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It’s Time To Thank Your Doctor For Helping Your Social Security Disability Claim

2015 March 24

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

Often we don’t think of our physicians—until we need them. But the opportunity is coming on Monday, March 30, during National Doctors’ Day.

I’ve been in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) business for more than 40 years and I’ve helped many thousands of people receive their SSDI benefits. That’s why you can believe me when I say that no one is more critical for you to be granted disability benefits than the doctor treating you.

Let me be very clear. If your doctor doesn’t agree that your disability keeps you from working, you will have a difficult time securing SSDI benefits. It is critical to have his support.

Keep Your Doctor Informed

That’s why it’s so important that you keep your doctors informed of all your ailments. If you’re feeling more tired than normal; tell him. Be sure and tell him if you’re having muscle discomfort, chest pains or shortness of breath.

Your doctor may not only be able to help you feel better, he’ll also document your ailments in your medical records. This is critical because without fully documented medical records, your disability claim probably won’t get through Social Security’s proverbial front door.

Let’s face it. Most physicians do not focus on disability claims as a part of their day-to-day work. They’re usually more concerned about treating you and helping you get healthy.

For example, they may not want to limit your potential for improvement or say that you can’t work. On the other hand, if your medical records are complete and accurate in detailing your disability, especially the severity and impact on your daily activities, then those records speak for themselves.

One more tip: Let your doctor know when you are considering filing for SSDI. Ask him what he thinks. If you’re under age 50 and he says he thinks you’re physically and mentally able to work, then it is less likely that you qualify for benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA’s disability regulations state if one is under age 50 and able to perform any work, not just one’s past work, a finding of disabled is not warranted. If you’re over 50, different rules may apply. Either way, when it comes to medical records—document, document, document.

Tell your doctors that you’re thinking about them on National Doctors’ Day. Better yet, send them a greeting card and they’ll really know how much you value their support.

If you have questions about when to apply for Social Security disability benefits, call us at (800) 279-4357 or click here for a free disability screening.

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Taking Off My Clothes In Public Is Embarrassing!

2015 March 17

Deanna-Ross-NAMI
By Guest Blogger Deanna Ross, peer support specialist and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) international trainer

I’m not an adult entertainer, but what I did could be considered entertainment! I have psychotic symptoms of Bipolar 1 disorder. In psychosis, I’ve spent thousands of dollars in a matter of days, I thought the TV was sending me special messages, and I was able to go three days without eating or sleeping. At the height of one psychotic episode, I took off my clothes in front of the emergency responders who were trying to talk me off the highway and into an ambulance.

How embarrassing to even mention! But I’m recovering from mental illness, and part of that recovery is talking about what many folks want to shame or hide. It’s called stigma, and it’s not pretty and feels far less than good to those of us who live with these sometimes debilitating illnesses.

I’m an international trainer, featured in The New York Times (click here to see Times online: “Patient Voices, Bipolar Disorder”), recognized by politicians and even a U.S. Senator, and won prestigious awards—all around issues of mental True-Help-webinar-Flyerhealth.

But you know what? I’m a mom completely enamored with my kids and grandkids. I’m deeply spiritual. Chipotle is my favorite fast food spot. If I die, death by chocolate is an OK way to go. I love movies, especially cartoons. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is my favorite. Don’t judge me. Love conquers all.

Seriously, if someone like me doesn’t talk about those embarrassing and odd things, how will stigma ever be eradicated? How will folks seek the help they desperately need? How will our leaders be educated and willing to fund important programs and research? I’ve been given the gift of spreading knowledge, hope and well-being. Yeah. I’ll take a little embarrassment.

Editor’s note: Do you have a story to share? Join Deanna for the True Help® Web event, “Telling Your Story,” Thursday, March 26. Get more information and register at Webinar.Allsup.com.

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March is National Essential Tremor Month

2015 March 12

TAN-logoBy Guest Blogger Kathleen Welker, Tremor Action Network board member

On Dec. 7, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a simple resolution, H.Res. 1264, whereby the House resolved that March would be the month to designate as National Essential Tremor Month “for the purpose of raising awareness about the Nation’s number one neurological condition, affecting approximately 10 million Americans.”

