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Medicare Through The Eyes Of A Young Adult

2015 July 28

MEDICARE-infographicMedicare Through The Eyes Of A Young Adult

By Terrion Kirkwood, intern, Allsup

A very special day is fast approaching. No, it is not my birthday or a gift-giving holiday. On July 30th, the U.S. can celebrate the triumphs of Medicare, which is 50 years old.

Medicare was created with the idea that everyone has an opportunity to receive good healthcare and protection against the economics of sickness. Its vision has remained the same despite its ever-evolving nature. Medicare is many things to many people. So what do young adults think?

Thought No. 1: A Government Program. Elderly People.

The textbook definition of Medicare, courtesy of, is: “…the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with end-stage renal disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).”

The most common misperception about Medicare is that it is only for elderly people. Data collected by Medpac indicates that 16.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are less than 65 years of age. Furthermore, healthcare expenses for this age group account for 21 percent of Medicare’s costs.

As an Allsup Medicare Advisor® intern, I often see Medicare survey responses state, “I am not 65,” which is the age required to qualify. However, young adults, like me, may qualify for Medicare if they have a disability.

Thought No. 2: Medicaid.

Young adults can often confuse Medicare and Medicaid, or consider them the same program.

This common misconception is due to them having similar names. Both programs share similar prefixes and target industries (healthcare).

Medicaid, however, is aimed at low-income individuals who need assistance. Medicare, on the other hand, focuses on providing insured healthcare to seniors and people who have a severe disability.

Anyone who has earned 40 work credits is eligible for Medicare regardless of income level. These credits are obtained, usually, by 10 years of work. Some people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid are called “dual eligibles.” If you have Medicare and full Medicaid coverage, it’s likely most of your healthcare costs are covered.

Thought No. 3: A Tax. A Hindrance To My Paycheck. An Entitlement.

Medicare is a hot-button issue that is vigorously debated in Congress. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicare makes up 14 percent of the U.S. federal budget. Medicare routinely takes 1.45 percent out of each paycheck.

When I began my journey with Allsup, Medicare was just a government program that assisted the elderly. I recognized its impact on my finances upon glancing at my paychecks. It was merely another tax—taking away money. Now I, thankfully, view it as an investment in my future well-being. The gift of future healthcare is complex, but I know it is beneficial.

Though it may not be on the radar of most young adults, it is a milestone worth remembering. Happy 50th Anniversary Medicare.

Allsup provides an infographic celebrating “50 Years of Medicare Accomplishments,” in collaboration with the Caregiver Action Network.

Click here for a video celebrating 50 years of Medicare.

For more information about choosing Medicare plans, contact a Medicare specialist with the Allsup Medicare Advisor at (866) 521-7655, or go to

I Never Knew A World Without The ADA

2015 July 24

MitchelZurlieneBy Mitchel V. Zurliene, intern, Allsup

Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” — President George H.W. Bush

President George H.W. Bush believed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) would bring great change to the nation.

With the ADA approaching its 25th anniversary, I was astonished when I recognized the impact it has had on the United States. Change is seldom easy, and the ADA was no exception.

The ADA faced opposition from many businesses because they thought it would create excessive expenses. Because of this and other resistance, it took years for it to become a reality. In 1986, the National Council on Disability drafted the first version of the bill. Two years later, it was proposed to Congress. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin produced the final draft and became a driving force behind the legislation.

But he couldn’t do it alone. Enter a group of activists called the Capitol Crawlers. On March 12, 1990, more than 60 people with disabilities abandoned their crutches, wheelchairs, and power chairs at the bottom of the Capitol building steps. Then they began their ascent up the 100 steps to the entrance, pulling and dragging their bodies the entire way. Later that year, President George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law with Sen. Harkin delivering the introduction speech in sign language.

Building Up Lives, Tearing Down Barriers

Being five years younger than the bill itself, I grew up almost oblivious to its impact. Every business I have ever been to has had disabled parking. Every public building has had an entrance with a ramp. Every job application I have filled out has had a question about reasonable accommodations.

