at a gathering of social workers and mental health advocates last month.

The VA reports about 20 veterans die by suicide each day. One of many things I took away from Ms. Voorhees’ talk is that I will not use the term “committed suicide” anymore. People “commit” crimes. Visit Suicide.org for more on the topic.

I learned there are three main factors present in veteran suicides:

  1. Loss of a feeling of belonging
  2. Feeling of being a burden
  3. Capability of self harm

Service men and women experience a strong sense of belonging when they are in a military unit. They spend time with people they know “have their back” and who share a common mission.

“When they leave active duty, it is no longer a part of their day to day lives,” Voorhees said.

Leaving the service with a chronic illness or disability, and being unable to find work, may cause veterans to feel like they are burdens to their friends, families and society.

In addition, veterans have a higher capability of self-harm than the general population. They have been trained to use firearms, are comfortable around guns and have access to them.

In light of this, the group wanted to know the best way to provide pre-emptive education. The consensus? Raise awareness. Talk about it. Offer help.

I’ve been privileged to take part in efforts to do that in the Metro East St. Louis area.

This is the third year Allsup is sponsoring the No Family Left Behind Conference and Connection Fair. The event helps veterans and military families connect with resources to address mental health and practical needs, and improve their quality of life.

This event provides a free, safe and supportive forum to discuss issues such as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and living with a disability—topics not often discussed openly or even privately, due to stigma, misunderstanding and ignorance.

In addition to veteran suicides, other numbers demand our attention:

  • 5.25 – average number of service-connected disabilities of VA disability recipients in 2015
  • 379,350 pending VA disability claims
  • 4 million veterans with a mental health service-related disability, including PTSD, major depressive disorder and anxiety who are receiving VA disability benefits
  • 5 million military caregivers

As Veterans Day approaches, seek out and support local activities.

Use social media to observe the day and promote resources such as the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255, VA Caregiver Support Line at (855) 260-3274, and the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service® at Veterans.Allsup.com.

Call a veteran and tell them you appreciate them. I’ll be calling 20.

REV UP The Disability Vote!

2016 November 1

blogBy Guest Blogger Zach Baldwin, director of outreach, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

As people with disabilities, we want to live independent lives and contribute our talent and energy to the future success of our great nation.

The 56 million Americans with disabilities make remarkable and valuable contributions to our communities. However, despite these contributions and despite our numbers, Americans with disabilities continue to face discrimination in many arenas, including employment, housing, transportation, health care, and education.

In 2016, there are 35.7 million people with disabilities who are eligible to vote. That number increases to 62.7 million when we count everyone living in households with individuals who have disabilities (Rutgers University). We have a responsibility to vote to support our interests, and we have the power to do so.

The REV UP Campaign aims to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!

Earlier this year, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) developed the REV UP Presidential Candidate Questionnaire and sent it to all the candidates for president. To date, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have responded to share more details on how they would address issues that are important to the disability community.

After receiving a response from the top two presidential candidates, AAPD compiled the REV UP Presidential Candidate Questionnaire – Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump. This resource provides the candidates’ responses to each question side-by-side to make it easier for readers to compare what each candidate said they would do (or not do).

To accommodate people with various types of disabilities, we have posted the full, unedited answers from each candidate along with “main points” for each response to make the language used more accessible. This accommodation does not and should not be interpreted to (a) favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates.

With less than two weeks until Election Day, now is a critical time to ensure that all voters have access to resources in order to make an informed decision at the polls.

It is our hope that this questionnaire provides the disability community with useful information on how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would address issues that impact our lives.

When the disability community turns out in large numbers to vote in the 2016 election—we will send a strong signal to elected officials, candidates, and the rest of the country, that we are indeed a significant part of the electorate and that we expect candidates to address issues important to us if they want to receive our vote.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities.

Medicare Open Enrollment In Full Swing

2016 October 26

2017By Aaron of Allsup

We’re getting ready for the presidential election and the World Series, so that means it’s also time to prepare for Medicare open enrollment season.

Actually, open enrollment is well underway. It began Oct. 15 and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Open enrollment is the window that Medicare participants have to review their 2017 plan options. This is your opportunity to make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans.

You can also find ways to save money.

Because Medicare’s Boards of Trustees said they expect higher Part B premiums next year, I strongly advise you to take a good look at all of your options—that’s your money they’re talking about. (Looking for details about Medicare’s “Parts”? Click here.)

