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Top Five Ways Medicare Can Help You Keep New Year’s Resolutions

2018 January 10

By Aaron of Allsup

How are your New Year’s resolutions working out? If you have Medicare, you have extra help to keep the most common resolutions. Here are five ways you can use Medicare benefits to help you make the changes you want in 2018.

  1. Medicare can help you lose weight. Nutritional counseling, gym memberships and annual wellness visits, detailed below, can help you shed pounds and live a healthier lifestyle.
  2. Medicare can help you make self-improvements. Medicare covers an annual wellness visit with your doctor at no cost. Use this time to discuss your physical and mental health goals for the year, get advice from an expert, and referral to a mental health specialist, if needed.
  3. Medicare can help you quit smoking. Enroll in Medicare’s smoking and tobacco cessation programs. Medicare beneficiaries may receive up to eight face-to-face visits per year with a counselor at no cost, if they have a history of tobacco use.
  4. Medicare can help you eat healthier. Nutrition therapy services include an initial assessment, one-on-one nutritional counseling, and follow-up visits to monitor your progress. These services are covered 100 percent by Medicare for individuals with diabetes, kidney disease and other conditions.
  5. Medicare can help you work out more often. Many Medicare Advantage plans include “Silver Sneakers” – a free or reduced cost gym membership program. Joining a gym can have multiple benefits from improved health to opportunities to socialize. So it could also help with another popular New Year’s resolution: finding the love of your life.

Making better financial decisions is another common New Year’s resolution. Reviewing your Medicare coverage annually is a good step toward making that promise a reality. Medicare plans change each year, and it’s important to do your homework before choosing your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug Part D plans for the next year. Allsup Medicare Advisor can help you understand your options.

The Top 10 All Things Disability Blogs for 2017

2018 January 9

Allsup’s All Things Disability (ATD) blog is a resource for people needing information on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), finances, health and wellness. Our expert writers have backgrounds in public health, law, finance, government programs, veterans affairs, Medicare and health insurance. ATD regularly features guest blogs from individuals and organizations that provide practical tips and resources for individuals living with chronic illnesses and disability.

Our goal is to help people lead lives that are as healthy and financially secure as possible.

We’re sharing share the top 10 blogs of 2017, with hopes that seeing the information again will help readers take action, or reach and help new readers. Many of the blogs were posted before 2017, and continue to garner interest. Please comment on and share your favorite blog. And subscribe to All Things Disability on the top right hand of this page.

  1. My #DAMPersonal Story With Essential Tremor-Kathleen Welker, president of Tremor Action Network, shares her journey from diagnosis to founding the nonprofit organization. She recently announced her retirement. Best wishes, Kathleen!
  2. Why a CDR Could be a Good Thing-The Social Security Administration conducts continuing disability reviews (CDRs) for SSDI beneficiaries. Failure to respond to a notice could result in termination of benefits. This post explains beneficiary rights.
  3. The Strength to Move Forward-Allsup claims specialist Becky Matzenbacher is one of a growing number of individuals under age 50 diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
  4. What if I Have a Hemorrhoid?-Guest blogger Geri Lynn Baumlatt wants to make colonoscopies shorter and safer with patient education.
  5. Connect with NAMI and Connect with Others-Guest blogger John Freeburg shares his experience with mental illness and how the National Alliance on Mental Illness helps individuals and families.
  6. Colon Cancer: Don’t Ignore the Symptoms-Patient, advocate and Colorectal Cancer Alliance volunteer Valarie Schlosser encourages others to learn from her experience.
  7. Back to Work with an Ostomy-More than half the people Allsup helps with SSDI say they would like to return to work. The United Ostomy Associations of America offers practical advice for those who have had ostomy surgery.
  8. Do I Need Medicare if I have Other Health Insurance?-SSDI beneficiaries are eligible for Medicare 24 months after their cash benefits begin. We answer some of their most common questions in this post.
  9. How to Work the System so the System Helps You Work– Most who apply for SSDI are unaware of the support they can receive to return to work.
  10. empower by Allsup®—Making Things Possible -This post provides links to resources that help individuals with disabilities access technology.
  11. The Pain That Makes You Want to Die (tied for #10)-Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability. Chronic regional pain syndrome/reflex sympathetic dystrophy is one of the most painful chronic conditions there is.

The Number One New Year’s Resolution Social Security Should Make—And Keep

2018 January 4

By The Old Sarge

An open letter to Congress and Acting Social Security Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill.

Dear Members of Congress and Acting Commissioner Berryhill:

Is it too late to make a New Year’s resolution? If not, how about resolving to eliminate the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) backlog? By the end of fiscal year 2019―not 2022, as Acting Commissioner Berryhill has projected. This year. Make it a major priority.

