Skip to content

What You Need to Know if You Are Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer Under Age 50

2018 March 5

Colorectal cancer rates are on the rise for people under age 50, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance (CCA). However, the average age of a cancer diagnosis is still 68-72 years old, making it something someone under age 50 rarely anticipates. Support and resources for younger patients are often hard to find.

Concerns about finances, health insurance and returning to work are much different for those under retirement age. Here are some things cancer patients under age 50 need to know.


CCA’s 2017 Young Onset Colorectal Cancer Survey reported 61 percent of respondents experienced financial difficulties due to the cost of their treatment, and 65 percent had to take a leave of absence or quit a job or schooling because of their diagnosis. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is an important resource in these situations, but it is often difficult to obtain. Social Security Administration guidelines make it harder for individuals under age 50 to receive benefits. Individuals who anticipate not being able to work for 12 months or more should determine their eligibility as soon as possible and apply for disability benefits. The average monthly cash benefit for SSDI recipients is $1,197. It is $2,051 for individuals with dependents.

Health Insurance

According to an American Cancer Society study, people younger than 55 are 58 percent more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage disease than older people, largely because cancer is typically not on the radar of young adults or their providers. Individuals with late stage cancers are more likely to have work interruptions and lose employer-sponsored health insurance. Health insurance options include coverage from parents’ policies until they turn 26, COBRA coverage from a previous employer, a Marketplace plan or Medicaid. SSDI recipients are eligible for Medicare 24 months after their cash benefits begin. See Allsup’s presentation on “Health Insurance When Disability Strikes,” featuring the CCA, for more information.

Returning to Work

Research shows that a younger age is associated with greater success returning to work after a disability.  Returning to work after cancer treatment contributes to greater financial stability and can even improve recovery. Most of the people Allsup helps obtain SSDI benefits indicate they want to return to work. Learning about programs such Ticket to Work early on, even as they go through the SSDI application process, can help prepare young onset cancer patients for a successful transition back to work, without the fear and stress of losing their cash benefits and Medicare coverage.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Whatever your age, please share this information with your network, and encourage them to get screened for colorectal cancer. For a free SSDI eligibility screening, visit

Share, Inspire and Win with Your Rare Disease Story

2018 February 27

There are 30 million rare disease stories in the U.S. Do you have one? Share it in the #IAmInvisibleNoMore video contest to raise awareness and you could win $500.

February 28 is Rare Disease Day®.  According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their life. Allsup is a Rare Disease Day friend, and is privileged to help individuals with rare diseases apply for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits they earned while working.

We are also pleased to sponsor the Invisible Disabilities Association’s (IDA)  #IAmInvisibleNoMore video contest. Rare diseases can be invisible, making it harder for others, even medical professionals, to understand.

If you have a rare disease that is not readily visible, here are reasons to consider sharing your video story:

  1. Your story matters.Sharing your experiences living with a rare disease helps the general public, healthcare providers, policy makers and other decision makers become more familiar with rare diseases, paving the way for better care, increased understanding and easier access to services and benefits.
  2. You are not alone.The rare nature of a disease can make it feel as if you are on your own.  Sharing your story through #IAmInvisibleNoMore can help you connect with and inspire others.
  3. You are the change you seekSharing your video story encourages others and breaks down barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice.
  4. You could win. The top 25 videos with the most fan votes will garner prizes that include a $500 gift card and a trip to Denver, additional gift cards, and IDA prize packages.

Sheri shared her story about living with a rare disease, and you can too. Observe Rare Disease Day by adding your voice to #IAmInvisibleNoMore

Six Simple Steps for Your Whole Family to be Heart Healthy

2018 February 26

Madelyn C. Alexander, Communications Director, American Heart Association, St. Louis

February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to take action to make your family heart healthy. Making time for a heart-healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. But the good news is that making a few small simple lifestyle changes can lead to heart-healthy habits that require little thought or effort.

You know your family better than anyone, so use that knowledge and get creative in how you can work heart-healthy habits into your family’s life and daily schedule.

