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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.

Get To Know The No. 1 Cause Of Disability In America

2016 September 21

spinehealthlogoBy Guest Blogger Carol Conduff, founder and executive director, The Spine Health Foundation

“I got to the point where my life wasn’t worth living. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, figuring it was better to jump than to go back to where I was. I have a new life now.”—Bill Walton, NCAA and NBA legend as reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune, on April 17, 2010.

Bill Walton had suffered with back pain for years and tried many noninvasive treatment options, to no avail. Everything changed when he was introduced to a surgeon offering a new surgical technique. The surgery was a success, and Bill went on the record stating his surgeon saved his life.

One out of 10 Americans is affected by chronic back pain. Chronic back pain is difficult to explain and even more difficult for others to understand. Ongoing, chronic pain can cause depression, unemployment, pain medication addiction and family breakdown. These negative effects can lead to isolation, exacerbating the condition and situation. It’s a difficult and never-ending cycle for the affected individual.

Chronic back pain is a widespread epidemic in our country. The cost of back pain to Americans is estimated to be anywhere from $50 to $200 billion each year in lost wages, productivity, disability and medical care.

Access Help Through The Spine Health Foundation

The costs associated with chronic back pain are tremendous, and The Spine Health Foundation (SHF) is making a small difference in the total sum. But we are making a big difference in the lives of our recipients and their families by giving them back their lives.

Since 2011, SHF has provided access to more than 800 medical resources, including 34 spine surgeries.

Recently, a young working mother reached out to SHF for help. She has since seen a specialist, undergone medical treatments and spine surgery. She is now back at work and moving forward with her life.

“I have had back problems and pain for several years,” she said. “I went to see a doctor, but since I was uninsured, they couldn’t just get me the help I needed.

“One day, late last year, I had a fall and was taken to the ER. The physician recommended I call SHF. This is when I learned of this wonderful foundation. I am honest when I say that I do not know where I would be today if not for Carol and The Spine Health Foundation. She has helped me and others so much! I’m still receiving help through the foundation and I am grateful and blessed.”

September and October are spine health awareness months.

Please take the time to learn more about how to protect your spine from injury all year. You also can show your support for spine health by liking The Spine Health Foundation on Facebook.

What 9,000 Things Can You Do During Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month?

2016 September 19

sciaBy Guest Blogger Mercedes Rauen, executive director, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

While I do not have a spinal cord injury (SCI), and I believe it is best when the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Illinois (SCIA of Illinois) can be represented by a peer member—I appreciate this opportunity to let people know about paralysis.

SCI is a low-incidence disability. Nationally there are about 12,500 traumatic spinal cord injuries a year. That number is small when compared to medical conditions that impact hundreds of thousands. Many of us live our lives without knowing a person who is paralyzed.

But spinal cord injury does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone at any age.

The leading causes of traumatic injuries are motor vehicle crashes, falls and violence. Most injuries can be prevented, which is why the SCIA of Illinois’ injury prevention presentations to students and adults are important.

Resources When Spinal Cord Injury Happens

Whether the spinal cord is damaged by trauma or medical conditions, loss of function and voluntary movement below the point of injury may occur.

Along with paralysis and the inability to walk, other effects may include dysfunction of the bowel, bladder and sexual function, chronic pain and spasticity. Multiple complications including pressure sores, urinary tract infections, respiratory complications, pneumonia, osteoporosis and depression may occur.

Nearly every aspect of life is affected by paralysis. Relationships change. Financial costs are staggering. Wheelchair accessibility and accommodating the disability become a way of life.

SCIA of Illinois is a resource for information, education and guidance to facilitate life in the world of disability. It is a place to find peers who share their knowledge and hope for the future.

During SCI Awareness Month, SCIA of Illinois, along with Adaptive Adventures, is holding a three-day outdoor adventure called “Beyond Boundaries.”