It is impossible to imagine a world where this is not so, but that is precisely how it was before the ADA.

I am personally grateful the ADA was passed, primarily for how it benefits friends and family, such as my grandmother. At 83, she still remembers everyone’s name and is constantly making witty comments, but she also has a disabled parking pass hanging from her rearview mirror.

It is difficult for her to get from place to place. It might even be impossible if it wasn’t for that parking pass. Even though we park in the disabled spot, by the time we walk in the front door of a restaurant—it is clear on her face that it took her a great amount of energy. She relies on her cane and sighs with relief as we reach our seats.

That’s why I thank everyone who helped create and implement the ADA.

Happy 25th birthday. Keep building up lives while tearing down those shameful walls of exclusion.

Allsup has helped more than 250,000 individuals with severe disabilities successfully obtain their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, based on medical evidence and their work history. Click here for a free SSDI evaluation or call (800) 678-3276.

July is Minority Mental Health Month

2015 July 20

Kirkwood_TerrionBy Terrion Kirkwood, intern, Allsup

Culture has a major impact on our health habits and rituals. Today we are truly a “pill popping” society. If you’re sick, pop a pill. Slight discomfort, throbbing headache, or need to cram for a test? Pop a pill.

But what do you do when you have a mental illness? There is no quick fix. And if mental illness is considered taboo in your culture, you are not likely to talk about it, much less seek treatment for it.

Why is seeking help for mental illness so stigmatized in minority communities? Minority communities that already contend with negative racial and ethnic stereotypes—are reluctant to acknowledge that they are just as susceptible to mental illness as the larger society.

Stigma related to mental illness is pervasive in all communities.

Fear Factors

Factors that prevent people with mental health problems from coming forward include fear, and lack of education, resources, and healthcare. Seeking assistance for mental health can be a daunting task. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

In many minority communities there is a fear of a child being labeled “retarded” or being treated differently. Those fears are not unfounded. Whether it is because they receive special attention or because they have behavioral problems, children with mental health issues are often segregated from their classmates.

Children are quite perceptive and notice these differences. Often, they ostracize peers they find to be odd. No parent wants their child to be bullied, so they go without help.

In cases where the mental health issue leads to a learning disability, parents may feel embarrassed when their child is held back a grade. Even if being held back is an opportunity for the child to grow at his or her own pace, the negative label of being held back persists.

Media and Mental Illness
Another reason people do not seek help is misrepresentation of mental illness in the media.

The Showtime cable series Dexter features a sociopathic killer who works for a police department. The television show Perception features a schizophrenic teacher.

In shows like the aforementioned, Hollywood portrays the most dramatic and severe spectrums of mental illness. In reality, people with these brain disorders can be productive members of society when they have access to quality care and support.

By raising awareness that treatment works and promoting positive role models, we can encourage people to seek and obtain treatment.

Seeking assistance should be seen as positive and empowering. Speak out during Minority Mental Health Month this July.

Allsup helps individuals with conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and other mental illness to receive their Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Click here for more information or call (800) 678-3276 to talk with an SSDI specialist.

Why A CDR Could Be A Good Thing

2015 July 13

taiBy Tai of Allsup

Like Rodney Dangerfield, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) full medical Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs) get no respect.

For years, Congressional appropriations have limited the funds Social Security allocated for these periodic reviews of SSDI and SSI eligibility. One result was a backlog of more than 1.3 million CDRs in 2014.

Many SSDI beneficiaries don’t care for CDRs either. However, when they are conducted appropriately, CDRs benefit those receiving Social Security disability benefits, the disability program and taxpayers.

CDRs help to do the following (according to a 2014 report):

  • Identify beneficiaries who have improved and no longer meet program eligibility criteria, reducing costs and helping preserve benefits for those who do qualify.
  • Raise awareness of Social Security’s oversight of the program.
  • Produce financial return of $9 in program savings for each $1 spent on CDRs.
  • Encourage return-to-work attempts.

