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2016 July 27
by Allsup

By Jim of Allsupscreenshot_landing2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your SSDI Application: Do It Right The First Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADA Marks 26th Anniversary On 26th

2016 July 22
by Allsup

By The Old Sarge

Image of the blue painted symbol on a parking spot indicating that the spot is for handicapped only.  The symbol is a blue square, with the international symbol for handicapped parking in the middle of it.  The black asphalt is clean and new.

When President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990, people with disabilities were given full access to public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation and employment.

This watershed moment was a great and noble idea, but sometimes it’s much easier to create a law than it is to implement and enforce it.

One example comes to mind. Not long after the ADA was enacted, I joined CEO Jim Allsup on a visit to Washington, D.C., where we met with leaders of the disability rights movement. We were there to spread the word about how Allsup could help former workers obtain the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits they paid for while they were able to work.

But our conversations didn’t stop there. For example, we talked about the confusion regarding the definition of how employers would make “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace for their employees. Just what is reasonable? That discussion continues today.

One day we met independently with two powerful disability rights leaders. The topic was wheelchair curb ramps, and I was surprised to learn that these two men were on opposite—and very vocal—sides of what I thought was a simple issue.

Not so. One man, with paralysis, wanted all street curbs cut to make it easier for other wheelchair users. Makes sense to me, I reasoned. Why not?

Not so fast, a blind man warned me later that same day. Creating curb ramps is extremely dangerous for people who are visually impaired and use long canes, because they are unable to detect streets before stepping into traffic.

Compromises on the construction of curb ramps were eventually made, but the battle for the civil rights of people with disabilities continues.

Allsup has been part of that effort since 1984, some six years before President Bush signed the ADA into law. In the early days, we worked to help qualified people receive SSDI benefits, and we still do.

Today, Allsup Employment Services, Inc., an Allsup subsidiary, also helps SSDI beneficiaries to use these benefits to return to work when they are able to do so.

Efforts to realize the promise and ideals of the ADA continue.

Minority Mental Health: Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we aren’t real

2016 July 12

By Tai of AllsupMMH-Social-FB

African American actor Jesse Williams gave an impassioned speech when he accepted the BET Humanitarian Award last month. He attacked systemic racism and promoted social justice. Near the end of his speech, he said, “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we aren’t real.”

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Give me a few paragraphs to make the connection.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the groundbreaking U.S. Surgeon General’s report, Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity—A Supplement to Mental Health.

The report concluded that mental illnesses are serious and disabling disorders affecting all populations, regardless of race or ethnicity; however, it exacts a disproportionately greater toll on the overall health and productivity of minorities.

Among the report’s findings:

  1. Ethnic and racial minorities in the U.S. face a social and economic environment of inequality that includes greater exposure to racism and discrimination, violence, and poverty, all of which take a toll on mental health.
  2. Racism and discrimination are stressful events that adversely affect health and mental health. They place minorities at risk for mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
  3. Mistrust of mental health services is an important reason deterring minorities from seeking treatment. Their concerns are reinforced by evidence, both direct and indirect, of clinician bias and stereotyping.
  4. Cultural misunderstandings or communication problems between patients and clinicians may prevent minorities from using services and receiving appropriate care.

Toughness & Resiliency

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines magic as, “the use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible,” and “a special, exciting quality that makes someone or something different and better than others.”

Key ingredients to the “magic” of African American culture includes culturally protective factors cited by the report—spirituality and community and family support.

I would add resiliency. The ability to endure, most often in silence, is much more than a valued personal characteristic. It is how you survive.

This necessary toughness often makes accepting and dealing with mental illness much harder to do in communities of color.

The same dynamic—the need to be “tougher than” to exist in a society that constantly sends the message that you are “less than,” is also experienced in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.

It’s not surprising that the report also found that attitudes toward mental illness held by minorities are as unfavorable, or even more unfavorable, than attitudes held by whites. Stigma discourages major segments of the population, majority and minority alike, from seeking help.

As we observe Minority Mental Health Month in July, and celebrate the magic found in all cultures, I’d like to emphasize Williams’ reminder that we are real.

Our magic doesn’t exempt us from mental illness. But it can help us understand, love and support each other. We can share our stories, speak out against stigma, and raise awareness that treatment works.

Did You Miss National HIV Testing Day?

