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Vets Who Served at Camp Lejeune May Be Eligible For VA Disability Benefits

2017 January 18

By The Old Sarge

Attention veterans and military family members who served or lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. If you suffer from certain medical conditions, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Over a five-year period beginning in March, the VA will begin providing about $2.2 billion to veterans and their families who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at the Marine base. The VA announced on Jan. 13 that there is scientific and medical evidence that shows an association to water contaminates on Lejeune and certain diseases.

The new regulations cover veterans that were stationed there for at least 30 days cumulative between August 1953 through December 1987. To qualify for the cash payouts, veterans must have been stationed there for at least 30 days cumulative during that period.

The VA estimates that up to 900,000 military members may have been exposed to the contaminated water. The VA says that as of Friday, Jan. 13, it had already received approximately 1,400 disability claims related to Lejeune and its toxic water.

Veterans, Reservists and Guardsmen who served at the Marine bases during that period, and who have been diagnosed with one or more of the following presumptive conditions, may qualify for VA disability benefits:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

The VA presumes that specific medical disabilities diagnosed in military veterans were caused by military service and disability benefits can be awarded without a medical opinion.

Visit or email to learn how Allsup can help if you or someone you know has been denied VA disability compensation benefits, or if you believe you should have received a higher disability rating.

empower by Allsup®—Making Things Possible

2017 January 9

LW-blogBy Leia of Allsup

“For most people, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology

makes things possible.”—Mary Pat Radabaugh

If you have a smart phone and internet service, you have opportunities 24/7 to learn, grow and connect on a global scale. For many people with disabilities, technology is shattering barriers to communication, interaction and social participation.

Websites and mobile devices and services are the technologies that can contribute most to the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, including employment and access to government services, according to the World Bank Group’s 2016 paper, Bridging the Disability Divide through Digital Technologies.

A good example is empower by Allsup®, a dual purpose online tool that helps individuals determine their likelihood of qualifying for the government-run Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and get started on their Social Security disability application. The software provides personal guidance throughout the SSDI application process and helps individuals use benefits to return to work. empower has text enlargement, scripts to accommodate hearing impairments and videos that walk individuals through the process.

Browser extensions such as those developed for the Chrome browser, which include text to speech, click-free browsing and enhancements that aid readability and comprehension and  reduce screen distractions are additional examples of technology helping individuals with disabilities maximize their internet use.

However, empower and other innovations will only help people if they know they are available and have access to them. Studies show that Americans with disabilities use the internet approximately half as much as those without disabilities and their rate of adoption lags behind the general population.

Improving access to technology

Assistive technology is any item, equipment, software or product system that increases, maintains, or improves the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities, according to the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA).

While some innovations are free or low-cost, the price of assistive technology is often a barrier to access. Fortunately, there are resources that can help. According to ATIA:

  • Government programs (Social Security, veterans benefits or state Medicaid agencies) pay for certain assistive technology if a doctor prescribes it as a necessary medical device.
  • Private health insurance pays for certain assistive technology if a doctor prescribes it as a necessary medical or rehabilitative device.
  • Rehabilitation and job training programs, may pay for assistive technology and training to help people get jobs.
  • Employers may pay for assistive technology that is a reasonable accommodation.

The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has a state directory of assistive technology programs that offer:

  • Device loan and demonstration, and in some states, borrowing programs to “try out” devices.
  • Funding resources for purchasing or acquiring assistive technology.
  • Device exchange and recycling programs that provide used equipment at little to no cost.

There are also Alternative Financing Programs that provide affordable loans to purchase assistive technology. Organizations like EveryoneOn offer high-speed, low-cost internet service, computers and digital literacy courses.

Share this blog and the resources listed to raise awareness and make technology more accessible to all.

SSDI, Veterans Disability Benefits Increase A Modest 0.3 Percent

2017 January 5

dan-allsup-blogBy the Old Sarge

If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or veterans disability benefits, you’ll see an increase in your monthly check this year.

You’ll have to look closely, however, because the 2017 cost-of-living (COLA) increase is only 0.3 percent.

To determine the increase, the Social Security Administration (SSA) used third-quarter results reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The increase takes effect in January 2017 for SSDI recipients. Automatic COLA increases have been applied to Social Security benefits since 1975. In the most recent decade, however, there was no increase in 2010, 2011 or 2016.

The average SSDI benefit will increase to $1,171 from $1,167, an increase of just $48 per year. Unfortunately, because the Department of Agriculture has forecasted that supermarket costs will jump 1 to 2 percent this year, a COLA bump this small won’t compensate for increased costs for things like healthcare, housing or groceries

It won’t even cover higher Medicare Part B premiums for 2017.

The good news is that there are resources and programs that could help. Allsup recently hosted the live web event, True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances. Patient advocates and resource experts from the National Stroke Association, the Colon Cancer Alliance, Caregiver Action Network and Allsup provided information on employment and disability, the SSDI program, and financial resources for people with disabilities and caregivers. It is now available to view on YouTube, and you can leave questions in the comment section.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

2016 December 20

dan-allsup-blogBy The Old Sarge of Allsup

Most generations have an “I remember precisely where I was and what I was doing when it happened” moment.

For the millennial generation, it was the terrorist attack of 9/11. For me and other older baby boomers, it was the assassination of JFK. I was in a high school class, and I distinctly remember when our vice principal announced over the public address system that President Kennedy had been shot.

For the men and women of what newsman Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation, it was the moment on Dec. 7, 1941, when they first heard about Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Two hours later, thousands were dead and wounded, and the U.S. Pacific Fleet was decimated. The U.S. entered World War II the next day when it declared war on Japan.