Teams from rehab hospitals go to the Mississippi Palisades State Park to camp, hand cycle, kayak and rock climb. Using adaptive equipment to pull oneself up a 145-foot rock is an extraordinary experience. Some people think they will never be able to do such things, but with a good support network, they can.

My favorite quote is from the book, “Options–spinal cord injury and the future.” W. Mitchell is featured in the book, and he was burned in a motorcycle crash and later paralyzed in a plane crash. He went on to become an author, TV host, international speaker and much more.

Mitchell said, “The way I look at it, before I was paralyzed, there were ten thousand things I could do; ten thousand things I was capable of doing. Now there are nine thousand. I can dwell on the one thousand, or concentrate on the nine thousand I have left.”

  1. Mitchell knows life with paralysis is not easy, but it can be very good! SCIA exists to help make that happen. Learn more about SCIA of Illinois online.

Do I Need A Representative For My SSDI Application?

2016 September 8

JimBy Jim of Allsup

I’ve been in the business of Social Security Disability Insurance for more than 30 years, and I’ve been alive a lot longer.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I can’t do everything myself. I’m not a tax expert, so when it’s tax time, I look for an accountant to help. When I have a water leak in the house, I’m in the market for an expert plumber.

Face it, there are some things we just can’t do well by ourselves.

For example, filing an SSDI application is a complicated process and most people could benefit with professional help from the beginning.

Only a small number (about 14 percent) of people file their disability insurance applications with a representative on their side.

This can be a risk because if your benefits are denied at the application, then you’re in store for one to three years of waiting for your claim to be decided during appeals. Overall, about 67 percent of initial applications are denied.

So don’t try to slog your way alone through the Social Security disability application.

With empower by Allsup® you can receive a free online assessment of your likelihood of being eligible for SSDI benefits. Those who successfully complete the assessment can move immediately into the Allsup-designed web-based tool and get started on their Social Security disability application.

It’s easy to understand and accessible on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

Easy Technology & Expert SSDI Representation

And if you choose Allsup as your representative, we can guide you through the complex Social Security disability application process.

We can help so your claim isn’t denied because of simple mistakes. You need a professional who minimizes the hassle and helps improve the odds of you receiving your SSDI benefits quicker. That’s what we do.

With empower by Allsup and our three decades of experience, we work to ensure you receive your SSDI benefits as quickly as possible. The beauty of Allsup’s innovative, dual purpose online tool is that it gives you more control over the process. It is designed to help you obtain your SSDI benefits and also explains how you can return to work if and when you medically recover. Find more information about the disability application process at Allsup.com.

I have to run now. My car is making some funny noises and I need to Google a mechanic. An expert mechanic, of course.

Take A Bite For Gastroparesis Awareness Month

2016 August 23

gastroparesis-awarenessBy Guest Blogger Melissa Adams VanHouten, gastroparesis advocate

August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, and we would like to share a little information about our condition.

Gastroparesis literally means “paralysis of the stomach.”

It is a digestive motility disorder in which the stomach muscles, controlled by the vagus nerve, fail to contract and move food from the stomach into the intestines at the proper rate.

This slowing of the stomach emptying process can cause debilitating and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. The may including stomach/abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, heartburn/gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and early satiety and can lead to serious complications, such as malnourishment, dehydration, extreme weight loss, esophageal damage, blood sugar fluctuations, bezoars and chronic fatigue.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that more than 5 million people live with gastroparesis.

The most common known cause of this condition is diabetes, which accounts for about one-third of the cases. Other known causes of gastroparesis include neurologic disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, connective tissue disorders, complications resulting from surgeries, and direct damage to the vagus nerve. Most cases of gastroparesis, however, are labeled “idiopathic,” meaning that there is no known cause.

Gastroparesis is most commonly diagnosed by the gastric emptying study (GES), a procedure in which radioactive food is traced through the digestive tract to determine the rate at which food travels from the stomach to the small intestine. Other methods of diagnosis include upper endoscopy, barium x-rays, gastric manometry, and the “smart pill,” which, when swallowed, transmits data regarding the rate of passage through the digestive tract.

