Skip to content

November is American Diabetes Month®

2014 November 18

Dawn-SeayBy Dawn Seay, executive director, American Diabetes Association-Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

If you combine the victims of breast cancer, AIDS and heart disease, they wouldn’t add up to the total of people who will succumb to diabetes.

These are numbers that qualify for epidemic status, especially in South Florida where 1 in 3 three residents has the disease. The ethnic groups that have the highest incidences of diabetes are African American, Caribbean (of African descent) and Hispanic. South Florida has a large population of those at risk and 1 in 4 residents do not know that they have diabetes.

Diabetes is the fastest-growing and largest epidemic in the U.S., plaguing 30 million Americans. Another 86 million will develop type 2 diabetes if critical lifestyle changes in diet and exercise are not made. The American Diabetes Association estimates the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. is $245 billion, which represents 1 in 5 healthcare dollars spent.

The Toll On Health

  • People with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Diabetes causes nearly 50 percent of all cases of kidney failure.
  • More than half of all amputations in adults occur in people with diabetes.
  • More than half a million American adults have advanced diabetic retinopathy, greatly increasing their risk for severe vision loss.
  • About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that could result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.

American Diabetes Month is a time to communicate the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of diabetes prevention and control.

To combat this epidemic, the American Diabetes Association and Nova Southeastern University (NSU) have joined forces to establish an Inter-professional Diabetes Education and Awareness (IDEA) Initiative that offers free education seminars and other services to the community through May 2015.

The interactive programs cover a variety of topics including exercise, healthy eating, medication management, eye health, screenings, and a general overview of preventing and managing diabetes.

Workshops are age-appropriate and specifically tailored to meet the needs of adults, young children or adolescents. The public is encouraged to attend these free education sessions.

For information visit www.nova.edu/CHCS/IDEA or email IDEA@nova.edu.

Please share this blog with friends, family and loved ones. With 1 in 4 Americans living with diabetes, we all know someone who can benefit from this information. Sharing only takes a minute and has the ability to change a life. We will create a brighter future for those living with diabetes with your help!

A World With Complex Regional Pain Syndrome As My Constant Companion©

2014 November 12

Samantha-AdcockBy Guest Blogger Samantha M. Adcock, board chair and executive director, Hope Over Pain

I live in a world with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) as my constant companion.

While on deployment to assist the Hurricane Rita recovery effort, I contracted an antibiotic resistant bone infection, osteomyelitis. (The infection is known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA). The osteomyelitis/MRSA and two subsequent surgical procedures resulted in the development of CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD).

Physicians don’t know why it develops, but CRPS is a nerve disorder that usually occurs after a traumatic injury, surgery, sprain, fracture, infection or a period of immobilization.

CRPS/RSD is said to be the most painful chronic disease that’s known today. It’s also a form of causalgia, which is a rare pain syndrome related to partial peripheral nerve injuries. On the McGill Pain Index, causalgia scores 42 out of 50.

How does that compare to other types of pain? Arthritis pain is ranked about 18. Non-terminal cancer pain ranks 24 and chronic back pain is at 26. Natural labor and delivery of a first child is about 35. With a score of 40, the pain associated with the amputation of a digit comes closest to matching the intensity of CRPS/RDS.

Imagine This World

Now, imagine for a few minutes that we’ve traded places.

Imagine this is your new world. You begin and end every day with CRPS as your constant companion.

In your new world…the lightest breeze, touch, vibration, movement or exposure to cold causes excruciating pain. If asked, you couldn’t honestly tell someone when you last experienced a pain free day, or when your pain level had dropped below an 8 (on a scale of 1 to 10) for any significant length of time (two hours or more).

In your new world…you’ve been on numerous medications for the pain, and have experienced a variety of debilitating side effects that have included: loss of cognitive function, inability to concentrate, weight gain, dizziness, uncontrollable muscle movement, tremors, hair loss, elevated blood pressure, etc. There are two things that you haven’t experienced since CRPS became a part of your life…

  1. A night with more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep; and
  2. A day without pain.

In your new world a 10 is lying on the floor, curled in fetal position, unable to move or speak as tears stream down your face…Knowing that all you can do is lay there and endure. The only alternative is unacceptable. You refuse to give up!