Whether you’re a single parent or married, a stay-at-home parent or working, here are ways to make more time for the whole family to be more heart healthy:

  1. Identify free times for activity. Keep track of each family member’s daily activities for one week. You’ll get a snapshot of when you might be able to get the family together for physical activity. It can also help you see which activities you can cut back on.

    Pick two 30-minute and two 60-minute time slots for family activity time. Weekdays are usually better for 30-minute activities and weekends are better for 60-minute activities. Try to spread out the time slots. Here are some ideas to get your kids moving that parents can join in.

  2. Make time to plan a weekly menu, go shopping and prep your meals. Keep track of how many times you grab food on the go for one week. Once you find blocks of time when you can do a little planning, it’ll be easy to learn healthy preparation methods, fix healthy snacks and eat fewer fast and processed foods.
  3. Simplify your family’s schedule. In today’s society we’re expected to do it all. But this type of non-stop lifestyle isn’t sustainable or healthy. Try prioritizing your activities and see what you can do without so you’ll have more time for the things that matter. You can also work on stress management
  4. Take baby steps, not giant leaps. If you’re the head of your household, making sure that all the heads and hearts in your home are healthy is a lot to handle. The key is to take baby steps. Getting heart-healthy is a journey; you don’t have to do everything at once.
  5. Ask everyone in the family to do their part. Depending on their ages, kids can help prepare healthy meals and help around the house. Treat your family like a team and encourage everyone to work together.
  6. Live by example. We all need to do our best to walk the walk. If we want our kids to eat healthy and exercise, we’ve got to model that behavior. You’re not perfect, but if you’re determined and persistent, there’s not much that can stop you.

For more heart health information, log on to .

Editor’s note: Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans and is a leading cause of disability. For information on applying for disability benefits, visit

True Help in Action for Woman Living with Bipolar Disorder

2018 February 22

“Carol was wonderful, she really got a quick turnaround on my award.”

Heidi Scott* attempted suicide four times. People said she did it for attention. People said she was selfish. People said her problems were all in her head.

But after her last suicide attempt, a new doctor said something different. He diagnosed her with bipolar disorder.

Despite living with a severe mental illness, Mrs. Scott had worked as a nursing assistant for years. But the disease eventually progressed to the point where she could not function at work. So, when her psychiatrist instructed her to stop working, she faced a significant financial dilemma.

Fortunately, Mrs. Scott had paid into the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program while she was working and could apply for disability benefits. Allsup obtained her SSDI award within months.

“We were able to get such a quick award because her doctor gave her excellent support and because we very thoroughly gathered and documented her medical information,” said Allsup claims consultant Carol Domescik.

“Carol was wonderful, she really got a quick turnaround on my award,” said Mrs. Scott. “I expected denials, but I was awarded after my first application. It was amazing.”

Click here to read more about Ms. Scott’s experiences before and after receiving True Help from Allsup.

*Heidi Scott’s name was changed to protect her privacy.

Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to share your True Help story.

Follow Allsup on Facebook and Twitter.


Win $500 and a Trip to Denver Just Because We Believe You

2018 February 13

People don’t believe people with invisible disabilities. That’s why people with invisible disabilities get nasty notes on their cars when they park in disabled spots, even when their placards are clearly visible. That’s why their disability benefits are denied even when their doctors say they can’t work. That’s why their friends get mad when they have to cancel plans because their bodies won’t allow them to take a shower, much less leave the house. That’s why people with invisible disabilities often feel invisible themselves.

We Believe You

Do you have a condition that is not readily visible but impacts your ability to perform basic functions like sitting, standing, walking and concentrating? Invisible disabilities include mental illness, lupus, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, traumatic brain injury, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic and severe back pain, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, rare diseases and other disorders. Do you have an invisible disability?

Allsup and the Invisible Disabilities Association believe you. That’s one reason you should enter the #IAmInvisibleNoMore video contest. Here are four more reasons.