As of now, there is no safe, reliable, and effective treatment for gastroparesis—and there is no cure.

Available treatment options include surgery, which often is ineffective; medications, which carry the risk of serious side effects; feeding tubes or total parenteral nutrition (TPN), as well as dietary changes to liquid or soft foods, which often does not provide relief.

Living with gastroparesis is challenging, both physically and mentally. It truly is a life-altering diagnosis.

We seek awareness, better treatments, and, ultimately, a cure. We invite you to join one of our awareness campaigns: #TakeABite4GP. The idea is to get people to notice that we cannot eat with the ease that “normal” people can.

Another way you can help is to support H.R. 2311, the Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders Research Enhancement Act of 2015. This federal bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Health on May 15, 2015.

This bill would expand research, increase funding, and promote awareness and understanding of devastating functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders that greatly impact the lives of millions of sufferers. You can send a letter asking Congress to pass this bill at https://buildquorum.com/actions/1996.

For more information about gastroparesis, please contact one of our fine gastrointestinal disorder organizations: the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders at www.IFFGD.org, and the Association of Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders at www.AGMD-gimotility.org, or visit www.curegp.com

Connect With NAMI And Connect With Others

2016 August 12

John-FreeburgBy Guest Blogger John Freeburg, NAMIWalks Team Captain and NAMI Washington Board Member

I am writing today to share my story with you, and invite you to learn more about the National Alliance on Mental Illness during the True Help® Web event, Claiming Power to Improve Your Relationships, Thursday, Aug. 18, at noon CST.

NAMI, exercise and medication have been my escalator to regaining sanity. But first, let me explain how insane I became. My descent began in 1978. While I was a graduate student in New York City, the first symptoms of schizophrenia appeared. I thought horns were growing out of my head, I was afraid of a brass ornamental lamp and convinced I was Jesus. I lived in constant fear and, for more than 10 years, was plagued by delusions such as these—and worse. I eventually attempted suicide and, within a couple of years after that, I was homeless.

It was in the late 1990s that I first became involved with NAMI. The Connection Recovery Support Group training class helped me to understand and cope with my disease.

At NAMI conferences and conventions people openly learned about and discussed medications and issues I had only previously thought about in private. I entered a new common language, which has enabled me to grow and take charge of my recovery.

Invaluable Resources From A Community Of Support

NAMI has provided me and my family with invaluable resources and a community of support—and has also given me the privilege of leadership.

My experience has grown to include serving as board president of my local affiliate, NAMI Kitsap County, as well as serving two terms on the NAMI Washington state board, and being appointed as the representative to the National NAMI Consumer Council from Washington. I am proud of how far I have come on my journey back into the light, and I am grateful to NAMI for offering programs and opportunities that give new hope every day to people just like me.

Through NAMI we gain sanity—enough to give back. Through NAMI we reclaim power to improve our relationships and make meaningful connections.

NAMI’s Senior Education Program Manager Suzanne Robinson is a featured speaker for the Aug. 18 event, and will share information on NAMI signature programs.

Most family members and consumers benefit greatly from our classes, support groups and community presentation programs such as Family-to-Family, NAMI Basics for Parents, In Our Own Voice, and Connections Recovery Support Group. Others of us enjoy the leadership and advocacy opportunities that offer a chance to make our society stigma free. There is a place for everybody within NAMI.

Editor’s note: Please share the registration link for True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Relationships, at http://bit.ly/TrueHelpRelationship, on Facebook and Twitter.

Cancer And Relationships: They Can Carry Hope

2016 August 9

crawford-clayBy Guest Blogger Crawford Clay, Certified Patient & Family Support Navigator and
Advocacy Coordinator, Colon Cancer Alliance

Getting a diagnosis like colon cancer is devastating. You feel like you’ve been cast adrift on a sea of despair. The Colon Cancer Alliance wants you to know you don’t have to go through this alone. We can help you find hope.