Choosing your Medicare plan can be difficult because there are so many options to consider. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that you’ll have a choice of about 19 Medicare Advantage plans, 26 prescription drug plans and 16 Medicare Advantage-Part D plans.

That’s why I suggest that you check out the Allsup Medicare Advisor. It provides Medicare plan selection assistance with Medicare Advantage plans, Part D prescription drug plans and Medigap, or supplemental coverage.

Click here to learn more the Allsup Medicare Advisor, or send me an email with your questions to a.tidball@allsupinc.com.

To Claim Power To Improve Your Finances, You Have To Ask

2016 October 12

crawford-clayBy Guest Blogger Crawford Clay, patient navigator, Colon Cancer Alliance

Hi there! I’m Crawford. I’d like to take a minute to talk to you about a tricky subject: finances.

I’m a 12-year stage III rectal cancer survivor. I’ve also worked with the Colon Cancer Alliance’s free helpline for the past five years. Nearly half the calls we get are about money, so I’ve had a lot of experience talking about finances.

It’s a topic people can get pretty uncomfortable talking about.

I know because you tell me. You also show me. It’s hard to keep people talking long enough to truly help them. Callers hustle me off the phone so fast you’d think I was asking them for money.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

Finances are a tough subject, but it all starts with asking for help. Yep, it is that easy. The first thing I want you to understand is people want to help. As proof, we have over 10 pages of organizations that offer help in the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Support and Financial Resource Guide.

The second key is to be proactive, not reactive.

Once you’ve gotten the eviction notice, your options become incredibly narrow. Most organizations limit their help to before you get in the hole financially.

I can’t say it enough: The time to start looking for help is now.

Ideally, you should discuss finances at time of diagnosis. You should talk to:

  • The hospital
  • Your doctors’ offices
  • Your landlord/mortgage company
  • The utility company
  • Anyone you owe regular payments to

You also need to be creative in your thinking. Maybe you can’t find help for your treatment copays, but what if someone could help with your power bills? The money you save there may be enough to cover your copay for the month. You never know until you ask.

That’s the bottom line right there. You have to ask.

Not everyone will say yes. Expect about three out of 10 requests to get a yes. That can feel like a lot of no’s to go through. But in baseball, an average like that is a Hall of Fame career. You miss 100 percent of the balls you don’t swing at.

And just like baseball, you need to practice. Take a few minutes to practice what you want to say before you call. You have to prepare for success.

Let me close with this thought from Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I just have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Editor’s note: Join Crawford and other patient resource advocates during the Allsup True Help® Web Event, True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances, on Thursday, Oct. 20, at noon CST. Click here to register.

Financial Resources Are Available For Life After Stroke

2016 October 7

staci-blinn-national-stroke-associationBy Guest Blogger Staci Blinn, programs coordinator at the National Stroke Association

I work at the National Stroke Association helping design programs to promote stroke prevention and education. I also have been given the gift of working with stroke survivors and caregivers, connecting them with resources, and offering support.

I am routinely amazed by the strength, bravery and resilience that these individuals show. We receive calls, emails and letters every day from survivors looking for more information about stroke and life after stroke. Stroke can touch any aspect of life, and many people find themselves unprepared for the toll a stroke can take on their finances.

When people think about stroke, they largely focus on the effects it has on the mind and body. While post-stroke conditions can be devastating, struggling to make ends meet and an inability to pay for medical care can be just as detrimental to recovery.

The effect on finances is even more noticeable when looking at younger stroke survivors who have not yet retired. The rate of stroke in adults younger than 65 is rising at an alarming rate. This means we have more and more working people facing disability and an inability to work, causing extreme financial stress.

While some people are able to go back to their previous employment or find a new job, others cannot. Some are thrust into unknown territories, unsure of how to proceed. When a stroke survivor is thinking about going back to work, I direct them to our Return-to-Work webpage, which helps them consider many different options and find the choice that is right for them. Many other resources that support stroke survivors can be found online at www.stroke.org.

It is so important for people in this situation to reach out for help and to not give up. People may feel lost and depressed, and they may not know where to turn.

I encourage them to reach out for help. Call an organization such as the National Stroke Association that can point you in the right direction and can recommend places to get assistance.

Know that you are not alone—there are agencies to help you apply for Medicare, Medicaid, or find other insurance options. You can get help applying for Social Security Disability Insurance, or receive help from your state gaining new skills through vocational rehab.

Being thrust into financial distress due to an injury or illness is confusing and frightening. It can seem unfair that circumstances outside of your control are causing such distress. Remember that there are ways to get assistance, and the National Stroke Association is always here to provide information and resources.