You’ve all been in office long enough to know that SSDI is an important program, paid for by workers in case they become disabled.  You also know that it needs unified stewardship and a commitment to modernizing how it serves those stuck in the backlog and those who will be applying for benefits in the next few years.

I’m sure you’re aware that two-thirds of initial SSDI applicants are denied benefits. Most of those who appeal that decision will be denied again. Then they face the ridiculously looong wait for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Other processes, such as “on the record” decisions that were successfully used in the past, have been virtually abandoned. Today, more than a million SSDI applicants wait an average of 605 days for a hearing decision. That’s on top of more than 200 days just to get to the hearing level.  About 10,000 people died in that line last year, according to the SSA; up from 8,900 the year before. These are people who paid for disability insurance throughout their entire working lives.

There a lot of reasons—or excuses—for the decision backlog. The agency says it can’t do the job because it’s understaffed and under budgeted.  Lawmakers have lots of excuses as well―either unreasonably suggesting the program is full of fraudsters and fakers or that only more budget will do. Surely there is a compromise. But a compromise has to begin with a genuine desire to step up and help former workers quickly learn if they are or are not eligible for benefits―before they are financially devastated, lose their homes and die.

The question isn’t, “Where does it stop?”  The question is, “When does it truly start?”

When do Congress and the SSA really come together and dedicate their mutual efforts on helping former workers, who after 22 years on average, have left their jobs as the result of a severe disability? When do both of them decide five more years of this is unacceptable and work toward a resolution?

In September 2016, SSA published its Compassionate And REsponsive Service Plan to Reduce Pending Hearings, or CARES Plan. It outlined a goal of reaching an average processing time of 270 days by the end of Fiscal year 2020.

Nice try, Commissioner Berryhill., but not nearly nice enough. In effect, you’re telling Americans with severe disabilities that even if you meet CARES’ goals (which is doubtful) that they’ll still have to wait nine months for a hearing. Don’t forget that’s after months of struggling through the SSDI process just to get to the hearing stage. That’s simply not acceptable.

I urge you and Congress to do whatever needs to be done to immediately reduce the backlog. You can start by visiting BanishTheBacklog on Facebook to read posts by real people facing real problems while they languish in the waiting line.

You also might want to check empower by Allsup to see what we’re doing to help. empower is a dual-purpose online tool that can reduce an applicant’s wait time for SSDI benefits and give them 50 percent higher odds of being approved. It also helps them return to the workforce if they’re able.

Best Regards,

The Old Sarge

P.S. The next time you see President Trump, tell him I recommend that he names a permanent SSA Commissioner. You may also want to suggest that it’s time to reinstate the on-the-record decision process that doesn’t require in-person hearings.

Say Bah, Humbug to the SSDI Hassle with empower

2017 December 19

By The Old Sarge

It’s the holiday season and across the country families are trimming their Christmas trees, buying gifts for their loved ones, and already thinking about how they can fudge on their New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news and spoil the spirit of the season, but as much as I enjoy the holidays, I know they bring more than comfort and joy to many Americans. I’m talking about the thousands of people who suffer disabilities so severe they can no longer work. Without an income, they are more concerned with how they’re going to meet their mortgage payment and buy next month’s meds than they are about chestnuts roasting on an open fire or some jolly fat guy squeezing down the chimney.

Even if they’re fortunate enough to have a working spouse or adult children who can pitch in to help with the bills, many have to deal with the debilitating pain, constant stress and depression that so often accompany their physical ailments.

And then there’s the overwhelming hassle and the mind-numbing waiting line for a decision on their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim. More than a million people are waiting to present their SSDI claim to an administrative law judge (ALJ). The waiting lines—more than two years in many states—can be deathly.

Take that last sentence literally. In the last year, about 10,000 people have died waiting in that line.

I wish I could tell you that Allsup has discovered a magic path to immediate SSDI benefits, but I can’t. We’re in the business of offering people with disabilities a professional, expert and hassle-free service, not promising a Christmas miracle.

What we are promising is an easier and quicker way for former workers to receive the disability benefits they paid for. We call this promise empower by Allsup.

empower is a dual-purpose online tool that offers an easier, more helpful and smarter way to apply for SSDI. It’s such a powerful tool that first-time applicants using empower have 50 percent higher odds of approval. Just as important, empower can help SSDI beneficiaries return to work if their health improves and they are able to do so.

It’s time to make a New Year’s resolution to say goodbye to the SSDI hassle. Learn more about empower and take our free SSDI assessment here.

Forget the Numbers, Hear the Stories of the SSDI Backlog

2017 December 11

By Regina Carlton

People around the country are learning what we at Allsup have known for years: people face financial devastation and psychological distress when they have to wait years for their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Last month, two major U.S. newspapers shared stories of SSDI claimants with severe and long-term disabilities who are fighting to survive. The Washington Post article, “597 Days. And Still Waiting,” included an excellent video explaining the SSDI process, including data on who gets stuck in the backlog and who gets approved for benefits at each level of the process.