At the time, the House recognized that “essential tremor interferes with a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living such as grooming and writing, and in approximately 5 percent of cases, is totally disabling. “

For 2015 Essential Tremor (ET) Month, Tremor Action Network (TAN) has created the hashtag #MARCH2015_4ET, asked the ET community to tell their story, and challenged Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo followers to participate in the ET Challenge:

  • Each day of March, share with TAN, and/or on your Facebook page and Twitter feed: “One thing that your tremor makes more difficult.”

Essential Tremor Challenge: Share One Thing

The ET Challenge has not only sparked many diagnosed with ET to share their challenges, but also to post their suggestions and real solutions in handling their daily activities of living with a physical challenge.

Individuals with ET have shared insights about their inheritance of a familial tremor, how they paint with oils, and specific products they use for drinking from a cup, such as custom made straws.

Other helpful items they have shared include a specialized chair, keyboard tray and mouse pad with wrist rest for using a computer; software to steady a computer mouse; a custom-made spoon; flatware utensils with thicker handles; a stabilizing device that includes a regular-size spoon, a large soup spoon and a fork that have interchangeable attachments; a password manager that makes it easier for shaky hands to create online accounts;  electric tooth brushes that have fatter, easier-to-grip handles; electric razors that make it easier to shave with unsteady hands; can openers for hard to open canned goods;  plastic wrap that’s easier to seal food; and magnetic shirts that make buttoning a snap, just to name a few.

While H.Res. 1264 stated that “research shows that people with essential tremor have a higher incidence of depression,” the TAN ET Challenge has positively enticed ET patients to share their creativity.

TAN is pleased that those with ET are proactively participating in #MARCH2015_4ET.

Tremor Action Network is a 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization dedicated to providing boutique services that include one-on-one support and guidance.

TAN can help you with or without a diagnosis.  The public benefit organization is “Shaking the World to Find a Cure.”

Editor’s note: Read TAN’s “tell your story” featuring Nannette Halliwell, at http://tremoraction.org/2014/05/advocate-1/. Then learn how to share your own personal story by registering for “True Help Telling Your Story,” at Webinar.Allsup.com. 

What Is The Greatest Story Ever Told?

2015 March 10

flyer-useBy Tai of Allsup

I know my answer. What’s yours?

At last year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, a group of storytellers weighed in with answers ranging from the Bible to “Anna Karenina” and “Charlotte’s Web.”

We relate to great stories. A story that echoes our own memories and evokes emotions we’ve felt before has a great impact, even if it is set in a foreign land with exotic characters.

I’ve never been to Africa or had a warthog as a friend, but “The Lion King” made me cry because I had just had my first son, and it helped me re-experience the joy of becoming a parent.

“Romeo and Juliet” is often called the greatest love story ever told—because the throes of adolescent love are universal.

I recently saw the movie “American Sniper.” At the end of the movie, everyone in the theater was still and quiet—connected by a communal acknowledgement of the story of sacrifice we had just watch unfold.

Great stories inspire, move and connect people.

True Help – Telling Your Story

I believe everyone has a great story inside of them. For individuals living with disabilities, those stories are too often left untold.

Tell your story.

Join me for the interactive Web event, “Telling Your Story,” Thursday, March 26, at 11 a.m. CST.

“Telling Your Story” will provide the knowledge and tools to help you develop your own narrative. It will help you share your story with friends and family, healthcare providers, social service agencies, peers, policymakers and other audiences.

“If you can imagine that there is truly something central and universal and beautiful in the story you’re working on that may rise up, it kind of keeps you going,” said Aspen Ideas Festival panelist Jay Allison, who was featured in the post-festival video.

He liked “The Lion King,” too.

Register for the free event at Webinar.Allsup.com.

A World Free Of MS

2015 March 3

NMSS_GatewayAreaChapterBy Guest Blogger Mitch Scheperle, online marketing coordinator, Gateway Area Chapter of the National MS Society

The National MS Society mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by multiple sclerosis.

