Celebrating the Bravery of Heroes with Invisible Disabilities

4th-of-July-300x200What an amazing time to honor those who have given so much to ensure our freedom.

To these individuals, I want to say thank you! It always amazes me when men and women believe so strongly in freedom and the American way of life that they are willing to fight for these causes. I am even more astounded when these heroes fight for freedom in areas far from home.

Because of their incredible sacrifices, it is especially sad when the cost of freedom is paid for in lives and injuries. It is also very disheartening when those who return home are abandoned, marginalized or shunned, despite their courage and ability to perform seemingly impossible feats in theaters around the globe. This poor treatment can be exceptionally painful for those who return with mental health conditions and other injuries that are not visible to the naked eye, those whose wounds are hidden. Examples of heroes who have experienced these types of injuries include former Captain Luis Carlos Montalván, former Army Medical Specialist Juliet Madsen and Bob Woodruff, co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight.

In The New York Times bestselling book, Until Tuesday, Luis shares his amazing story of the “war after the war” – his battle with invisible disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – and how his service dog, Tuesday, has given him hope and healing. Before Tuesday came into Luis’ life, he was overwhelmed by his debilitating injuries and memories of war, and could barely leave the house due to Agoraphobia. Today, Tuesday assists Luis with his balance, retrieves things off of the floor, reminds him to take his medications, wakes him up when he is having flashbacks, gets Luis out of the house, provides him with the unconditional love we all need to give us strength and much more. In 2011, Luis was the first recipient of the Invisible Disabilities Association’s (IDA) Invisible Hero Award.

In 2004, former Army Medical Specialist and current IDA Ambassador Juliet Madsen’s convoy was hit by a roadside bomb, changing the course of her life forever. Due to a traumatic brain injury she acquired from the incident, she has had to endure years of physical and occupational therapy. Despite the challenges she has faced, Juliet was able to start her own business, Stroke of Luck Quilting and Design, with help from the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

In 2010, Juliet developed a fundraiser called, “the Ultimate Sew-In” to support Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Wheelchair Games. Along with other volunteers, she created almost 500 quilts for other soldiers injured in the War on Terrorism.  She was also commissioned to create a wall quilt for the Veterans of Foreign Wars USA to celebrate the restoration of one of the Vietnam Memorials in Washington, D.C. In addition, she has written a book, Objects for Deployment, through the Veterans Book Project and begun training for triathlons through the TriSoldier Project, a non-profit organization that helps veterans with disabilities participate in sports.

Bob Woodruff, co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight and 2012 IDA Inspiration Award recipient, was seriously injured by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle near Taji, Iraq in January 2006. Just 13 months after being wounded, Mr. Woodruff returned to ABC News with his hour-long, primetime documentary entitled, “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports.” The report chronicled his traumatic brain injury,  painstaking recovery and the plight of thousands of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with similar injuries. Mr. Woodruff continues to cover the topic of traumatic brain injury and was honored with a Peabody Award in 2008 for his reporting on the subject.

I am also moved by the family members of military personnel who are indirectly impacted by invisible brain injuries, such as Anna Bigham, the recipient  of IDA’s 2012  Invisible Hero  Award.  Anna founded the organization Hidden Wounds in 2009 after her brother succumbed to his post-war challenges by taking his own life.  Deciding that his death would not be in vain, she focused her efforts on starting an organization that provides the support that returning combat veterans need to overcome psychological injuries, and to increase education and awareness of these challenges among veterans, their families or caretakers and the community. She continues to serve as the executive director of Hidden Wounds, guiding the organization with her vision and overseeing all aspects of its operation.

Examples of the hidden wounds or invisible injuries noted in the stories above and experience by many veterans include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Many times PTSD and TBI go hand in hand.  TBI can result in changes in a person’s physical  functioning, thinking abilities or cognitive function, and behavioral effects and they are often interrelated. These effects sometimes cause other difficulties such as sleeping problems, depression and anxiety. PTSD is a mental health problem that can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like war, assault or disaster.

The good news is that there are more and more organizations and companies with programs aimed at making a difference in the lives of veterans living with TBI and PTSD. For example, the Tug  McGraw  Foundation is partnering with CereScan  Corp. of Denver, Colo.,  and  other organizations, to create the Invisible Brain Injury Project. This project seeks new and more efficient methods of identifying and treating invisible wounds such as Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), and IDA is thrilled to support it.