Thank you for trading places with me for a little while. While you spent time imaging yourself in my world, I spent my time remembering what it was like to live in yours. My time in your world reminded me that there’s still hope. I have hope.

I have hope…that you remain healthy, happy and whole.

I have hope…that my world never becomes yours.

Editor’s note: November is CRPS Awareness Month. If you live in the San Antonio area, join Samantha and Hope Over Pain on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the CRPS/RSD Awareness & Education Seminar. Click here for more information.

Help Spread The Word to Vets About This Free Webinar

2014 November 10

veterans

By The Old Sarge

Believe it or not (ahem), the bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) don’t always get it right the first time.

If you’re a veteran with a service-connected disability and the VA has denied your claim for benefits—or you received a rating that’s too low—don’t think for one minute that the decision is final.

Far from it. It’s just the beginning; a signal that it’s time to file an appeal.

Army veteran Brett Buchanan can show you how to best present an effective VA disability appeal during a webinar titled, “What You Need to Know About Veterans Disability Appeals,” scheduled for Nov. 30, from 3-4 p.m. EST (2-3 p.m. CST). A former Army artillery officer, Brett is a VA-accredited claims agent. His full-time job with Allsup is to help veterans receive the VA disability benefits they earned when they wore the uniform.

Click here to register for the free program.

During the webinar, Brett will walk veterans through the appeal process so they know what to expect. He said the more veterans understand the process and their options for assistance, the better they can prepare for a successful appeal.

Because of recent changes in VA regulations, Brett told me, it’s important for a veteran to appeal a denial, especially if the claim is related to military sexual trauma (MST) or environmental and psychological trauma.

For example, new regulations went into effect this year regarding disabilities that the VA considers to be secondary to a service-connected traumatic brain injury (TBI), making some veterans eligible for additional disability benefits.

In another relatively recent development, the VA began assigning MST-related claims to more experienced decision-makers with MST-specific training.

The webinar will include:

  • Overview of VA disability programs
  • Basic criteria for approval of disability benefits
  • Advanced criteria for approval of the Compensation Benefit
  • Application and appeal process
  • Why veterans need help

For more information on Allsup’s VA disability appeal services, call (888) 372-1190 or visit Veterans.Allsup.com.

Veterans With Tricare For Life And Medicare—During Medicare Annual Enrollment

2014 November 4

blogBy The Old Sarge

It’s Medicare open enrollment season until Dec. 7, but I really don’t care. Because I’m an Air Force retiree, I’m eligible for Tricare For Life and don’t need a Medicare Advantage plan or any other Medicare supplemental insurance.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Defense, Tricare is a healthcare insurance program for military service members (active, retired, National Guard, etc.), their families and certain former spouses.

When military veterans reach age 65 and Medicare eligibility, they and their spouses are automatically covered by Tricare For Life.

TFL participants are required to enroll in Medicare Part A, hospital insurance, and Part B, medical insurance. There is no charge for Part A, and most people pay $104.90 a month for Part B. That number doesn’t change in 2015.

How Tricare Works With Medicare

Medicare is the primary payer for healthcare expenses and TFL picks up the rest.

For example, if I visit a Medicare-approved doctor, Medicare pays 80 percent of the costs and TFL pays the rest of the bill, up to its allowable charge.

There are, however, a few exceptions for medical services covered by Medicare Part B, but not covered by TFL, such as chiropractic care.

While I know that the military promised me free healthcare for the rest of my life, you won’t hear me complaining about TFL’s relatively meager annual premiums of $277.92 for an individual and $555.84 for a family. It’s a great bargain no matter how you look at it.

And TFL enrollees can forget about the annual hassle of reviewing complicated Medicare supplemental plans to make sure we’re fully covered.

Many Others Making Medicare Plan Choices Now

On the other hand, if you have a Medicare-eligible family member or friend not covered by TFL, remind them that we’re in Medicare’s open enrollment period.

About 54 million people have the chance now, until Dec. 7, to make changes in their Medicare plans for 2015.

If they need a helping hand to find their way through the bureaucratic maze, tell them about the Allsup Medicare Advisor® service. They can also call (866) 521-7655.