We help each person affected by MS in our area address the challenges of living with MS by raising funds for cutting-edge research, driving change through advocacy, facilitating professional education, and providing programs and services that empower people with MS and their families to move their lives forward.

  • What is MS? In multiple sclerosis, damage to the myelin in the central nervous system (CNS)—and to the nerve fibers themselves—interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body.
  • Who gets MS? Anyone may develop MS, but there are some patterns. More than two to three times as many women as men develop MS and this gender difference has been increasing over the past 50 years. MS also occurs in most ethnic groups.
  • How many people have MS? More than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide.
  • What are the typical symptoms of MS? Because MS causes damage in the CNS, nearly any function can be adversely affected. However, the most common symptoms are overwhelming fatigue, visual disturbances, altered sensation and difficulties with mobility.
  • Can MS be cured? Not yet. There are now FDA-approved medications that have been shown to “modify” the course of MS by reducing the number of relapses and delaying progression of disability to some degree. Advances in treating and understanding MS are made every year, and progress in research to find a cure is very encouraging.

Fuel Progress During MS Awareness Week: March 2-8, 2015

Each year, people across the country who want to do something about multiple sclerosis—people just like you—unite during MS Awareness Week to share their stories, create awareness about the disease and change the world for everyone affected by MS.

MS Awareness Week is a special opportunity to inspire others to join you in taking action.

Taking action can be as simple as telling your own story in person or through social media, volunteering at an MS Society event or program to help others, or inviting friends and family to join you for the fundraising event you do each year. Big or small, every action matters and every connection counts.

It’s up to us to do something about MS. And MS Awareness Week is the perfect time to take the next step by sharing your story and inspiring others. What will you do for MS Awareness Week?

Share why you connect at MSconnection.org.

Learn more about the Gateway Area Chapter of the National MS Society at gatewayMSsociety.org.

Attention Vets: You May Qualify For VA Disability Benefits Even If You Weren’t In Combat

2015 March 2

military-uniformBy The Old Sarge

You didn’t have to have dodged bullets and bombs in a combat zone to qualify for veterans disability benefits.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reminds military veterans that they may qualify for disability benefits if they were exposed to a wide range of environmental hazards during military service if this exposure resulted in a disease or injury. I recently wrote about how Agent Orange is back in the news, but the definition of an environmental hazard extends far beyond the defoliant used in Vietnam. Also included are:

  • Asbestos: Members of certain occupation military specialties may have come in contact with asbestos during mining, milling or shipyard work. Some veterans were exposed to asbestos when entering older, damaged buildings in Iraq and other countries.
  • Contaminated drinking water: Water systems at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were contaminated with chemicals from at least 1957 through 1985. There is some evidence that the water may be linked certain diseases.
  • Specific environmental hazards: The VA also warns veterans that environmental exposure may include contact with burn pits, particulate matter, chemical fires and waste disposal systems.
  • Ionizing radiation: Some military members may have been exposed to radiation if they participated in nuclear weapons testing. Certain diseases may develop after radiation exposure.

Find more information about applying for veterans disability benefits on the VA website.

Veterans Disability Appeal

On the other hand, Allsup may be able to help if you already went through the VA process and were denied disability compensation, or if you received a lower rating than you believe you deserved.

Our VA-accredited Claims Agents work with veterans to successfully file appeals and receive the highest possible rating level of VA disability compensation. Brett Buchanan, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, heads our disability appeals service.

Click here for a free VA disability evaluation or call (888) 372-1190.

Tell them the Old Sarge sent you.

Rare Disease Day Unites Patient Advocates In The Fight For Research And Treatment

2015 February 19

PHA_logo-useBy Guest blogger Angelia DiGuiseppe, Grassroots Campaign Associate, Pulmonary Hypertension Association

Living with a rare disease can feel isolating, but in fact, 1 out of every 10 people has a rare disease.

That’s one in every crowded elevator. Four on every full bus. Thirty million people in the U.S. alone.