IDA ambassador and recording artist Pete Ohlin will be donating 25 cents of the cost of every song from his album Majestic Rain that is downloaded via  iTunes, Amazon and other online sources to IDA. IDA will in turn pass along 10 cents of every download to the Invisible Brain Injury Project. Pete’s passion for music actually came out of his own need for peace.  When Pete  was eleven years old, his sister died from spinal meningitis, and after her death he struggled with depression and insomnia.

By the time Pete reached college, he was in desperate need of peace in  his life.  He believed that no matter what circumstances he faced or the hardships he had to  endure,  God could somehow use them to bless others. Ironically, the only time Pete felt at total peace was when he played the piano. The vibration of the piano strings resonated deep within his body, which somehow helped sooth his emotional scars.  Pete has received countless letters from soldiers at war, parents who have lost children in mass  shootings, teachers, nurses, physicians, counselors, children  and everyone  in  between who have said that they experienced  peace through his music.

It is important to remember that many chronic conditions, especially brain injuries and trauma, cannot be seen with the naked eye. A person can battle extreme fatigue and cognitive impairments on the inside, even though they may appear healthy and well on the outside. Despite their hardships, people living with chronic conditions do not want to give up! They make efforts to laugh, smile, look their best and enjoy life, even though they may be experiencing health complications. Because of this, we should not confuse their endeavors to live life and be positive with the notion that they are feeling well or doing better. Instead, let us commend them for their incredible courage, perseverance and persistence that make their illnesses, wounds and injuries seem invisible to us. They are truly our Invisible Heroes!

This article was first published on Disability.Blog, by Disability.Gov on July 2, 2013.

About Wayne

Wayne is the Founder & President of the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA). His inspiration for IDA is His wife, Sherri, who lives with Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme Disease, Neurological Chemical Intolerance, Traumatic Brain Injury and Anaphylaxis Food Allergies. Wayne is the Author of the booklet, But You LOOK Good! How to Encourage and Understand People Living with Illness and Pain. He has spoken at seminars, conferences, health fairs and banquets to create awareness, education and support. His personal experience includes that of a professional, multi-tasking husband caregiver with an extensive background in management, media and technology. This man on a mission quickly launched IDA into a world-wide outreach for millions living with invisible disabilities. Wayne and the IDA Executive and Advisory Teams reach out to others living with illness, pain and injury around the world. They bring encouragement and awareness about invisible disabilities to friends, family, co-workers and businesses through websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, seminars, events, videos, radio and social networks.

Research Links Isolation, Stress and Disability

Allsup Highlights Resources, SSDI Help as More Research Links Isolation, Stress and Disability

Allsup outlines benefits of online communities and disability organizations, especially for those stressed while seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Belleville, Ill.—April 3, 2013—It won’t surprise someone battling a long-term serious chronic illness or disability, but recent studies confirm the health impacts of isolation and stress. The studies highlight the value of supportive resources, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation.

“Anxiety, loneliness and depression can strongly affect a person’s physical and emotional state, and more researchers are showing the impact for those with chronic illnesses,” said Tricia Blazier, personal financial planning manager for Allsup.

Recent studies include those by researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine (“Loneliness predicts pain, depression, and fatigue: Understanding the role of immune dysregulation”) and the University of California-San Francisco (“Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death”). They indicate that loneliness has an impact on people’s functional abilities, especially for older adults, and weakens their immune systems, among other effects.

“Many people may not know how or who to ask for help, but it’s important to seek out support from organizations like Allsup and groups that we work with,” Blazier said.

Resources include the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lupus Foundation of America, Invisible Disabilities Association, United Spinal Association and the Caregiver Action Network. “Many nonprofit groups have volunteers and peer groups to connect you to resources and people who have your condition, and live in your area,” Blazier explained.

It can be a difficult transition for those who recently experienced a severe disability, such as an injury or quickly worsening illness, Blazier said. It’s hard to go from working, with a built-in social network and feelings of competency and productivity, to a more home-based life centered around medical concerns.

Many people have additional stress with financial worries and the process of seeking Social Security Disability Insurance can be lengthy and complicated. More than two-thirds of applicants are denied SSDI benefits, and the process of seeking a disability appeal can be stressful. A survey of customers who received their Social Security benefits with Allsup’s help found that 75 percent experienced extreme or significant stress during the SSDI process.

Social Security Disability Insurance is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration. To qualify for SSDI, individuals must have a severe disability expected to last for more than 12 months or is terminal. Individuals must have paid FICA payroll taxes to be eligible and, typically, must have worked five out of the last 10 years. Find more information on Allsup.com.

