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Observe National Health Care Decisions Day This Week

2014 April 15

emergency-room-signBy Tai of Allsup

April 16 is recognized each year as National Healthcare Decisions Day. This is a good time to think about the importance of advance care planning.

Many people don’t take time to consider how they would handle a disability. What would you do if you experienced a serious illness or disability and couldn’t communicate? Who would speak for you? Would someone else know what you wanted to say?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds people to “Think, Decide, Communicate, and Document.” Creating a plan will help you and your family know what to do in case of a healthcare emergency. It also helps healthcare providers meet your needs as you intended.

Elements of this plan can include a living will, to document the kind of care you would like at the end of life, and healthcare power of attorney, which designates who can speak on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

This plan also could include a long-term disability insurance policy. In addition, it’s important to determine your eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. These are funded by FICA payroll taxes while you are working.

SSDI benefits are designed to provide you with income if you are unable to work due to a severe, long-term disability, and it guarantees income if your condition does not improve. 

Allsup offers additional services to consider as well, including the Allsup Medicare Advisor®, for anyone who becomes Medicare eligible whether by age or disability. Medicare plan selection is an important healthcare decision with significant financial impacts.

The important thing to remember is that whether you are planning for the future or need assistance now, there are a number of resources available.

Learn more about how to apply for Social Security disability benefits by calling (800) 678-3276. For help with Medicare plan choices and questions, call (866) 521-7655.

For more information about National Healthcare Decisions Day, click here.

Can I put off enrolling in Medicare if I’m still working when I turn 65?

2014 April 8
by Allsup

P.Muschler-blogBy Paula of Allsup

If you’re still on the job at 65, with health coverage through your employer, you may think you don’t need to worry about Medicare until you retire.

But working or not—you become eligible for Medicare when you turn 65. You need to make timely decisions about your Medicare benefits…or else!

For example, did you know?

  • The size of your employer can affect whether you have to sign up for Medicare at age 65.
  • You may be able to coordinate your employer group health plan with your Medicare benefits.
  • If you don’t follow Medicare’s enrollment rules, you may have to pay a penalty every month of every year that you have Medicare for the rest of your life!

Your Employer Health Insurance

First, find out how your employer group health plan works with Medicare.

According to Medicare’s rules, if you work for a small company with fewer than 20 employees, Medicare becomes your primary insurance at 65. This means that Medicare pays first on your claims, with your group plan covering only those expenses Medicare does not pay. In this case, you most likely have to enroll in Medicare even though you’re still working.

If you work for a larger company with 20 or more employees, however, Medicare’s rules are different. Your group health plan continues to be your primary insurer after you turn 65. This means that you may have the option of deferring your Medicare enrollment until you retire.

But don’t make any assumptions. Speak with the administrator of your health plan to confirm how your plan works with Medicare.

Deciding To Defer Medicare Enrollment

If you can defer your Medicare enrollment, should you? The answer to this question depends on a number of variables.

For example, it’s possible to sign up for Medicare Part A, but defer Medicare Part B. This step would help you to avoid premiums. But you also need to look at your group health coverage, especially if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA). If you have an HSA, talk to your financial advisor before signing up for either Part A or Part B. The IRS will not allow you to contribute to an HSA if you are receiving benefits from Medicare.

The decisions you make about Medicare when you turn 65 can have consequences that may stay with you for as long as you have Medicare.

You can find answers to questions on these and other issues by contacting an Allsup Medicare specialist. Click here for a free online form or call Allsup Medicare Advisor® at (866) 521-7655.

April Is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

2014 March 31

JulieSacks-headshot_mediumBy Julie Sacks, LCSW, director, APDA National Young Onset Center

Every year, an estimated 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Approximately 15 percent are considered to have young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD). Although the medical definition of YOPD is diagnosis under the age of 40, the majority of people diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60 consider themselves to be young onset as well. In fact, the APDA National Young Onset Center was developed in order to provide this young Parkinson’s community with education, support and resources specific to their needs.

Parkinson’s Disease In Your 40s And 50s

Younger people with PD not only live with the disease for a longer period of time than those diagnosed later in life, in most cases they are still employed at the time of diagnosis. Often, they want to continue working for as long as possible.

The length of time one is able to continue working varies and depends upon a number of factors including: the type of work one does, the mental and physical demands of the job, and the severity of symptoms experienced throughout the day.