Questions About CDRs
Allsup customers sometimes contact us about CDRs when they hear from Social Security. I understand why many beneficiaries don’t like the idea of CDRs. They may have endured a frustrating and lengthy process to obtain their SSDI benefits and the thought of going through a similar process again is stressful.

However, CDRs are different from the SSDI application process. Generally, restrictions with CDRs make it more difficult for the SSA to terminate benefits than continue them.

Here are some other key facts about CDRs:

  1. The frequency of medical CDRs is based on the likelihood of medical improvement. The timeframe is fairly broad, with those who are more likely to improve receiving a CDR within a shorter timeframe. For example, if someone is “expected” to see medical improvement, they may have a CDR scheduled for six months to 18 months from the start of benefits, while others may not have a CDR scheduled for five years or longer.
  2. The SSA cannot terminate benefits unless it finds substantial evidence of medical improvement enabling an individual to engage in substantial employment.
  3. If the SSA discontinues benefits, individuals can appeal. The appeal should be filed within 60 days by completing a Request for Reconsideration form. Generally, this involves a face-to-face hearing with a disability hearing officer.
  4. Active Ticket to Work participants are exempt from medical CDRs. Individuals who have assigned their Ticket to an approved service provider before receiving a medical CDR notice will not have to undergo the medical review while making progress within the SSA’s timeframes. Visit or call (866) 540-5105 for more information.

Want to learn more? Visit Allsup Place for “Ten Key Facts You Need to Know About Continuing Disability Reviews.”

Social Security Disability Can Be Critical For Those Fighting Melanoma

2015 July 6

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

The summer sun can be a good reminder to protect our skin, especially as the stores promote their sunblock assortments, hats and beach cover-ups.

Unfortunately, despite all the methods available for protecting against skin cancer—incidence of melanoma is increasing drastically.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raises warning flags about the growing rates of skin cancer diagnoses and deaths.

Melanoma rates have doubled in the past 30 years to 22.7 per 100,000 people, despite all the methods we have to prevent skin damage. In recent years, about 65,000 people annually are diagnosed with skin cancer, and about 9,000 people die each year.

Those who experience aggressive melanoma face a difficult road ahead, and if the cancer is advanced to later stages, it’s important to take a look at Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Melanoma Treatment And Disability

Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and drug treatments that can have side effects and repercussions affecting your ability to keep working.

Other impacts from advanced melanoma include pain, fatigue and shortness of breath, weight loss and appetite loss, as well as various side effects from treatment that can include digestive and bowel problems.

For those who find out they have severe forms of melanoma, it’s important to work closely with your doctor to document the impact from the disease and the treatments. These records will be important to your Social Security disability claim, and it is possible to file for benefits when it’s clear your disease will have a long-term, severe impact on your ability to work.

It is possible to receive your SSDI benefits while you’re fighting your cancer battle.

To qualify for SSDI, a disability and its impacts must prevent you from working for a year or longer, or be terminal. It may not be the disease itself, but the treatment that is keeping you from working.

While you and your family concentrate on your health and, if possible, destroying the cancer—you can receive important income through the SSDI program.

Want more information about eligibility and applying for Social Security disability benefits?  Call (800) 678-3276 for a free SSDI screening or click the button below.


Talking To Your Doctor: Social Security Disability Insurance and Arthritis

2015 June 29

elderly-handsBy Ed of Allsup

It’s a pretty good bet that all of us of a certain age suffer, at varying levels, from arthritis.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, it’s not a single disease—there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions.

Social Security medical listings highlight two distinct types of arthritis. These listings are used by Social Security disability examiners who determine eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

  • Osteoarthritis (under the musculoskeletal system 1, medical listing 1.02) is the most commonly seen as people age. Symptoms include joint pain and a significant loss of range of motion.
  • Inflammatory arthritis (under the immune system 14, medical listing 14.09) which includes rheumatoid, juvenile and psoriatic arthritis, affects the immune system and usually is more serious.

As with all Social Security disability claims, people suffering from either form of arthritis must have their condition thoroughly documented to increase their chances of having their disability claim allowed.