We might be able to save them big bucks.

More Money In 2015—Slight COLA Increase For SSDI, Other Beneficiaries

2014 October 31

moneyBy Tricia of Allsup

If you are receiving Social Security disability, retirement or veterans disability benefits, you’ll see a modest 1.7 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase in your monthly check beginning in January.

More than 2.5 million retired federal government and military retirees also will receive a 1.7 percent COLA raise.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), COLAs are based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). CPI-Ws are calculated on a monthly basis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recent COLA increases have been relatively small because of low inflation rates.

There were no increases in 2010 and 2011.

But in 2012, there was a COLA increase of 3.6 percent; in 2013, 1.7 percent; and 1.5 percent in 2014.

Managing Extra Money, Making Careful Choices

With the increase next year, the SSA reported that the average Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) monthly benefit will rise from $1,146 to $1,155, or about $228 per year.

Every little bit helps, but it’s not a huge increase and it has to be managed carefully.

It’s great to have a little bit of added income, but there’s a practical reality attached. You’re getting a raise, but that’s only because your cost of living is increasing.

For example, the USDA has reported that food inflation will continue in 2015, which means higher prices for staples like eggs, dairy, meat and produce.

People with disabilities can expect their healthcare expenses to go up next year, too, so it’s a good time to examine your Medicare options during open enrollment season, which ends Dec. 7.

Click here to learn more about the Allsup Medicare Advisor, or call (866) 521-7655 for help with making Medicare plan choices that may give you a brighter 2015.

World Psoriasis Day Is October 29: A Global Day Of Recognition For The Nation’s Most Common Autoimmune Disease

2014 October 28

pf-useBy Guest Blogger Noe Baker, public relations manager, National Psoriasis Foundation

Held each year on Oct. 29, World Psoriasis Day is a global day of recognition for the 125 million people worldwide with psoriasis. Conceived by patients for patients, World Psoriasis Day gives a unified voice to people with psoriatic disease, so they can have the attention and consideration they deserve.

World Psoriasis Day highlights the serious physical, emotional and financial burden of psoriatic disease and shines a spotlight on the need for more research, better treatments and a cure.

Learn more about psoriasis at www.psoriasis.org.

Why is World Psoriasis Day important?

Psoriasis—a painful, chronic disease that appears on the skin, causing it to crack, itch and bleed—is the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting 7.5 million Americans.

Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory arthritis that attacks the joints and tendons.

People with psoriasis are at greater risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. In fact, people with severe psoriasis are 58 percent more likely to have a major cardiac event and 43 percent more likely to have a stroke.

In addition to the physical impact, psoriasis has a profound effect on people’s quality of life.

People with psoriasis are twice as likely to be depressed as the general public. They’re more likely to have low self-esteem and increased suicidal thoughts. Psoriasis is not contagious. Yet, because of its visible nature, people with psoriasis also are discriminated against in public, and children with psoriasis are more likely to be bullied.

Psoriasis also puts a huge financial burden on many individuals. Data from the National Psoriasis Foundation shows that despite having insurance, the majority of people with psoriatic disease spend greater than $2,500 in out-of-pocket costs per year treating their psoriasis (on top of their monthly health insurance premiums).

Copayments for biologic drugs and phototherapy, two commonly prescribed treatments, can be upwards of $600 per month. Learn about financial resources to help with your medication.

If you have psoriasis or love someone who does, visit the National Psoriasis Foundation website on Oct. 29 to learn more. Connect with others, get practical advice and gain support for psoriatic disease on Facebook and Twitter.

My #DAMPersonal Story With Essential Tremor

2014 October 20

DAMBy Guest Blogger Kathleen Welker, president, Tremor Action Network (TAN)

You never forget the onset of a chronic condition; the sequence of going from being healthy to having irreversible and progressive symptoms.

It was 1986, and I was getting over strep throat. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I noticed my head moving abnormally. My first thought was, it’s a temporary side effect of medication. When it didn’t go away, panic set in.