Some of the more well-known motor symptoms of the disease, such as tremor, stiffness and rigidity, can be challenging. But it is often the less well-known non-motor symptoms that present the greatest challenges in the workplace. These can include fatigue, depression, facial masking, as well as soft, slowed speech and difficulty multi-tasking.

Prepare Yourself And Your Family

One of the best ways to prepare yourself and your family for the future is to initiate a relationship with Allsup long before you are ready to pursue Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Allsup is a disability representation company, one with an excellent record of achieving SSDI benefits for its clients. It also is a company that offers tremendous resources for personal financial planning and counsel on managing finances before, during, and after receiving SSDI benefits through its Disability Life Planning Service.  

Keep in mind that the American Parkinson Disease Association and the APDA National Young Onset Center provides information and resources as well, on SSDI and many other PD-related topics.

Our mission is “To Ease the Burden” through education and support services and “To Find the Cure” by funding some of the nation’s most promising scientific researchers. This month, Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, helps us make others aware of our mission and increases awareness of PD and YOPD.

SSA Trying To Move Veterans’ Claims Quicker Through SSDI System

2014 March 27

dan-allsup-blogBy The Old Sarge

 

As I reported recently, nearly 700,000 military families are waiting for a decision on their claim or appeal for disability benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Right now, it takes almost a year for the VA to decide a veterans disability compensation claim; another four if the veteran appeals an initial denial.

There is some good news, though. I wanted to give you a heads up that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is trying to help veterans with two programs it believes will more quickly move claims through their disability claims system.

The first program begins this month. It’s aimed at helping vets with a 100 percent Permanent & Total (P&T) disability compensation rating who also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of a disability. The downside is that the faster pace only applies to vets with a 100 percent P&T disability rating and a condition not likely to improve.

The second initiative is the Wounded Warriors program. The SSA expedites the Social Security disability applications filed by those veterans who were disabled while on active duty on or after Oct. 1, 2001. However, this will not include most older veterans, such as those who served in Vietnam.

All of us hope these new programs will help our military brothers and sisters receive needed benefits and support. One way vets can improve their chances for a quicker approval through both the VA disability compensation and SSDI programs, however, is to get help.

Veterans appealing their VA disability claims can find help from a VA-accredited claims agent, such as those who work for Allsup. Click here to learn about the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service®, or call (888) 372-1190 for more information.

It’s important veterans also apply for SSDI benefits as soon as they are able. For more information about Social Security disability, call (800) 678-3276, or click here for a free SSDI evaluation.

Three Quick Tax Tips For People With Disabilities

2014 March 26
by Allsup

tax-infoBy Jim of Allsup

 

It’s tax season again, and if you’re living with a disability, your finances may be different than they were last year.

For example, if you stopped working in 2013 because of your disability, you may have less income than you had the previous year. Or, if you were granted Social Security disability benefits in 2013, you may have questions about whether you owe taxes on your benefits. This can be especially tricky if you received a lump-sum retroactive payment.

The bottom line is that you don’t want to pay more tax than you owe. And you don’t want to miss out on deductions, credits or refunds that may put some money in your pocket.

So here are three quick tips to keep in mind this tax season:

Tip 1: If your income is low, find out if you’re eligible for a tax credit. If your income is low, the IRS may not require you to file a tax return. But it usually makes sense to file anyway.

If you or your spouse worked at any point during 2013, the IRS might owe you a tax refund. You also may qualify for one of the tax credits that are available for people with lower incomes, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Saver’s Credit or the Credit for the Disabled.

Tip 2: You can get free help with your taxes. For example, if your income was less than $52,000 in 2013, you may be able to get free help with your taxes in your community from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. To learn more about this program and other ways you can get free or low-cost help with your taxes, click here.

Tip 3: Did you receive a Social Security Disability Insurance award in 2013? If so, get help to determine if your benefits are taxable. This is especially important if you received a lump-sum retroactive award. You can start with Allsup’s overview of how to do taxes on Social Security disability income.

If you’re getting help from a tax preparer, make sure the preparer is familiar with tax issues that could affect people with SSDI, especially those outlined in IRS Publication 915.

As your life changes, so do your taxes. It’s important to make sure you pay the correct amount for 2013 and receive any refunds that are due to you.