  1. You could win $500 and a trip to Denver.  The video that gets the most online votes earns the winner and a guest a trip to Denver to attend the IDA Awards Gala in October 2018. The trip includes round trip air, ground transportation, hotel, Gala tickets and VIP treatment. An additional $400 in gift cards and other prizes will be awarded to the top 24 vote-getting videos.
  2. Your story matters. Sharing your experiences living with an invisible disability allows you to connect with others who share similar experiences. IDA facilitates caring communities and networks, but it’s individuals like you who make them work.
  3. You are not alone. Living with an invisible disability often makes it hard to be social. Sharing your story through #IAmInvisibleNorMore can be a big step toward connecting with others and building a supportive social network.
  4. You are an important part of the solution. Sharing your video story encourages others and breaks down barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice. Does someone who looks like you have an invisible disability? Yes, you are living proof. Tell people what you want them to know about “people like you.”

Since 1984, Allsup has helped more than 275,000 people obtain the disability benefits they deserve. Most of them had invisible disabilities―and we believed them. For more information on how Allsup can help you apply for disability benefits, visit

For contest updates, including tips on telling your story, follow Allsup on Facebook.

Disability Benefits After an Organ Transplant

2018 February 12

Andrea Smith, Director of PR/Communications, Donor Alliance

Organ transplants are life changing, but it’s imperative that transplant recipients pace their return to normal activities. A slow return to normal activities can make an immediate return to work challenging, which means making ends meet financially can be a concern for transplant recipients and their families.

Fortunately, there is help available. The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers financial resources for people who have had organ transplants and are unable to work.

Qualifying for Disability Benefits

Those who have received an organ transplant automatically qualify for disability benefits for 12 months following their transplant. After 12 months, the SSA will reevaluate the claim. If a recipient is still too ill to work, they can continue to receive disability benefits.

The SSA offers two forms of disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Medical qualification is the same for both, but each program has specific technical qualifications.

SSDI is for people who have worked throughout their lives. Recipients who did not work and pay FICA taxes usually will not qualify. Typically, anyone who has worked five of the past 10 years will have earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

SSI benefits are available only for the neediest families. There is no work requirement for SSI benefits, but if the recipient has a spouse who is earning a living wage, they will not qualify. Recipients will also not qualify if they have a significant amount of saved cash, stocks, bonds, or a second home or car.

Re-give the Gift of Life by Registering as an Organ and Tissue Donor As the beneficiary of lifesaving gift, remember that anyone—regardless of age and health—can register as a donor. People with chronic conditions such as diabetes and hepatitis can still save and heal lives. Donors well into their 80s have saved lives through organ donation, and individuals over the age of 100 have donated tissue.

This includes transplant recipients themselves who may donate other organs or tissues and re-give that gift of life. Say “yes” to organ, eye and tissue donation at the drivers’ license office and save lives.

February 14 is National Donor Day, and it’s a good time to share your decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor with your family.

Editor’s note: Allsup provides a free SSDI eligibility screening at, and additional disability resources at

Care, Support and Resources for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease

2018 February 5

Misty Sharpe, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator, Adult Congenital Heart Association

Most people know that February is Heart Month but few know that the week of the 7th-14th is also Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Awareness Week.

Recently, there has been a wave of awareness for CHD. That is wonderful, but the belief that following surgery a patient is “fixed,” or that CHD is a childhood condition, is still widely held. As research and our understanding of CHD improve, however, we know that not to be true.  Adult CHD patients are at risk for arrhythmia, stroke, sudden cardiac death, heart failure and changes in heart function which often require additional interventions, including medication, cardiac catheterization, and surgery.

The Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults with CHD and stressing the importance of lifelong care through education, advocacy and research.

Less than 10 percent of adults with CHD receive the appropriate care according to the guidelines released by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. The guidelines state that anyone with a CHD should be seen by an Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) specialist at least once, and more complex CHD patients should be followed regularly. If you are not currently seen by an ACHD specialist, you can search ACHA’s online Clinic Directory to identify a program in your area.