Earlier this month, thousands of people gathered at Pearl Harbor with the few remaining survivors and bowed their heads to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack. President Barack Obama had a poignant message to them.

“Over 2,400 American patriots lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor—military and civilian, men, women and children,” Obama said in a statement. “Their sacrifice galvanized millions of GIs and Rosie the Riveters who answered the call to defend liberty at its moment of maximum peril. In the hours after the attack, President Roosevelt promised that ‘the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.’ Thanks to the heroism of a generation, we did.”

Other wars and global conflicts have followed Pearl Harbor and the heroes of World War II. We at Allsup salute them.

Visit to see how Allsup can help if you or someone you know has been denied VA disability compensation benefits, or if you believe you should have received a higher disability rating.

Empty Chairs

2016 December 13

martha-raymondBy Guest Blogger Martha Raymond, MA, CPN, founder and CEO of The Raymond Foundation and executive director of Michael’s Mission

Loss. Loneliness. Emptiness. The feelings are palpable.

In my dining room I treasure the antique chairs (circa 1870) that once filled my childhood home. My family home was once a Civil War Stagecoach Inn, a landmark filled with rich history. But to me, the home where I grew up was all about family, security, unwavering support and love.

Holidays Remind Us Of Lost Loved Ones

When I look at these chairs, the chairs where my Mom and Dad once sat, I reflect on all of life’s occasions where their presence, laughter and conversation is greatly missed—holidays, birthdays, Sunday dinners—milestones both large and small.

We all have experienced great loss. No one is immune to the sick, gnawing feeling that we carry in our hearts.

We go about our daily lives, cope with our own unique feelings the best we can, and, in many cases, put on a brave face in front of others. For me, the best way to cope has always been to help others understand this disease, and to advocate for prevention and screening. And so for the past 25 years, I have turned my pain into a purpose, becoming a passionate colon cancer advocate.

Trust me, I wish this passion never had to find me. I wish I had never heard the words: colon cancer. I loathe this disease and what it did to my family. But helping others has been and will continue to be my passion, and in doing this work, I keep the spirit of my Mom and Dad with me.

Medical advances are significant since my parents were diagnosed in the 1970s and 1980s. A generation ago, screening tests were not readily available for patients experiencing symptoms. The colonoscopy was in its infancy and still in clinical trials.

Take Action, Screen For Colon Cancer

Today, however, there are screening options to help eradicate colon cancer. We may not have had these resources to help prior generations, but we do now.

Please join me in this call to action: Take a moment and ask your loved ones about your family health history. Do you have colon or GI cancers in your family? Do you have GI symptoms or feel that something isn’t quite right? Trust your intuition and request a screening test. Screening is the smart choice. Do this in memory of those who didn’t have a choice.

In honor of my parents, Margaret and Patrick, I remain passionate about eradicating colon cancer.

Please join my efforts so that another family does not have an empty chair where a loved one once sat.

Published on All Things Disability with permission of The Raymond Foundation; Copyright © 2016 by The Raymond Foundation. Contact Martha Raymond at for permissions information.

Colon Cancer: Don’t Ignore The Symptoms

2016 December 8

valarie_schlosser-useBy Guest Blogger Valarie Schlosser, patient, advocate, volunteer, Colon Cancer Alliance

Have you ever had the rug pulled out from beneath you, causing you to fall hard, hitting your butt on the floor? Have you ever had a jar of marbles slip out of your hand, and hit the floor, rolling everywhere? That is how I felt when I was told, “There is a mass the size of a lemon in your colon and we believe it’s cancer. We believe it’s bleeding because you need a blood transfusion.” I was shocked!

Of course, I said no in the beginning. The ER doctor ordered a CT scan, and after seeing the results of the scan he called in an oncologist and a general surgeon. I was admitted to ICU, and put on the schedule for a colonoscopy the next morning, which was a Sunday. The colonoscopy team came to my ICU room to perform the procedure. I had no idea of the severity of what was going on and what was to come.

When I woke that night, the surgeon was standing next to my bed. He spoke in a direct, matter of fact, kind of way. “The mass is metastasized and you are having emergency surgery tomorrow. It is colon cancer.”

That’s when the rug was yanked from underneath me…and the jar of marbles fell to the floor—those were my thoughts running all over the place. The doctors decide it would be best to also do a full hysterectomy and remove my appendix during the emergency surgery.

How could this be happening? My brother lost the fight to colon cancer in 2010. I really didn’t know much about colon cancer at that time, and it would have been a good time to learn.

The most important point that I would like to make is that I had all the symptoms, but chose to ignore them. I was too busy with life to listen to my body screaming out:

  • Blood in my stool
  • Super tired
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea, throwing up every morning

That Saturday, when I finally drove myself to the ER, it was because of the pain I was having in my stomach. It felt like labor pains. I knew something was really wrong. That’s how my journey began.

I am in treatment now, and speaking with other cancer survivors gives me hope. I share my story to help others.

If you are experiencing symptoms and are not sure what to do, call the Colon Cancer Alliance Helpline at (877) 422-2030. They were there for me from the first phone call, providing information, connecting me with others and even offering financial support. My journey is not over yet!

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

2016 November 30

landoflincoln_honorflightBy Mary Beth of Allsup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 November 22

By Tai of Allsup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

2016 November 16

caregiver-poster2016By Tai of Allsup

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

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

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

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

Caregiving Stress Ties Back To Health Problems

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

If you are a caregiver, CAN encourages you to:

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Know 20 Veterans? Call Them

2016 November 8

nflb_logoBy Tai of Allsup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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