That means their doctors must have a complete, documented medical history, and the only way the doctor can do that is to receive accurate and complete information from you. Don’t be stoic.

If your physician asks how you’re feeling, tell him.

It’s not an idle question—he really needs to know how you’re feeling. If you’re in constant pain, but it’s not so bad that particular day, tell him. If your hands and knees are more troublesome than normal, tell him.

It’s also important that you see your doctor on a regular basis so he can document the impact and the progress of your arthritis.

The more information your doctor has, the better he can treat you. Similarly, the more information the Social Security Administration has, the more apt it is to make the proper determination on your SSDI claim.

Make sure your doctor retains copies of all your X-rays, MRIs and blood tests in your records. If you’re not sure if that’s being done, ask him to do so.

You may not be sure your arthritis is severe enough to apply for Social Security disability. Click here for answers to your questions or information on how to apply for SSDI benefits, or call (800) 279-4357.


Agent Orange Exposure Recognized For Air Force Veterans

2015 June 22

dan-allsup-blogBy The Old Sarge
Battles for members of the military come in different forms—and veterans of the U.S. Air Force just won one of theirs.

For years, military personnel who flew aircraft during the Vietnam War argued that they should receive healthcare and VA disability compensation related to Agent Orange exposure on those missions.

A big part of this push came from veterans themselves. Maybe you’ve seen some of these veterans telling their stories and sharing the health impact of those missions.

The U.S. Department of Veterans estimates up to 2,100 former service members may qualify for healthcare and disability payments.

The new federal rule took effect Friday, June 19, and it covers personnel who flew or worked on Fairchild C-123 aircraft in the U.S. from 1969 to 1986. The VA provides more details on its website.

Risks And Rewards Of Service

Military service brings with it a lot of risks and rewards. Hundreds of these individuals took the risks, and it is the right thing to do to recognize the cost to them and their families.

Hundreds of former service members have been dealt a severe impact to their health and activities of daily living through exposure to Agent Orange. Diseases including diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, lung and respiratory cancer are among those connected to Agent Orange exposure.

My own time in service was with the Air Force, and I probably know some of the guys who will benefit from the VA’s rule change. It’s also good to know that Allsup can help many of these Air Force veterans through this process, now that their sacrifice has been acknowledged.

This is a remarkable achievement for all those advocating for the rule change—another hard fought battle won.

Click here for more about the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service®, or call (888) 372-1190 if you are filing a VA disability appeal.

Recognizing Disability Professionals Week – June 15-19, 2015

2015 June 15

blogBy Jim of Allsup

Experience has shown me that it takes a talented, dedicated, compassionate person to make a difference for individuals with disabilities.

I know that from the years I worked at the Social Security Administration and the 31 years since founding my company, Allsup, to assist people with the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program.

About 65,000 people work at the Social Security Administration, many of whom deal directly with individuals who have disabilities. Nearly 17,000 people work in the state Disability Determinations Services (DDS) offices across the country.

I’ve known some great, caring people in these offices, doing hard work and serving the public through the Social Security disability benefits program.

SSDI has been getting more than its fair share of criticism and hard knocks in recent months. But let’s remember it provides an incredibly important safety net for the American workforce—whose 151 million workers are currently insured for benefits.

Behind this program are thousands of disability professionals tasked with an incredible array of responsibilities and expectations.

I’d like to suggest that this week, Disability Professionals Week—June 15-19—we remember the people who are doing a great service to help individuals with severe disabilities.

Tens of thousands of individuals experience catastrophic medical diagnoses, like terminal cancer, and experience life-changing injuries and illness, each year. They turn to the SSDI program, and there they find many caring people who want to make a difference.

I have a lot of these folks in my organization, too. Please accept a big thank you to all of you disability professionals who are making lives better.

Don’t “Dis” Post-Traumatic Stress

2015 June 8

PTSD-blogBy Tai of Allsup

I don’t know if kids still say it, but when I was a young adult, the word “dis” was slang for disrespect, as in “Don’t dis your elders.”