Although CHD is not a one size fits all diagnosis and each person’s journey is different, many patients experience additional stressors that have profoundly impact their lives. Some of these stressors include a change in health or quality of life that may affect their ability to work, difficulty accessing care and navigating a complicated disability and appeal process.

The ACHA offers patients peer support through our Heart to Heart Ambassador Program. It is comprised of ACHD patients and loved ones who are trained to speak with our members who may be experiencing one of the above issues, a new diagnosis or upcoming surgery, or have additional questions related to their CHD, such as pursuing pregnancy.

When you visit the Your Heart section of ACHA’s website, you’ll find a wealth of educational information on various topics in Webinars and PDF downloads. Regional and national conferences are also offered throughout the year.

Membership is free and includes a new-member packet with educational materials, a personal health passport and travel directory, access to an online discussion forum and a monthly newsletter so you can stay updated on the latest news, events and ways to get involved. I hope you’ll join us at ACHA and empower yourself with the knowledge and resources to be your own best advocate.

Editor’s note: Individuals with ACHD who need information and help applying for disability benefits can click here to access a free SSDI eligibility assessment.

Forget Phil―Feb. 2 Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day

2018 January 30

By Allsup

We celebrate Groundhog Day every year on Feb. 2, but the prescient Punxsutawney Phil shares his day of recognition with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an illness affecting more than 1.5 million Americans.

Many people confuse RA with osteoarthritis, or OA. RA is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks joint tissue, causing inflammation and join pain. Women are two or three times more likely than men to suffer from RA. With OA, the joint cartilage breaks down over time, causing similar symptoms, and men are the most likely victims.

Click here to learn more about the differences between RA and OA.

Several analogies can be drawn from Groundhog Day and RA Awareness Day, said Kelly Young, founder of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation.

“Compare [RA] onset to the moment the groundhog comes out of his hole to look for his shadow,” Young said. “It’s impossible to predict how aggressive the disease will be or whether treatments will be effective. The six weeks that the groundhog forecasts correspond to the short window of opportunity for people with rheumatoid disease to get early diagnosis and treatment.”

Specific RA symptoms include:

  • Tender, warm and swollen joints
  • Symmetrical pattern of affected joints
  • Joint inflammation often affecting the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand
  • Joint inflammation sometimes affecting other joints, including the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles and feet
  • Fatigue, occasional fevers and a loss of energy
  • Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes in the morning or after a long rest

It’s important to tell your treating physician about your pain and the affected joints so they can document the affects of the disease and its treatment. Fully documented medical records of your condition are critical when you apply for disability benefits―Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Click here for a free SSDI eligibility assessment to determine your likelihood of obtaining disability benefits for arthritis.

Allsup disability professionals have helped thousands of arthritis patients receive their disability benefits since its founding in 1984. Click here to read a story about how Allsup helped an Illinois woman suffering from rheumatoid arthritis apply for and obtain disability benefits.

Post Hurricanes―United Spinal Association Helps with Housing, Mobility Equipment and Daily Needs

2018 January 26

Bill Fertig
Director, United Spinal Association Resource Center

As a national nonprofit serving people with spinal cord injuries and disorders for over 70 years, United Spinal Association gets its share of disheartening stories from wheelchair users who reach out to us for support. This past year, however, our organization’s resources were stretched to capacity with three destructive hurricanes––Harvey, Irma, and Maria–– that severely impacted disability communities in many U.S. states and territories.

Calls for help flooded in to our Resource Center­­. It became quite evident the storms took their toll on our community in ways many were unprepared for. Equipment was damaged by water, loss of electricity stranded power wheelchair users, and downed trees cut off access to shelters, medical care, supplies. As a wheelchair user, I can relate to the challenges this can pose. When you must contend with a natural disaster on top of all the other hurdles, the feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming. The question for United Spinal was, how would we provide our members and the larger disability community desperately needed resources?

