By 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.
By 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 Suicide.org for more on the topic.
I learned there are three main factors present in veteran suicides:
- Loss of a feeling of belonging
- Feeling of being a burden
- 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 Veterans.Allsup.com.
Call a veteran and tell them you appreciate them. I’ll be calling 20.
By Guest Blogger Zach Baldwin, director of outreach, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
As people with disabilities, we want to live independent lives and contribute our talent and energy to the future success of our great nation.
The 56 million Americans with disabilities make remarkable and valuable contributions to our communities. However, despite these contributions and despite our numbers, Americans with disabilities continue to face discrimination in many arenas, including employment, housing, transportation, health care, and education.
In 2016, there are 35.7 million people with disabilities who are eligible to vote. That number increases to 62.7 million when we count everyone living in households with individuals who have disabilities (Rutgers University). We have a responsibility to vote to support our interests, and we have the power to do so.
The REV UP Campaign aims to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use your Power!
Earlier this year, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) developed the REV UP Presidential Candidate Questionnaire and sent it to all the candidates for president. To date, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have responded to share more details on how they would address issues that are important to the disability community.
After receiving a response from the top two presidential candidates, AAPD compiled the REV UP Presidential Candidate Questionnaire – Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump. This resource provides the candidates’ responses to each question side-by-side to make it easier for readers to compare what each candidate said they would do (or not do).
To accommodate people with various types of disabilities, we have posted the full, unedited answers from each candidate along with “main points” for each response to make the language used more accessible. This accommodation does not and should not be interpreted to (a) favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates.
With less than two weeks until Election Day, now is a critical time to ensure that all voters have access to resources in order to make an informed decision at the polls.
It is our hope that this questionnaire provides the disability community with useful information on how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would address issues that impact our lives.
When the disability community turns out in large numbers to vote in the 2016 election—we will send a strong signal to elected officials, candidates, and the rest of the country, that we are indeed a significant part of the electorate and that we expect candidates to address issues important to us if they want to receive our vote.
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities.
By Aaron of Allsup
We’re getting ready for the presidential election and the World Series, so that means it’s also time to prepare for Medicare open enrollment season.
Actually, open enrollment is well underway. It began Oct. 15 and runs through Wednesday, Dec. 7.
Open enrollment is the window that Medicare participants have to review their 2017 plan options. This is your opportunity to make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Part D prescription drug plans.
You can also find ways to save money.
Because Medicare’s Boards of Trustees said they expect higher Part B premiums next year, I strongly advise you to take a good look at all of your options—that’s your money they’re talking about. (Looking for details about Medicare’s “Parts”? Click here.)
Choosing your Medicare plan can be difficult because there are so many options to consider. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that you’ll have a choice of about 19 Medicare Advantage plans, 26 prescription drug plans and 16 Medicare Advantage-Part D plans.
That’s why I suggest that you check out the Allsup Medicare Advisor. It provides Medicare plan selection assistance with Medicare Advantage plans, Part D prescription drug plans and Medigap, or supplemental coverage.
By Guest Blogger Crawford Clay, patient navigator, Colon Cancer Alliance
Hi there! I’m Crawford. I’d like to take a minute to talk to you about a tricky subject: finances.
I’m a 12-year stage III rectal cancer survivor. I’ve also worked with the Colon Cancer Alliance’s free helpline for the past five years. Nearly half the calls we get are about money, so I’ve had a lot of experience talking about finances.
It’s a topic people can get pretty uncomfortable talking about.
I know because you tell me. You also show me. It’s hard to keep people talking long enough to truly help them. Callers hustle me off the phone so fast you’d think I was asking them for money.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Finances are a tough subject, but it all starts with asking for help. Yep, it is that easy. The first thing I want you to understand is people want to help. As proof, we have over 10 pages of organizations that offer help in the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Support and Financial Resource Guide.
The second key is to be proactive, not reactive.
Once you’ve gotten the eviction notice, your options become incredibly narrow. Most organizations limit their help to before you get in the hole financially.
I can’t say it enough: The time to start looking for help is now.
Ideally, you should discuss finances at time of diagnosis. You should talk to:
- The hospital
- Your doctors’ offices
- Your landlord/mortgage company
- The utility company
- Anyone you owe regular payments to
You also need to be creative in your thinking. Maybe you can’t find help for your treatment copays, but what if someone could help with your power bills? The money you save there may be enough to cover your copay for the month. You never know until you ask.
That’s the bottom line right there. You have to ask.
Not everyone will say yes. Expect about three out of 10 requests to get a yes. That can feel like a lot of no’s to go through. But in baseball, an average like that is a Hall of Fame career. You miss 100 percent of the balls you don’t swing at.
And just like baseball, you need to practice. Take a few minutes to practice what you want to say before you call. You have to prepare for success.
Let me close with this thought from Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I just have found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Editor’s note: Join Crawford and other patient resource advocates during the Allsup True Help® Web Event, True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances, on Thursday, Oct. 20, at noon CST. Click here to register.
By Tai of Allsup
Millions of dollars are raised and spent each year trying to find a cure for cancer. Millions more are spent treating it. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, each year, cancer costs the world more money than any other disease. These costs often have devastating impacts on individuals and families.
A recent study showed that one-third of working-age cancer survivors go into debt and 3 percent file for bankruptcy.
A study released at last month’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) conference, found similar negative impacts. Of 1,000 survivors of breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer, more than half experienced some form of financial burden related to cancer.
“In order to pay for cancer care, many patients experience changes to their financial situation that can include everything from cutting back on leisure spending to dipping into savings or selling assets, taking on debt, or even losing a home or declaring bankruptcy,” said the study’s lead author, Theresa A. Hastert, Ph.D., MPP, in an AACR news release.
The cost of cancer drugs can range from $100 to as much as $65,000 a month, depending on the type of cancer being treated, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Financial Resources To Help
Fortunately, there are a number of organizations and programs that offer financial assistance to individuals with cancer. True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances is a web event Thursday, Oct. 20, that will help individuals with cancer and other chronic illnesses or disabilities connect with resources that can help them improve their financial outlook.
For example, the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Blue Hope Financial Assistance program helps individuals pay bills so they can concentrate on their health. The Caregiver Action Network has resources and tools for caregivers to help them manage their own and their care recipient’s finances.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is another resource available to former workers that provides a monthly income, access to Medicare and assistance returning to work if and when they are medically able. However, obtaining SSDI benefits can be a daunting task.
True Help Claiming Power to Improve Your Finances will feature information and tips on improving the chances of getting approved for SSDI benefits. Register here for the web event taking place Oct. 20 at noon CST.
Advocates and patient resource experts from the Colon Cancer Alliance, Caregiver Action Network, National Stroke Association and Allsup will be on hand to answer questions during the live event. The webinar also will be available on-demand after Oct. 20, and participants who submit questions will receive an email response.
Share the wealth, and post the event registration link, bit.ly/TrueHelpFinances, on social media. You can meet your friends in the chat room and make new ones during the event.