When it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the “D” stands for disorder. But some people say “reaction” should be used instead. The reason: They consider the term disorder a “dis” to those who have endured trauma.

In other words, the word “disorder” implies that there is something abnormal about post-traumatic stress. But would changing the terminology from post-traumatic stress disorder to post-traumatic stress reaction make a difference in how the condition is viewed?

Terminology, Trauma And Stigma

Terminology can make a big difference in public perception, as well as personal acceptance. Knowing that you need help dealing with normal reactions is much different from thinking that something is “out of order” with you.

According to the National Center for PTSD, following trauma, most people experience stress reactions, including difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered. When these symptoms do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, that’s when it may be considered PTSD.

Stigma is a huge barrier to care when it comes to mental health.

In the U.S. military, where the prevalence of PTSD is well-documented, there is reluctance to seek mental health treatment because of stigma and concerns about how documented treatment will affect a military career.

PTSD Awareness In June

June is PTSD Awareness Month. The National Center for PTSD estimates 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women twice as likely as men to have PTSD.

Many of the symptoms of PTSD, such as memory problems and difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, disorganization and increased irritability, make it difficult or impossible for individuals to remain employed.

For those who cannot continue working, Social Security Disability Insurance is an important resource.

Others may be able to work with job accommodations, such as written instructions and lists, reduced distractions, and longer and more frequent work breaks. Whether they are working or not, individuals with post-traumatic stress should have access to treatment and not feel stigmatized for seeking help.

Instead of labeling them as having a disorder, reminding trauma survivors that their reactions are normal, and that they may simply need help dealing with them over time, could encourage more to seek support and treatment.

It could also help employers view post-traumatic stress in a new light, dispelling fears and increasing understanding about post-traumatic stress reactions, their triggers, and ways to accommodate employees with PTSD.

Changing the terminology from “disorder” to “reaction” won’t change the impact post-traumatic stress can have on individuals and their families, but it could make us more mindful of how we perceive individuals who have endured traumatic experiences.

You can help raise awareness by joining Allsup in taking the Raise PTSD Awareness Pledge. Just click, complete the form and email it to

Click here for a free evaluation or information about applying for Social Security disability benefits with PTSD.

Common Mistakes From A Social Security Disability Expert: Not Telling Whole Truth With Activities Of Daily Living

2015 June 1

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

The Social Security Administration (SSA) wants to know how an alleged impairment affects the daily life of applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

They want to know if you can drive your car, if you can go shopping, if you can still tend to your backyard garden and if you cook your own meals. Can you still feed and bathe yourself? How long can you stand or sit?

They’re not just being nosey. It’s a matter of determining if, and how much, your disability affects your ability to work and live a normal life.

What Goes Into Activities of Daily Living

The SSA gets many of these answers from the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) questionnaire, a multipage form that asks simple questions that don’t always call for simple answers. The information that you supply may very well make the difference between your claim being awarded or denied.

Answer the questions accurately, but completely. Details count. For example, one question may ask if you can do your own grocery shopping. You may respond that yes, you can, but fail to mention that a neighbor has to drive you to the store, that you use a motorized scooter to navigate the aisles and that you must ask an employee to reach an item on the top shelf.

Unfortunately, the only information the SSA has is that you can do your own shopping and your answer may cause your claim to be denied.

Another question may ask if you can work in your garden or flowerbed. You may say that you do, but neglect to add that after doing so for 30 minutes, you have to go to bed for the rest of the day because your body is wracked with pain by the effort.

Help With Social Security Disability Application

When you just provide some of the truth, you may be missing the most important information for your SSDI claim. Sometimes you can give the SSA just enough information to deny your claim for Social Security disability benefits.

Help with accurately completing the ADL is one more reason to work with an experienced SSDI representative when you apply for Social Security disability benefits. An Allsup disability expert will help you complete this all-important form with accuracy and ensure the SSA has all the information it needs to make a proper decision on your SSDI claim.

Visit for more information on applying for SSDI or getting help with a disability appeal. Another option is to call (800) 678-3276 to get answers to your questions from an SSDI specialist.button