With so many people impacted by rare diseases, and so much recent progress in medical science, you might think that most rare diseases would be treatable. In fact, only about 250 of the 7,000 identified rare diseases have available treatments. That’s less than 5 percent. In addition, many of these diseases are unknown to the general public.

On Feb. 28, 2015, Rare Disease Day, individuals whose lives have been touched by a rare disease will join together to tell their neighbors, communities and the world what life with a rare disease is like.

The Pulmonary Hypertension Association is proud to partner with the National Organization for Rare Disorders in support of Rare Disease Day.

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a complex, potentially fatal lung disease that causes high blood pressure in the lungs, making it difficult to receive enough oxygen and forcing the heart to work harder. This can lead to right heart failure or death. Symptoms of PH include shortness of breath, fatigue, and in later stages, fainting. Because the symptoms are similar to those of more common conditions, PH patients often visit multiple doctors and wait two years or more for an accurate diagnosis. Though there are a dozen treatments for PH, there is no cure.

Individuals living with PH are forced to chart a new normal for their lives. For some that means restricting activity and taking complex cocktails of medications. For others it means not being able to walk up stairs or lift their children without the risk of passing out.

‘PHight’-in For A Better Life

Despite these obstacles, the PH community is full of people who choose to “PHight” for a better life for themselves and others living with rare disease.

  • “It’s so rewarding to work on the Stanford Race Against PH every year. It’s inspiring to see the effort and enthusiasm from the PH community,” said Kristi Kerivan.
  • “I’m making purple cupcakes with PH on top and wrapping the awareness bracelets around them! I’ve been fundraising…Let’s buy a cure!” said Jennie Scott Heineman.
  • “As a patient, being active in advocacy gives me another way to fight PH besides the physical fight. We all have the right to be heard,” said Perry Mamigoninan.

On Feb. 28, please join those living with pulmonary hypertension and the approximately 7,000 other rare diseases to spread the word about the urgent need for rare disease research and treatment.

To learn more about Rare Disease Day visit www.rarediseaseday.us.

To learn more about pulmonary hypertension visit www.PHAssociation.org.

Some Day: Maybe Fewer SSDI Claims For Cancer

2015 February 17

Swierczek-colorBy Ed of Allsup

Here are some interesting numbers: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

On the other hand, consider that only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are determined to be hereditary, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

What this means—and many cancer groups are trying to get the word out—is that a number of types of cancer are preventable through lifestyle choices, eating habits and other methods of prevention.

Social Security Disability And Cancer

I bring this up now because February is National Cancer Prevention Month. At Allsup, we have helped thousands of individuals with cancer to receive their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

People who contact Allsup typically have experienced severe impact on their lives from cancer, either from the progress of the disease or the side effects of the treatment.

What types of cancer may qualify for SSDI benefits? They include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • And others

If you are applying for Social Security disability benefits, it’s because you had to stop working and can no longer continue with substantial gainful activity due to disability. It’s because your cancer created a new normal for you, and this happens to millions of people in the U.S. each year.

But there is the opportunity to try to change these statistics. During National Cancer Prevention Month, consider what you can do to raise awareness about cancer prevention. You may want to start with education—reduce your own risk. There are numerous websites with good information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ACS.

The more people use all of the great knowledge we have about cancer prevention—the more likely we’ll see fewer people who need SSDI because of cancer.

If you or someone you know has cancer and is considering applying for SSDI benefits, you can reach an Allsup disability specialist at (800) 678-3276 with your questions.

Click here to visit our Facebook page and share your best resources and websites for cancer prevention.

Useful Mobile Apps For People With Disabilities

2015 February 10

LW-blogBy Leia of Allsup

By now, you’ve all probably heard the term “app.” For those who don’t know what an app is: It’s a user-friendly program on a mobile device, like a smartphone, that can enhance your life in some way.

More and more, Allsup customers can find easy ways to access important resources, whether you’re a veteran, caregiver or person with a disability.