Fortunately, with a generous $500,000 grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to coordinate and support weather-related disaster relief, United Spinal launched outreach efforts this past fall that renewed hope for thousands of wheelchair users and other people with disabilities affected by these unprecedented storms.

Through our local chapters, we’ve distributed over 200 and counting micro-grants to people living in hurricane impacted areas for accessible housing, mobility equipment and general subsistence needs. In December, we also sent a delegation to Puerto Rico to provide aid to the disability population recovering from Hurricane Maria, distributing inverters to recharge wheelchairs, solar lamps, batteries, gasoline containers and other equipment. It was rewarding to join our Puerto Rico chapter on the ground, offering support to many who have felt they’ve been forgotten. Hearing the heartbreaking stories of wheelchair users that lost everything added a sobering perspective. That is, our work is far from over! There are still thousands of people who need our help, in Puerto Rico and across the country. This isn’t just about recovery, but ensuring measures are in place to protect our community during future storms.

Through initial funding and public donations, we’re slowly, but surely building a solid foundation to meet these goals. Our sights are currently on expanding our Resource Center’s capacity to handle disaster relief inquiries, as well as creating case management services to meet the high volume of requests for assistance, now and down the road. And if there’s one thing I’m certain of in my years of service to the disability community, it’s that we can achieve amazing things together.

There are a variety of ways you can support United Spinal’s hurricane relief efforts. Click here for more information.

The Top 5 Reasons You Need to Watch This Video

2018 January 18

By Wayne Connell, founder and president of Invisible Disabilities Association

One of the hardest parts about living with an invisible disability is sharing how it impacts you on a daily basis. Living with an invisible disability often means struggling to “act normal” when your body is anything but―or being labeled as lazy, anti-social or rude because people don’t understand your debilitating pain, chronic fatigue, cognitive impairment, chemical sensitivity or mental illnesses.

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA), with Allsup’s support, has created the video “I Am Invisible No More!”  Here are five reasons why you and your loved ones should watch this video, and share your own story with Allsup and IDA:

  1. Everyone Knows Someone. An estimated one out of every ten individuals struggles with a medical condition (including psychological conditions) that impairs their day-to-day functioning in some way. Maybe you struggle with an invisible disability but are frightened of the stigma that comes with speaking out. Maybe a friend or family member is suffering in silence. This video provides inspiration to help you cope and identify and support loved ones.
  2. It Will Change How You See Disabilities — Because Oftentimes, You Can’t.

When people hear the term “disabled,” they often think of someone using a wheelchair or a walker. However, many Americans who live with a severe disability do not use assistive equipment. Any physical, mental, or neurological condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities in a way that onlookers cannot immediately see is considered an invisible disability.

  1. You Can Help Break Someone’s Cycle of Shame.

Invisible symptoms can lead to misunderstandings, isolation and shame. Because people tend to judge others by what they see, they often conclude a person can or cannot do something by the way they look. People living with invisible disabilities may not appear to have any obvious challenges, and this can cause stress and emotional damage when they are physically or mentally unable to meet people’s unrealistic expectations. Creating an accepting environment with a better understanding of invisible disabilities can make it easier for someone to talk about their conditions and how they impact them.

  1. You Can Help Start a Cycle of Empowerment and Engagement.

By shining a light on what people living with disabilities contend with each day, friends and family can better offer support and validation to their loved ones. This can empower individuals to reach out, connect with others and tap into resources that can improve their health and quality of life.

  1. It Will Inspire You

Despite—or perhaps because of—their invisible challenges and the silence and confusion that often surrounds them, the people in the video have achieved remarkable things. Whether or not you struggle with an invisible disability, we have all encountered personal obstacles. Personal stories can be a source of comfort, connection and compassion—toward others as well as toward yourself.

Follow IDA and Allsup on social media for tips on telling your own story, where to share them, and be among the first to learn how you can be a part of special events, like the 2018 Invisible Disability Awards Gala in Denver.

IDA Facebook

IDA Twitter

Allsup Facebook

Allsup Twitter