2016 June 29

By Tai of Allsup CDCArt_doingit-instagram-nathan

National HIV testing day was June 27. The day may be over, but the need for people get tested is not.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, but one in eight people don’t know they have it. That’s one reason why the CDC advocates for routine voluntary HIV screening as a normal part of medical practice for all patients aged 13-64.

Additional reasons why the CDC recommends routine HIV screening:

  • HIV infection is a serious health disorder that can be diagnosed before symptoms develop.
  • Infected patients have years of life to gain if treatment is initiated early, before symptoms develop.
  • The costs of screening are reasonable in relation to the anticipated benefits.
  • Thirty percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who are living with undiagnosed HIV.

The CDC estimates that more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in the U.S. could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people living with HIV and making sure they receive early, ongoing treatment.

However, despite the benefits of HIV testing, nationwide, only 42 percent of people aged 18-64 report ever getting tested, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

According to the nonprofit organization Medwiser, barriers to testing include stigma, fear, people not thinking they are at risk, and physician and healthcare systems not being aware of screening recommendations. 

Find Confidential HIV Testing

Most preventive healthcare, such as HIV testing, is fully covered by private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. Under the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover HIV testing for everyone ages 15 to 65, and for people of other ages at increased risk—without additional cost-sharing, such as copays or deductibles.

Medicare covers HIV testing once every 12 months and up to three times during a pregnancy. Medicaid coverage of routine HIV screening varies by state.

Even if you don’t have health insurance, you may be able to access free, fast and confidential testing near you. Visit the CDC’s website at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ for a site locator. 

HIV/AIDS and SSDI

Today, HIV is a manageable disease. According to AIDS.gov, most people with HIV/AIDS can continue working, and their overall well-being and financial health can be more stable when they are gainfully employed.

For those who aren’t able to continue working due to HIV/AIDS, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can offer a monthly income, access to Medicare, and help returning to work.

A recent Social Security study found that Social Security disability beneficiaries with HIV/AIDS were among those most likely to be employed.

However, the best way to avoid the need for SSDI due to HIV/AIDS is to get tested. Take the test and take action to protect your health.

National Disability Professionals Week
Is June 20-24

2016 June 21

By The Old Sargess-card

As the baby boom generation ages, the number of people living with serious disabilities is exploding. Today, nearly 11 million former workers, their spouses and their children are drawing Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

About 2.5 million more apply for this critical program every year.

They all have several things in common: They suffer from life-changing disabilities so severe they had to quit working, and all of them rely on a network made up of their families, caregivers and medical professionals for support.

An integral part of that network includes the professionals who manage, process and decide their claims for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA), which oversees the SSDI program, employs more than 65,000 people nationwide. More than 16,000 people work at state-level Disability Determination Services offices.

The National Association of Disability Examiners (NADE) serves the workers who make critical decisions every day that affect so many people, and for the last 15 years, the organization has set aside one week each year to honor them.

This year, National Disability Professionals Week is June 20-24.

In our more than 30 years in business, Allsup has helped more than 250,000 people with severe disabilities receive the SSDI benefits they paid for when they were able to work. We know how important the professionals at the SSA and DDS are in the disability claims and appeals process, and we salute them during the week that acknowledges their service.

Would You Like A Fitness Tracker For Your Brain?

2016 June 14

By Tai of Allsup fitness_watches_300

I recently read an exposé on “fitness tracker cheats.” These are people who attached their personal body monitoring devices, such as a Fitbit or Jawbone to their pets, fans, and other moving objects to inflate the amount of physical activity their devices reported.

Really. The perpetrators were usually trying to win an employer-sponsored contest, and others wanted bragging rights.

However, most people use the wearable monitors in earnest efforts to improve their physical health. Rates of obesity, heart disease and other chronic conditions keep rising, and physical activity is one way to stem the tide.

But what about a fitness tracker for mental health? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to monitor your moods, thoughts and emotions to improve your mental wellness? Imagine being part of a supportive community that gives you feedback and encouragement.

If the idea intrigues you, join me this Thursday, June 16, for “True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Mental Health.” Register here.

You’ll learn about tools you can use as fitness trackers for your brain. There also will be information on how you could receive a Fitbit for participating in a mental health and cardiovascular disease study.

Researchers are learning more about the biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health and their effects on physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) mental illness is associated with increased occurrence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy and cancer.

What’s good for the body is good for the mind, and vice versa.