Fast forward to the diagnosis of essential tremor (ET), the most common movement and tremor disorder that is now thought to be a degenerative disease, affecting the lives of over 10 million Americans. I remember the neurology specialist sharing, “It’s nothing; just act like Katharine Hepburn,” the Academy Award actress who exhibited visual symptoms of head and voice tremors. My response was, “But I’m not her. I can’t act!”

The stigma of being different took an emotional toll. ET contributed to the dissolution of my marriage and unkind remarks from friends.  I didn’t know anyone with ET. It would be 11 years before I did.

Through the International Essential Tremor Foundation, I started the first support group in the San Francisco Bay area. What a relief to see a mirror of me at the initial meeting. A year later, I co-founded the first online support group with Frank, a patient from Texas.

In 2003, we formed an online weekly chat that sparked a weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains with chat friends Jan and Jennifer, who discussed offering patients more options.

TAN, a nonprofit headquartered in California, was founded in a Tennessee log cabin! Two more people, Ann and Hok, joined the original board of directors that represented ET, dystonia and Parkinson’s patients.

Two of the board members were applying for SSDI. TAN didn’t know of Allsup, only paralegals and attorneys that took two years or longer to obtain SSDI decisions. A new online member, Mary Jane from New York, shared what a breeze her 2006 SSDI appeal had been with Allsup representation. With Allsup’s assistance, TAN added SSDI eligibility as a service

TAN’s Facebook page describes the organization as providing boutique one-on-one support and guidance. Thanks to Allsup, TAN services include Medicare and mental health. Our motto is: We can help you, with or without a diagnosis!

I never learned to act like Kate Hepburn. TAN and 17 years of great friendships with tremor patients helped me to accept who I am—ME regardless of ET!

My #DAMPersonal Story With Advanced/Chronic Lyme Disease

2014 October 16

Lyme-blogBy Guest Blogger Margaret Weiss Behrns, written in October 2011, but never before published

The other day a high school soccer player asked me on a date. It was pretty funny as I am almost 42. I guess I didn’t look sick that day! What if he knew I have to take powerful antibiotics to keep my worst symptoms at bay, or that I have to get all kinds of treatments, adjustments and physical therapies? If he knew the life I was living (not to mention my age) he would run for the hills!

Most people can’t understand what I’m going through because the disease I’m fighting is invisible.

  1. Advanced/chronic Lyme disease is not recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Medical Association, or the dozens of physicians patients typically visit before being diagnosed.
  2. Current testing methods have such a high rate of false negatives that Lyme and co-infections are often missed.
  3. There are few clinical trials and no standard protocols.
  4. Public awareness and education are severely lacking.

This invisible illness is leaving multitudes vulnerable, misled, and misdiagnosed every day. Advanced/chronic Lyme disease does not exist. Yet somehow, it is killing me.

You Don’t “Look” Sick

I don’t look sick most of the time. You can’t see the pain in my muscles, or the spirochetes dancing in my nervous system and drilling through my cartilage, bones and brain. These smart spirochetes evade my white cells and antibiotics. This experience has made me invisible: It has prevented me from getting out there, living my dreams, and being the wife, mother, friend that I wish to be.

Becoming “Visible”

Some people do see me. They see what I go through to try to live a normal life. They witness my determination, my teeth-gritting attempts to work out, my back pummeled in physical therapy, my feet taped at the chiropractor’s office. They see my absences from dance class and give me hugs when I return. Their faces hold no skepticism, judgment, confusion, doubt or blame. These are the people who piece me back together, inspire me to keep going, share their own struggles, and mean so very much to me.

I’ve done one of the most important things anyone with a chronic illness could do—I have found something I love that keeps me going in a very positive way—a dance class called Zumba. I’ve also become a presence in my neighborhood. When kids are bitten by ticks, I talk to their parents. I keep them out of the tall grass and check them if they’ve been climbing trees. Sitting on my front steps with other mothers enjoying our community has become one of my favorite ways to be visible.

There is nothing like connecting with other people, whether in person or online, who are going through the same thing. And that’s my #DAMPersonal story.

It’s Medicare Open Enrollment Time—Again

2014 October 14

Tricia-blog-photoBy Tricia of Allsup

Like a well-oiled seasonal timepiece, the World Series and cooler weather are approaching.