So take a banking website, for instance. There are pages and pages of information on loans, services, products—but maybe you just want to see your account. Many banks now put their most popular features into an easy-to-use app for their customers. Consider that Apple’s App Store has 1.2 million available apps. With this number growing by the day, there’s no guessing what you might find.

Here are some apps I’ve come across designed specifically for people living with disabilities.

  • Med Time. This app reminds you when to take a particular medication. It saves and stores all of your medication information. It also lists what you take, what dose and provides a medication reminder with an alarm that sounds off.
  • TapToTalkTM. This app is designed specifically for those with verbal difficulty. Users can communicate at the touch of a button without saying anything themselves.
  • Voice Dream Reader. This app helps people with visual impairments by using text-to-speech technology. People who have trouble seeing the screens on their smartphones or tablets can have messages read aloud. They also can record them without needing to type/text any words. You also can upload Word or PDF documents for use in the app.
  • Alzheimer’s Cards. This app helps those with Alzheimer’s disease by stimulating conversation and memories based on the images that are shown on the app. The app’s features provide a form of cue cards for helping with communication.
  • In Case of Emergency (ICE). This app provides someone with all the information needed to reach emergency contacts or your doctor in critical situations. The app also holds vital medical information, such as allergies and medications.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Reference.  This app allows you to easily review and reference provisions in the ADA. You can view a handheld version of the Act, with FAQs and simple sections of the bill. This could be an important resource when handling issues of fairness and discrimination for people with disabilities.
  • BigNames. This app provides an extra-large, more readable font for your contacts list, so it is easier to see when browsing and dialing numbers.

These are just some of the many apps offered to those needing assistance.

If you find that you can’t do something or wish you had help with a task—try searching for an app that can help you. More than likely “there’s an app for that.”

Do you have an app you use that you’d like to share with other Allsup customers and fans? Click here to post it to our Facebook page and use the hashtag #SSDIApp.

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Awareness Week Is Feb. 7-14

2015 February 3

ACHA-LogoBy Guest Blogger Paula Miller, Member Outreach Manager, Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA)

Hearts are everywhere in the month of February—after all, it is Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month.

When you think of Heart Month, you most likely think of the prevention of acquired heart disease. Many people do.

But do you know about the No. 1 birth defect—the “other heart disease,” comprised of more than 40 defects and commonly referred to as congenital heart disease (CHD)?

Adults Living With Congenital Heart Disease

If not, here are 10 things you should know:

  1. CHD affects the structure and function of the heart and how blood flows through the heart and out to the rest of the body.
  2. About 1 out of every 100 babies is born with some type of CHD. And of these, 1 in 10 will not live until adulthood.
  3. There are estimated to be between 2-3 million people in the U.S. living with CHD, with adults outnumbering children.
  4. There is no cure, regardless of age and the number of surgeries. CHD is a lifelong disease requiring lifelong care by congenital heart specialists, not general cardiologists.
  5. Fewer than 10 percent of adults with CHD are receiving the recommended care in specialized adult congenital heart disease clinics.
  6. There is very little surveillance data in the U.S., and the data we have is extrapolated from our Canadian neighbors.
  7. CHD research is grossly underfunded relative to the prevalence of the disease.
  8. Healthcare costs and access to care are a constant challenge for those living with CHD, but more so for adults who report difficulty obtaining insurance that will cover the specialized care that is needed.
  9. Compared to the general population, adults with CHD have three to four times higher rates of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and intensive care unit stays.
  10. CHD is a huge public health issue in the U.S. In 2009, the hospital cost for roughly 27,000 hospital stays for children treated primarily for CHD was nearly $1.5 billion. In the same year, the hospital cost for roughly 12,000 hospital stays of adults treated primarily for CHD was at least $280 million.

Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week, Feb. 7-14, is the time to get the word out and educate the public about the impact of CHD on children, adults and their families.

Chances are you know someone who has CHD. Whether this is you, a loved one or a friend—help the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) spread the word.

To learn how, check out the ACHA website at http://www.achaheart.org/about-us/news/newsid395/96.aspx.

Please share this blog with your friends and family.