If you are reading this blog after June 16, you can still register and view the on-demand version of the program, which includes access to a number of resources and the transcript of the program. Find more details at Webinar.Allsup.com

United For Mental Health, Join Web Event June 16

2016 June 13

By Tai of AllsupTH-webinar_Mental-Health

I am privileged to work with a variety of mental health organizations as manager of Strategic Alliances at Allsup. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and mental disorders are the primary diagnoses for about one-third of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients.

Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and Mental Health America provide support and resources to many of the former workers Allsup represents for Social Security disability benefits.

Last week, these and 11 other national advocacy organizations participated in the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Hill Day. The event brings hundreds of providers, administrators, board members, consumers and community stakeholders to Washington, D.C., for a day of workshops on federal behavioral health policy. The next day, participants arrive on Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials and advocate for mental health legislation.

Participants from every walk of life shared their stories to illustrate the need for accessible, quality, comprehensive mental health treatment; convey the importance of eliminating stigma, and provide proof that treatment works.

One social service provider spoke of her sadness when a semi-nude woman with a mental illness was laughed at and videotaped in a parking lot, instead of being shown compassion.

“If she was having a heart attack, people would not have reacted that way,” she said. “They would be trying to help, asking if anyone knew CPR and calling for an ambulance.” Just like the heart, the brain is part of the body.

People living with chronic illness and disability may understand this better than most, as they often experience depression and other mental disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if not effectively treated, depression is likely to become a chronic disease. Just experiencing one episode of depression places an individual at a 50 percent risk for experiencing another episode, and increases the chances of having more depression episodes. This adversely affects the course and complicates the treatment of chronic disease.

Mental Health Web Event Is Thursday

“Claiming Power to Improve Your Mental Health,” is an Allsup True Help® Web Event for individuals living with chronic illness and disability.

Please register here and join me June 16, noon CST. Experts on mental health, chronic illness, disability employment and digital imagery will share information and resources that can enhance your mental wellness.

Please help share this event, which can be found at Webinar.Allsup.com or http://bit.ly/MentalHealthPower.

One of the most powerful aspects of Hill Day 2016 was the collaboration that took place among so many different organizations. I look forward to including you in Allsup’s latest collaboration promoting mental health.

Do You Know Scleroderma?

2016 June 3

By Guest Blogger Jillian H. Scola, communications manager, Scleroderma FoundationScleroderma_blog

If you’ve ever silently questioned someone wearing mittens on a warm spring day, the answer may be scleroderma. Or wondered why a woman, who otherwise appeared middle-aged, wore a face as wrinkle-free as her teenage daughter. The answer may be scleroderma.

But chances are you don’t know scleroderma. You don’t know the pain and challenges that the relatively rare autoimmune disorder wreaks on sufferers. That’s why a group of nonprofits is working together in June during Scleroderma Awareness Month culminating on World Scleroderma Day on June 29. They’re partnering so that more people know scleroderma and fewer patients will suffer in silence.

During the month of June, North America’s leading scleroderma advocacy and research organizations—Scleroderma Foundation, Scleroderma Research Foundation and Scleroderma Society of Canada—will combine marketing efforts to boost awareness and spark compassion.

This year marks the agencies’ third consecutive annual campaign effort under the name “Hard word. Harder disease.” Together, they’ve grown the scleroderma network and increased online buzz and engagement.

Find A Local Walk Or Walk “Virtually”!

To commemorate World Scleroderma Day on June 29, 2016, the national office of the Scleroderma Foundation is hosting a virtual “Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma” walk-a-thon! This is a great opportunity to connect with old friends, meet new ones online and virtually walk in memory or honor of a loved one affected by scleroderma.

The World Scleroderma Day Virtual Walk is connected to “Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma,” the foundation’s premier fundraising event.

Unfortunately, “Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma” walks do not occur in every city across America. But it is important to the foundation that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the walk in some way.

Before you begin planning your walk, check here and see if there is a local walk near you. Many of our 22 chapters are hosting walks in 2016 and also have their own virtual component in case you cannot attend.

We encourage you to participate locally whenever possible. Your local chapter could have just the opportunity you’re looking for—such as helping others learn to live with scleroderma, helping with an event, and also making sure scleroderma remains a priority issue for elected officials.

If there is not a local walk near you, the National Scleroderma Virtual Walk is the way to go and was actually developed with you in mind! It is an easy and fun way to make a difference by raising funds online to support those living with scleroderma.