So is Medicare open enrollment season.

Medicare’s annual election period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. This is when millions of Americans should take a close look at their Medicare plans to see if they still meet their healthcare and financial needs in 2015.

Although Medicare provides great savings, it’s so complicated that many people don’t fully understand how to take advantage of the program. For example, many seniors don’t learn that their costs will be higher next year or that their doctors or providers are no longer covered by their plans until it’s too late.

Fewer than 5 percent of seniors anticipate changing their plans each year, and that means millions of Americans won’t be enrolled in the Medicare plans best suited for them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you review your Medicare options:

  • Medicare Advantage premiums are rising. The predicted average premium increase for Medicare Advantage plans will rise by $2.94 to $33.90 per month, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The standard Part B premium, however, will remain the same at $104.90 per month.
  • Prescription drug coverage may change. Part D prescription drug plan premiums, co-pays and deductibles may change, so take a close look at your plan changes for next year. CMS reported that the Part D base beneficiary premium will be $33.13 in 2015, compared to $32.42 in 2014.
  • Donut hole coverage shifts. The prescription drug coverage gap, or donut hole, will be different next year. For example, the Part D initial deductible increases to $320 from $310. Also, the initial coverage limit increases to $2,960 from $2,850. The discounts during the donut hole also are higher in 2015 for both brand and generic drugs. Eventually, the donut hole will be eliminated by 2020 because of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Providers may make changes. Physicians, specialists and hospital networks can shift their participation among Medicare Advantage plans, so it’s important to check your coverage for next year—to make sure you can access the healthcare you need and want.

These are just some of the basics to consider this Medicare annual election period. If you are wondering, “How do I choose my Medicare for next year?”—give one of our Medicare specialists a call.

You can reach the Allsup Medicare Advisor® for help with your Medicare plan questions at (866) 521-7655, or visit Medicare.Allsup.com.

Get Personal During Disability Awareness Month in October

2014 September 30

Wayne-ConnellBy Wayne Connell, founder and president, Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA)

Editor’s note: Post your personal story on Allsup’s Facebook page to raise awareness and be eligible to win $100 gift cards

It all came crashing down in 1991. First, her legs became paralyzed. Then, she received a diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), followed by a 10-day hospital stay. She slowly regained the use of her legs, yet the bone-crushing pain, fatigue and cognitive impairments did not dissipate.

I met Sherri in 1992. I was smitten. Other guys who had been interested in her disappeared when they heard the words, “MS” and “disabled.”

I was not deterred. I fell head over heels in love. She had been a model, an actress, a singer with the voice of an angel, a cheerleader and someone everyone liked and respected. To me, she was still all of these and more. She was funny and intelligent, earning two college degrees, caring and loving of others.

Shortly after we started dating, Sherri was diagnosed with late stage chronic Lyme disease, traced back to a tick bite at age 14. She had been sick on and off since then, but no one knew why. She was still active, passionate and hard working until her body finally gave out when she was 27 years old in 1991.

We married in 1994 and Sherri started writing about her journey. She wrote about MS to explain her illness to family and friends. She wrote about how people didn’t understand why someone who appeared normal was allowed to park in disabled parking. She wrote about how appearances do not always tell the full story. In 1996, she thought of a term that described her condition―she had an “invisible disability.” In 1977, I posted some of her writings on a website. IDA was launched.

I had no idea that hundreds of thousands of people around the world were dealing with illnesses and pain, and people who did not understand or believe they had a disability because of the invisible nature of their symptoms.

Along with my wife, I wrote the book, “But You LOOK Good – How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain.” IDA has distributed more than 28,000 copies worldwide. We continue to grow and support people around the world. IDA comforts and encourages those living with illness and pain by letting them know they are not alone.

You can do the same, by sharing your personal story on Allsup’s Facebook page during Disability Awareness Month (DAM). Whether you have a visible or invisible disability, or love someone who does, your voice is valued. Start your post with #DAMPersonal, and each week in October, your comment could earn you a $100 gift card. Your posts will also help raise funds for IDA’s education programs.

Editor’s note: Please click here for the #DAMPersonal program description. Click here to post your personal story to Allsup’s Facebook page.