Allsup offers a variety of resources, including Allsup Place, a free online community for visitors and customers. One customized tool is the “Locate Resources” option. Users have access to hundreds of resources for their needs, including community agencies and government websites based on the state they live in and their condition.

“It’s important to seek supportive relationships in the wake of a severe disability,” Blazier added. “Along with serving as an expert SSDI representative, Allsup professionals understand and help many of our customers to locate important resources.”

To determine if you are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, call the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 for a free SSDI eligibility evaluation.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, Click Here. Visit Allsup on Facebook.

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

Hurdles Remain for People with Disabilities and Seniors with Heathcare Reform

Hurdles Remain for People with Disabilities and Seniors After Supreme Court Ruling on Healthcare Reform, Says Allsup

Allsup explains impact of court’s ruling for people with disabilities awaiting SSDI benefits and those relying on Medicare

Belleville, Ill.—June 28, 2012—The U.S. Supreme Court ruling to uphold portions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) will have a profound impact on people with disabilities and those relying on Medicare. But more needs to be known about the affordability of care before determining the law’s actual benefit for people with severe disabilities, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation and Medicare plan selection services.

“Access to healthcare is essential for the well-being of millions of seniors and people with disabilities,” said Tricia Blazier, senior disability life planning manager for Allsup. “While the ACA is not perfect, it generally has had a positive impact for most Medicare beneficiaries. For example, it provides preventive service coverage and shrinks the prescription drug donut hole.”

It also has shown promise for people with disabilities because of future provisions set to take effect through 2014. However, Blazier noted, the overall benefit is yet to be determined, with affordability of care being a significant hurdle that still needs to be addressed.

“Even with healthcare reform, many of the initial coverage options have been out of the financial reach of SSDI beneficiaries, for example, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIPs),” Blazier said. “The ruling should help resolve some of the uncertainty surrounding healthcare reform, and the broader areas of reform now can move into place. Hopefully, this means improvements to costs and coverage options to support people with permanent disabilities.”

Below, Allsup reviews the key provisions on which the Supreme Court ruled and how those decisions will affect Medicare beneficiaries and people with disabilities.

The Individual Mandate

The Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate requiring people to have coverage is constitutional. Under healthcare reform, all U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to have qualifying health coverage starting in 2014.

For people with disabilities, this means a number of positive developments. Insurers already are required to provide coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Starting in 2014, insurers can no longer deny coverage to anyone with pre-existing health conditions and lifetime limits will be eliminated. This is the same year that individuals will be required to have healthcare coverage and state exchanges will be operational.

People with disabilities who are awarded SSDI benefits must wait 24 months after receiving cash SSDI benefits to become Medicare eligible. Allsup has found that one-third of individuals with serious disabilities will lose their health insurance while awaiting Medicare eligibility and are unable to obtain new coverage because of costs and pre-existing conditions.

“Without the individual mandate, the cost of insurance would largely continue to be out of reach for people with disabilities,” Blazier said. “We have already seen this with the PCIPs, where enrollment is lower than expected and the actual cost of coverage is nearly double what had been the anticipated cost.”

PCIPs, essentially the precursors to the state exchanges required under healthcare reform, are plans that provide insurance to people with pre-existing conditions who can’t get coverage elsewhere at the same market rates as healthy consumers. PCIP participation has been lower than expected and, while costs vary widely by state, each participant is expected to pay $28,944 in medical costs in 2012—more than double the expectation, according to a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services February report.

“For people who cannot afford coverage in the private market, the state exchanges—which will be required to also cover people with disabilities—should provide a bridge, but only if they’re truly affordable,” Blazier said.

The exchanges will allow individuals to compare qualified plans and provide them with information on whether they are eligible for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or other programs to reduce the costs of insurance. For any citizen, especially those with physical and mental disabilities, simplifying how they go about assessing their options and eligibility for complicated programs is an important improvement.

Under the ACA, those without coverage will face a penalty that starts in 2014 of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, up to $285 for a family or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater, and continues to increase through 2016. After 2016, cost-of-living adjustments will be applied.

Medicaid Expansion Tempered

The ACA had required states to adopt expanded Medicaid eligibility and coverage thresholds in order to remain eligible to participate in the joint federal-state program. Medicaid provides healthcare to people with low incomes and those with disabilities.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress cannot penalize states that choose not to expand Medicaid. As a result, states will not lose their existing Medicaid funds if they don’t comply with this expansion, which called for Medicaid in every state to cover people under age 65 with income of 133 percent of the federal poverty line starting in 2014. (The federal poverty line is $23,050 for a family of four in 2012.)