Emily Dickenson famously said, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” While I don’t know if hope has feathers, hope certainly is the belief that things can get better. Hope comes from three sources: faith, loved ones and experts.

Faith is a belief in something bigger than you. Faith lets you give the things you can’t control over to your higher power to worry about. Faith doesn’t have to be a belief in God. It’s a belief in something outside of yourself that can bring good into your life.

Friends and family provide much needed emotional support. They can also provide you a distraction from your worries. Getting out of the cancer world is invaluable at times.

Experts come in two types. You certainly want access to medical experts—they are your best shot at getting better. The Colon Cancer Alliance can also help you by exploring treatments options. Call our free Helpline (877-422-2030) and speak to one of our Certified Patient Navigators to find out more.

You also want to meet people who’ve been there and done that: survivors. Nothing lifts your heart like meeting someone who has successfully been through what you are going through.

You can find survivors a couple ways. One way is the Colon Cancer Alliance Facebook page.

We have two closed Facebook groups for survivors: Blue Hope Nation, which has almost 7, 000 members and Colontown, an invitation-only group with many specialized neighborhoods to help you find someone talking about your specific issue or answer questions about side effects, clinical trials and more.

You may also want to talk to someone one-on-one. That’s why we have our Buddy Program. The Buddy Program allows you to connect with a survivor or caregiver and talk via phone or email. Your buddy will be glad to discuss side effects, poop or whatever else is on your mind.

I wish I’d had these resources when I was in treatment. I was lucky enough to meet a stage IV lung cancer survivor soon after my diagnosis. Meeting Fred was definitely a turning point for me; I thought if he could make it, I could too.

Let me close with a final thought from Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Editor’s note: Join Crawford Clay and learn more about relationship-building resources during the web event “True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Relationships,” Aug. 18. Click here to register and attend live or on-demand. Share Webinar.Allsup.com.

In Sickness and in Health—Aug. 18 Web Event Promotes the Latter

2016 August 8

True-Help-webinarBy Tai of Allsup

I am getting married this month. It’s a pretty good move for me, health-wise. Research says married people enjoy better physical and mental health than those who are not married.

The Mathematica report Effects of Marriage on Health: A Synthesis of Recent Research Evidence offers a few hypotheses:

  • Marriage may result in two incomes and economies of scale, improving economic well-being, which, in turn, improves health by increasing access to healthcare or lowering stress.
  • A spouse may monitor and encourage healthy behaviors, such as good eating habits and regular exercise, and discourage unhealthy ones, such as smoking.
  • A spouse may provide emotional support and intimacy, ensuring social connectedness, which could have positive effects on both physical and mental health.

But you don’t have to be married to give and receive emotional support, experience intimacy and reap the benefits of social connectedness.

Every relationship has the potential to be a power source of positive physical and mental health energy.

The Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education points to a breakthrough study that showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.

Conversely, strong social connections are associated with:

  • A 50 percent increased chance of longevity.
  • A stronger immune system.
  • Faster recovery from disease.

Power Up Your Relationships

On the other hand, chronic illness and disability often present relationship challenges.

Maintaining social connections and intimate personal relationships can be difficult in the face of chronic pain and fatigue. Feelings of isolation can be huge barriers to communication.

Limits to physical mobility and energy, as well as transportation can restrict social activities. Veterans and military families who experience these issues also must deal with the unique challenges that come from service-related disabilities and experiences.

Join me and a panel of experts on mental health, patient advocacy and veterans’ issues on Aug. 18, for “True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Relationships,” at noon CST.

True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Relationships is designed to help individuals take manageable steps to strengthen their power resources to improve their quality of life and social interactions. Spread the word by sharing Webinar.Allsup.com to register.

As I think about exchanging wedding vows and the importance of all types of relationships, I wonder what other types of vows would be beneficial? What would best friend vows look like? What about a doctor-patient vow exchange? Send me you thoughts on other possible vow exchanges and share them during the web event.