Editor’s note: Join Staci and other patient resource advocates during the Allsup True Help® Web Event, True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances, Oct. 20 at noon CST. Click here to register.

True Help With Cancer Costs During Oct. 20 Web Event

2016 October 5

true-help-webinarBy Tai of Allsup

Millions of dollars are raised and spent each year trying to find a cure for cancer. Millions more are spent treating it. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, each year, cancer costs the world more money than any other disease. These costs often have devastating impacts on individuals and families.

A recent study showed that one-third of working-age cancer survivors go into debt and 3 percent file for bankruptcy.

A study released at last month’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference, found similar negative impacts. Of 1,000 survivors of breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer, more than half experienced some form of financial burden related to cancer.

“In order to pay for cancer care, many patients experience changes to their financial situation that can include everything from cutting back on leisure spending to dipping into savings or selling assets, taking on debt, or even losing a home or declaring bankruptcy,” said the study’s lead author, Theresa A. Hastert, Ph.D., MPP, in an AACR news release.

The cost of cancer drugs can range from $100 to as much as $65,000 a month, depending on the type of cancer being treated, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Financial Resources To Help

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations and programs that offer financial assistance to individuals with cancer. True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances is a web event Thursday, Oct. 20, that will help individuals with cancer and other chronic illnesses or disabilities connect with resources that can help them improve their financial outlook.

For example, the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Blue Hope Financial Assistance program helps individuals pay bills so they can concentrate on their health. The Caregiver Action Network has resources and tools for caregivers to help them manage their own and their care recipient’s finances.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is another resource available to former workers that provides a monthly income, access to Medicare and assistance returning to work if and when they are medically able. However, obtaining SSDI benefits can be a daunting task.

True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances will feature information and tips on improving the chances of getting approved for SSDI benefits. Register here for the web event taking place Oct. 20 at noon CST.

Advocates and patient resource experts from the Colon Cancer Alliance, Caregiver Action Network, National Stroke Association and Allsup will be on hand to answer questions during the live event. The webinar also will be available on-demand after Oct. 20, and participants who submit questions will receive an email response.

Share the wealth, and post the event registration link, bit.ly/TrueHelpFinances, on social media. You can meet your friends in the chat room and make new ones during the event.

People With Chronic Pain Have Voices, Please Listen

2016 September 23

us-pain-foundation-logoBy Guest Blogger Michaela O’Connor, director, U.S. Pain Foundation

For 100 million Americans, September provides the opportunity to raise awareness for the chronic pain they live with every day.

For the U.S. Pain Foundation—the local, state and national acknowledgement of September’s Pain Awareness Month provides the much needed platform to raise the issues plaguing the chronic pain community.

Chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. While they struggle with everything from insurance coverage to medication access, it begs the question, “Don’t people with pain matter?”

Greater Pain Understanding Is Needed

As an organization created by people with pain for people with pain, the U.S. Pain Foundation believes that the 33 percent  of Americans living in chronic pain not only matter, but they deserve proper care, respect, and understanding from both the healthcare community and the nation as a whole.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocates less than 1 percent of its $32.3 billion budget to research chronic pain, despite the fact that chronic pain costs America $560 billion to $635 billion a year. This translates to only $3.23 per person spent on research each year, while the costs amount to $5,600-$6,300 per pain patient in treatment.

We believe that pain patients deserve more than $3.23 invested in understanding and improving their health each year. U.S. Pain believes that finding safe, effective treatments for chronic pain will take more than the 1 percent of the NIH budget allotted. The staggering number of pain patients deems the increase necessary. Pain patients deserve a chance at proper, effective treatment, no matter their diagnoses.

Improving Pain Alternatives Is Key

U.S. Pain also is fighting to improve healthcare insurance so that it covers the most effective treatments currently available.

Patients deserve access to available alternative therapies and to have those therapies covered by insurance, especially during a time when medications are being cut back or restricted altogether. Individuals’ options can and should include opioids, medical marijuana, name brand and generic medications.

While September is a great time for the chronic pain community to unite, educate, and embrace lives, it also is a time for the nation to acknowledge pain as the serious medical condition it is.

That acknowledgement provides us with the platform necessary to advocate for patients’ rights year-round. It gives the U.S. Pain Foundation the power to educate, empower and inform the entire pain community, while creating change at every level of government.

With one-third of a nation in chronic pain, it is time to recognize and acknowledge that people with pain matter.