National Cancer Survivors Day Is June 5

2016 May 31

By Tai of Allsup2016-NCSD-logo-166

There are nearly 14.5 million people living with and beyond cancer in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation (NCSDF).

Sunday, June 5, is the 29th annual National Cancer Survivors Day®.

The annual celebration is held the first Sunday in June and is an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges survivors face.

“When most people hear the word ‘cancer,’ they automatically think the worst,” said Laura Shipp, foundation spokesperson, in a press release about the event. “But the truth is that more people are living longer and better quality lives after cancer than ever before.”

The day raises awareness about the hardships for cancer survivors and their loved ones.  “These include not just physical side effects,” Shipp said, “but also psychological, social, and emotional distress, as well as significant financial hardships.”

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that growing medical costs, missed work and reduced productivity significantly impact U.S. cancer survivors.

For individuals with cancer and cancer survivors who must stop working, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an important resource. 

SSDI Helps with Finances

The average monthly SSDI payment in 2016 is $1,166, and $1,983 for those with dependents. Filing for SSDI also can help cancer survivors protect their retirement income by “freezing” their Social Security earnings records during their period of disability. This means those years of little or no earnings won’t count when calculating your retirement benefits. 

SSDI Helps with Healthcare

Regardless of age, 24 months after the date of cash entitlement to SSDI benefits, SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare, which includes hospital (Part A) and medical (Part B) benefits. 

SSDI Helps with Re-employment

When and if they are able to re-enter the workforce, cancer survivors who receive SSDI are also eligible for Social Security’s Ticket to Work program, which includes employment counseling and other supports. 

Allsup Helps with SSDI Screening And Representation

Cancer patients and survivors who have not been able to work or anticipate not being able to work for 12 months or more may be eligible for SSDI benefits. Request a complimentary evaluation at Expert.Allsup.com or by calling (800) 678-3276. 

Find True Help® During June 16 Web Event

Cancer can take a psychological toll.

Fortunately, many organizations offer resources and programs that help with mental health needs. Whether you are a cancer survivor, or someone living with a chronic illness or disability, please join me on Thursday, June 16, at noon (CST) for “True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Mental Health.”

Experts in the fields of mental health, social work, employment and chronic illness will be available to answer your questions and show you innovative programs designed to empower and improve your quality of life.

Remembering Norman

2016 May 26
by Allsup

By The Old Sargedan-allsup-blog

Realizing that Memorial Day is Monday, May 30, brought back memories of my own days in uniform.

Some decades ago when I still in the Air Force, I wrote a magazine story about a young airman killed in Vietnam in 1969. Norman Thomas was one of the more than 58,000 Americans killed there. But Vietnam wasn’t a movie. He didn’t die in a blaze of glory; he died in a hail of shrapnel on an anonymous Southeast Asia flight line.

Norman was of my generation; the Vietnam generation. I chose him to write about because, in a sense, he was nothing special, unless all who died in combat are special. He was just one of us; baby boomers caught up in a war that no one there understood and few back home cared about. He wasn’t a hero, unless all who served and died are heroes. I wrote about Norman for precisely that reason.

While writing the story, I learned that Norman is more than a distant memory and a name chiseled on the granite walls of the Vietnam Memorial.

It took me months to research and write the story. I traveled to five states to interview his parents, his widow and his daughter. I spoke at some length with childhood friends, relatives, a teacher and a burly high school wrestling coach who remembered him fondly with a tear in his eye. I even talked to his barber. The day before Norman left for the Air Force, he asked for a buzz cut so he wouldn’t stand out in basic training. He could have saved two bits because an Air Force barber gave him a free haircut the next day, whether he needed one or not.

I also learned that Norman was an ordinary young man with simple aspirations. He wanted to serve his country for four years and then return home to his wife and daughter.  “Norm was a product of a broken home,” his widow told me some 15 years after his death. “All he really wanted was a real home and a family to call his own.”

That wasn’t meant to be. Just a few weeks after his 21st birthday, an enemy rocket destroyed Norman’s C-130 Hercules while it was taxiing on a runway in Quang Loi, a tiny village in South Vietnam’s Binh Long Province.

At that moment, Norman Thomas ceased to be. His is a sad story; a tender story. It’s also a story that’s been repeated countless thousands of times over the years by so many other Americans who died while wearing the uniform.

On this Memorial Day, let’s pause and remember all those who died defending our country.

And let’s remember Norman.