Your SSDI Application Is Important—Here’s Why

2016 August 4

JimBy Jim of Allsup

We’re celebrating 60 years of the Social Security Disability Insurance program this week. The program was signed into law Aug. 1, 1956.

That’s a remarkable milestone. Currently, more than 151 million workers are insured for Social Security disability benefits because they’ve worked, they’ve worked hard and paid FICA taxes.

But the fact of the matter is: Many people don’t know what SSDI is or why it’s so important to their financial futures.

When life happens and you experience a life-changing disability, it’s hard to get used to the new reality you face. We have many customers who tell us they would rather not apply for SSDI.

They want to be working. And a lot of people who qualify for SSDI either give up or never apply for disability insurance in the first place.

One big reason is they think it’s the end of the line. But empower by Allsup® is now here to tell all working Americans—SSDI is not the end of the line. Those who successfully receive SSDI benefits also can use those benefits to return to work if and when they medically recover.

Six Reasons Why You Want To Apply For SSDI

Our new dual purpose online tool for SSDI benefits and return-to-work assistance is all about making sure you know, upfront, why your disability insurance application is so important to you.

  • First: You will receive important monthly benefits.
  • Second: Once you qualify and receive SSDI benefits—24 months after your date of entitlement, you can receive Medicare health insurance.
  • Third: SSDI includes a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which means you receive an annual payment increase whenever a federal COLA is enacted.
  • Fourth: You protect your retirement benefits when you receive SSDI. Someone who quits work, and doesn’t apply for SSDI benefits, will see all those years of no earnings be calculated into their retirement payment—probably making it smaller. But SSDI provides a retirement “freeze”; you really want to take a close look at this benefit.
  • Fifth: If you have dependents under age 18 at home, then an additional amount of money is added to your benefit, typically half the monthly value.
  • Sixth: Receiving SSDI is not the end of the line for your financial and career prospects. It’s an important benefit to help you during a work-disrupting disability that may require 2-5 years (or longer) to medically recover.

Don’t miss out on these important benefits of SSDI. Getting ready to start your Social Security disability application? Check out empower by Allsup.

We think you’ll agree, it’s a better way to apply for SSDI.

Skip Social Security’s Long Lines with
empower by Allsup®

2016 July 27
by Allsup

By Jim of Allsupscreenshot_landing2

People who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits often have a lot of questions.

Where do you apply for Social Security disability? Who can apply? How can you find out if you are eligible or possibly qualified for SSDI benefits?

For the first time, people with severe disabilities have an easy way to get a lot of these questions answered—and fast.

With empower by Allsup, people can receive a free online assessment of their likelihood of being eligible for SSDI benefits.

They can find easy to understand information on their desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

They can also start their SSDI application from the convenience of their own home, and receive 24/7 customer support, as well as user friendly videos and audio to walk them through the Social Security disability process.

It’s a one-of-a-kind experience exclusively for Allsup customers, and we hope you like it.

Another feature of the new empower by Allsup is the ability to learn about returning to work, once you receive SSDI benefits and when you medically recover. There are so many important benefits to the SSDI program—that’s why you shouldn’t give up.

Your SSDI Application: Do It Right The First Time

It’s no secret that applying for and receiving SSDI benefits can be one of the most disheartening, stressful and frustrating experiences for millions of people with severe disabilities.

The Social Security disability backlog continues to get worse, which means the best opportunity someone has to receive SSDI is to make sure you qualify with your initial application, and do it right the first time.

By using empower by Allsup, we hope you can discover the smart, easy, helpful way to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

We want to help you do it right the first time—and avoid the hearing backlog that now stretches past 530 days.

Plus, best of all, empower by Allsup’s web-based technology is paired with Allsup expert disability representation by your side, all along the way.

Here at Allsup—we believe this is a better way to apply for SSDI.