The Orange County Register ran a piece called, “Is Social Security Cheating the Disabled?”

Here are just a few SSDI facts the Post and the Register mentioned:

  • More than a million people are waiting in line for a hearing.
  • On average, they will wait nearly two years.
  • About 19,000 people—taxpayers who paid the required “premiums” for this federally mandated insurance program—died while waiting in that line for a decision.

Numbers are important, but they don’t tell the whole story.  People tell stories―people like Joe, Rebecca and Lisa, who were featured in the newspaper articles.

I hear stories like theirs every day, and it’s what drives my team and me to make sure the people we help have the best initial SSDI application possible. If you are approved for disability benefits at the initial level, you can receive your decision within three to six months. If you are denied, you’re thrust into an appeals process that could take more than two years.

Social Security denies two-thirds of all initial applications, but at Allsup, more than half of the people we represent get approved at the initial level.

Like most everything else in life, doing it right the first time is best. Allsup makes it easy to get the best start possible, with the online tool, empower by Allsup.

No matter what step you’re at in the SSDI process, Allsup experts can help you. You are more than a number. You have a story to tell.

At Allsup, we hear you.

Caregivers Can Save Time with the Power of empower

2017 November 7

By the Old Sarge

If you’re a caregiver for someone with a serious and long-term disability, you already know that your time is precious.

Somehow, along with living your own life, you have to find time to tend to the physical and emotional needs of the person you’re caring for. This may include helping them shop, cook, taking care of their personal hygiene, and ensuring they are as comfortable as possible.

And, of course, helping them pay their bills.

Money is always a huge concern. Unless they are lucky enough to be financially independent, just paying the mortgage or rent, putting food on the table, buying their prescription medications, and meeting medical co-pays, may drain what little resources they may have set aside.

That’s why it’s important to consider helping them apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.  Overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), SSDI pays monthly benefits to people who are no longer able to work because of a long-term disability. This federal program is truly a godsend for people who are left scratching for every penny at the end of the month.

SSDI may be a life-changing solution for the person you’re caring for. Unfortunately, applying for these benefits is a complicated and lengthy process requiring a ton of paperwork. First, you’ll have to answer several basic questions. Do they have a work history? Are they under full retirement age? Do they meet the SSA’s definition of disabled?

And then it gets difficult. Most people need professional help to answer all the questions and properly complete the required paperwork. It’s important to do it right the first time,

That’s why empower by Allsup® is so important.

empower by Allsup is a unique and powerful dual purpose online tool that puts more than 30 years’ experience to work for you and the person you’re caring for. First, empower helps you determine if your loved one is a good candidate to receive SSDI benefits and meets the SSA’s strict eligibility requirements. If so, an easy to understand video will guide you both through the application process with simple step-by-step audio and written instructions.

When you use empower by Allsup to help the person you’re caring for apply for SSDI, their chances of being approved will increase by 50 percent. Best yet, if their health recovers to the point they can return to work, empower will help them do just that.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and the Caregiver Action Network has declared this year’s theme, “Caregiving Around the Clock”.

It’s time to save time. Check out empower by Allsup today.

We Call It SSDI 101, But It’s So Much More

2017 November 6

By Leia of Allsup

Before I started at Allsup nearly eight years ago, I didn’t know much about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I didn’t have any relatives or friends who applied for disability benefits, so I was in for a rude awakening on how complex this topic was.

Often people don’t know where to begin when they have been diagnosed with a severe health condition that is expected to last 12 months or longer. They may not even see themselves as having a disability because it’s so abrupt and life-changing.

Additionally, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding SSDI, which is why we created “SSDI101: The Path To Benefits,” located at ssdi101.allsup.com.

We took our 30+ years of experience and the questions we most often receive and answered them all in one place.

We start by explaining what SSDI is, who may qualify and how you receive it. One of my favorite features is the monthly disability income calculator. You can select the year you were born and your average annual income, and it provides you with an estimated monthly payment.

In addition, you can see the most common types of disabilities among former workers receiving Social Security disability. There’s also a glossary of key terms—helpful for navigating the disability maze.

Another important section explains how long the SSDI application and appeals process takes. Getting approved for SSDI can take a very long time and hiring an SSDI representative can help speed up this process and make it go more smoothly.

If you have questions about SSDI, I encourage you to visit ssdi101.allsup.com.

There you can download a free worksheet to help you gather the details you’ll need when you’re ready to apply for disability benefits.

I hope SSDI101 has the answers you’re looking for. If it doesn’t, please click below to leave a comment.

Employment and Multiple Sclerosis

2017 October 31
Steve Nissen of the National MS Society

Steve Nissen of the National MS Society

Steve Nissen, Director, MS Navigator Services Delivery.

MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

If you have met one person with multiple sclerosis (MS), then you have met one person with MS. No two experiences are the same. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from numbness and tingling to walking difficulties, fatigue, dizziness, pain, depression, blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person can’t be predicted.

Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50—their prime career years. At least two to three times more women than men are diagnosed with the disease. At this age, many people have already completed their advanced training and education and they’ve been working and moving up the career ladder. They bring a wealth of experience.

Proactively think about relationship between MS and employment

It’s never too soon to think about the impact MS can have on employment, and vice versa.  Often, people with MS don’t reach out for information and support until they face an employment crisis. Plan ahead as much as possible and learn about key employment issues including:

  • Legal protections in the workplace, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Issues surrounding disclosure, such as when is it necessary, to whom, what to say, and potential advantages and disadvantages of that decision
  • Understanding accommodations: Many symptoms can be managed, but the responsibility to ask for what is needed is up to the employee
  • Tap into available resources, whether it is to gain or to maintain employment

National MS Society Logo

Maintaining employment is possible

Many people living with MS want to work and continue to work despite their symptoms, which can often be managed on the job with accommodations. This includes computer and other forms of assistive technology, proper ergonomic workstation set-up, arrangement of workspace by task frequency and priority, flexible work schedule such as telecommuting or altered hours, elimination of distractions and clutter that might impair attention, and other cognitive functioning. The type of accommodations may change over time as symptoms change, when a person experiences an exacerbation or when the job situation changes. Variability of symptoms may require accommodations to change.  There are many resources available — use them and share them:

Connect with National MS Society resources to help you plan how best to manage the potential impact MS may have on employment

Editors note: Today is the last day of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. However, the National MS Society and other organizations provide employment resources and guidance year-round.

Applying for Disability Benefits Does Not Have To Be So Scary

2017 October 30

SSDI does not have to be scaryBy Jim of Allsup

You’ve probably heard horror stories about how many people who apply for disability benefits are denied.

Yes, there are long lines of people waiting for a hearing on their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims. Unfortunately, the stories are true. Today, more than a million people are waiting years in a line for a decision.

Applying for disability benefits can be a grueling process, and no one is more eager for a favorable decision than you.

But Allsup ranks a close second. That’s why we created empower by Allsup®. We have taken a stressful process, with complex forms and many rules—and streamlined it for you: our customers.

Following a few simple steps with our online tool can make your experience better. You can feel more empowered in the SSDI process. You can learn more about your likelihood of being eligible for benefits and have help on your side when you apply.

empower by Allsup is the result of our more than 30 years of SSDI experience—invested in a more timely way to help you apply.  We have helped more than 275,000 people receive their SSDI benefits.

Using empower When You Apply For Disability

You can:

  1. Receive a free assessment for likelihood of SSDI eligibility based on Social Security’s program requirements.
  2. Begin your SSDI application online with Allsup. It doesn’t require visiting, scheduling an appointment or calling the Social Security Administration.
  3. Learn more about all of the advantages of your SSDI benefits, including protection for your retirement income and eventual eligibility for Medicare.
  4. Understand your options for eventually returning to work—no you don’t have to give up on the idea of returning to work when you apply for disability.

You have paid for these benefits while working, so don’t pass them up—especially if you are thinking about returning to work after a long road to rehabilitation or recovery.

In addition, more than half of the people Allsup helps are approved for SSDI benefits at the initial application level. This means they never get mired in the SSDI hearing backlog.

The best part is, there’s no waiting in line. Start your SSDI application from your home, and the easy-to-understand information is readily available on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device.

Choose the online tool that can make a difference in your life by using empower by Allsup to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Social Security’s Small Increase Helps Disability, Retirement Benefits

2017 October 18

By Allsup

Every dollar helps when it comes to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and retirement benefits, and it’ll be a little bit more next year.

The Social Security Administration announced last week that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will increase by 2 percent—the biggest jump since 2011. COLA increases are partly based on the annual Consumer Price Index, which factors in the inflation rate for goods and services.

More than 2.5 million retired federal government and military retirees will also enjoy the same 2 percent increase in their monthly checks.

The pay bump will increase the average SSDI benefit by about $288 a year, from $1,173 to $1,197. You’re wrong if you think that a 2 percent increase won’t make a real difference.

Because of the magic of the compounding effect, even small increases can make a big difference over the years. For example, if you increase your checking account of $1,000 by 5 percent, you’ll have $1,050. Because the next 5-percent increase will be based on the new amount, you’ll then have $1,102.50. After 10 years of such “minor” differences, your original $1,000 is now magically $1,650.

The COLA is one of those important reasons to apply for disability benefits.

When a severe disability gets in the way of your ability to work for a year or longer—it’s a day by day, dollar by dollar dilemma.

Wondering if you, or someone you know, should apply for SSDI? Visit empower by Allsup®.