March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

2014 March 18
by Allsup

ColonCancer_ccsymbol_example_01By Tai of Allsup

 While green is traditionally associated with March and St. Patrick’s Day, there is another color that has special meaning this month.

 Blue.

 In 2000, March was established as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) introduced the Blue Star as the symbol of the fight against colon cancer in 2004.

 It’s important to highlight this disease. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S. in 2010, more than 131,000 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 52,000 died from it.

 Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. Nine out of 10 cases occur in people above age 50. In the U.S., it is the third most common form of cancer for men and women.

 As the CDC states, at least six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with routine screening. Screening tests such as a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy can detect this cancer early, when treatment works best. Symptoms may include blood in the stool, stomach pain, aches or cramps that don’t go away and weight loss without a known cause. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have any of these symptoms. 

 Colorectal cancer also can be a serious form of disability that may make it difficult to keep working. If so, you may want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

 The Social Security Administration handles the process of reviewing your Social Security disability application, but you can improve the information you provide by working with an SSDI expert like Allsup.

 Even colorectal cancer treatment itself can be debilitating. Chemotherapy, radiation treatment and medications can cause side effects such as fatigue or pain, and can preclude people from working for more than 12 months. It’s crucial to let your doctor know if you are suffering from side effects from cancer treatment so it can be documented. Symptoms can be missed if they are not brought to your doctor’s attention.

 To learn if you should apply for SSDI, contact Allsup at (800) 678-3276 or click here.

 If you or someone you know falls into an at-risk category, consider a screening test this month. See a doctor regularly if you’re above age 50. And if you’re between 50 and 75 years old, get that colonoscopy!

Disability Impact And Brain Injury Awareness Month

2014 March 11

taiBy Tai of Allsup

 

We know how to fix a broken bone. Set it and put a cast on it.  But how do you fix a brain?

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month—a time to raise awareness of the public health impacts of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 5.3 million Americans live with a TBI-related disability. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is promoting the theme, “Anywhere. Anytime. Anyone. Brain injuries do not discriminate.”

While this is true, TBI is more prevalent among certain populations. For example, the CDC reports:

  • Males are about 1.5 times as likely as females to sustain a TBI.
  • The two age groups at highest risk are 0 to 4 year olds and 15 to 19 year olds.
  • Certain military duties increase the risk of TBI (more than 266,000 military members suffered a TBI from 2000 to 2012, according to Brainlinemilitary.org).

The leading causes of TBI are falls and motor vehicle accidents.

TBI symptoms can be divided into three basic categories:

  1. Cognitive (memory and attention)
  2. Emotional (depression, anxiety and irritability)
  3. Physiological (headaches, dizziness and problems sleeping)

When severe, these symptoms can make full-time employment impossible, and individuals may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. In 2008, the Social Security Administration held a public hearing to consider including brain injuries on its Compassionate Allowances list for expedited review.

Testimony from Greg Ayotte, of the BIAA, included one of the most compelling analogies I have ever heard.

He outlined the difficulties people with brain injuries face when applying for SSDI benefits. Assembling medical evidence is hampered by the unique nature of each injury, varying levels of expertise in identifying and treating brain injuries, and the fact that impairments are not always obvious or familiar.

Then he shared an observation from a brain injury survivor, who likened asking a person with TBI to navigate the SSDI process to “…asking a person with a badly broken leg to run to get help. Except that the person with a damaged leg would know that they couldn’t run, which is more than many people with [a] brain injury may be able to do.”

The thought of telling someone with a broken leg to run and get help is cruel, and no decent government agency or person would do that.  We need to support research for and raise awareness of TBI so its impact is as understandable as a broken bone.

If you or someone you know needs assistance to apply for Social Security disability benefits call (800) 678-3276, or click here for a free SSDI evaluation.

Where Can You Find Support For MS? From All Of Us

2014 March 5
by Allsup

NationalMSSociety_LogoBy Leigha Lucas-Brock, MA, MSCIR, MSSMC, Resource Manager, National MS Society

 

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.

Join Us At The 2014 AAPD Leadership Awards Gala

2014 March 4
by Allsup

logo-(2)-3By Brianna Gross, Communications Manager, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

 

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.

With VA Disability Claims, It’s Hurry Up And Wait

2014 February 27
by Allsup

veteran-reunitedBy The Old Sarge

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.