“In states where Medicaid is expanded, the lower thresholds will help many individuals who are not able to work because of a disability and have to make a daily decision between being able to afford to eat or taking medications that are essential for their conditions,” Blazier said. “We know that when people have to make these types of trade-offs, it often increases healthcare costs down the road.”

What ACA Now Means for People with Disabilities and Medicare Beneficiaries

Provisions of healthcare reform already offering more affordable coverage to Medicare beneficiaries and people with disabilities include:

  • Elimination of Lifetime Limits, Regulated Annual Limits and Coverage for Young Adults - as of September 2010. These provisions were upheld. For example, many young adults (up to age 26) who were allowed onto their parents’ insurance coverage can continue with this coverage.
  • Coverage of Certain Preventive Services - as of September 2010 for all new health plans; extended to Medicare plans in 2011.
  • Reduction of the Medicare Prescription Drug Donut Hole - starting in 2011 until fully eliminated in 2020.

In addition to the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid (for those states opting for expansion) that go into effect in 2014, other key provisions that will go into effect shortly include:

  • Preventive Services for Medicaid. Starting in 2013, federal matching payment incentives will be provided to states that offer Medicaid coverage with no patient cost sharing for certain preventive services.
  • State Exchanges. Starting in 2014, individuals and small businesses with up to 100 employees can purchase qualified coverage through state exchanges. These exchanges will have a single form for applying for health programs, including coverage through the exchanges and Medicaid and CHIP programs.
  • Elimination of Annual Limits on Coverage and Guaranteed Coverage. Starting in 2014, annual limits on the dollar value of coverage will be prohibited. ACA also requires guaranteed coverage and renewability of health insurance regardless of health status. In addition, ACA allows rating variation based only on age, geographic area, family composition and tobacco use in the exchanges and the individual and the small-group insurance market.

However, not all provisions of healthcare reform will benefit all Medicare beneficiaries and people with disabilities. For example, starting in 2013, the threshold for itemized deductions for unreimbursed medical expenses increases from 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 10 percent of AGI. However, this is waived for individuals age 65 and older through 2016. Also in 2013, taxpayers will see increased taxes for Medicare. This includes a 0.9 percent increase in the Medicare Part A tax rate to 2.35 percent on earnings over $200,000 for individual taxpayers, and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly, and a new 3.8 percent tax on unearned income for higher-income taxpayers.

Social Security Disability & Medicare Help

Find more resources for people with disabilities and answers to questions about Social Security disability benefits.
Find answers to Medicare questions by contacting the Allsup Medicare Advisor®, which works one-on-one with individuals to help them choose the Medicare plan that best meets their needs or call (866) 521-7655.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, Click Here. Visit Allsup on Facebook.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

The Difference You Make

“Did I read that right?”

I re-read the online invitation I received. It wasn’t an invitation anyone hopes to get. There was no ‘shhh’ finger-to-lips graphic, no indication of umbrella drinks, not even a hint of fun food.

There was, however, a beautiful photo of a radiant young woman with three young boys.

It seems a fundraiser is scheduled for someone I know, someone who is a colleague and friend. It has been a few months since we connected and this was the first I heard of her news.

My heart skipped a thump as my eyes re-scanned the text. The words took a moment to register in my unaccepting mind. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

A small business owner and active business leader throughout much of the state, she has needed to curtail her activities, for obvious reasons, thereby curtailing her income, too.

It must have hurt to cut back on the passion that drives her in business and her usual accompanying dizzying schedule. What must hurt more is knowing she has three young boys to raise alone, while looking into an uncertain future, financially or otherwise.

No one ever thinks someone else will get cancer. When that someone is young, vibrant and churns out whirlwind energy that leaves the rest of us panting several hundred paces behind, it shocks something in our soul.

My soul was most certainly shocked.

The invitation said something about us needing to help someone who routinely and unselfishly gives so much while helping all of us. Yes, yes, that’s what we need to do. Give back. Even though the monetary giving back seems paltry in comparison to how much we’d like to help in a more vital way.

But that’s not our role. We can only stand by the sidelines and watch while leaving that role to her healthcare team- nurses, doctors and everyone else it will take to battle the battle inside. We trust them to fight this battle for her in the way the rest of us can’t.

Coincidentally– or not– the email I opened immediately prior to the invitation was an interview outlining the importance of the oncology patient and provider relationship. I want to ask her if she’s happy with her healthcare team that is taking care of her. I want to know that she likes them, trusts them and respects them.

It’s none of my business, really, yet I want to be assured. I write this knowing it’s not my assurance that matters.

I think back to friends and family who have fought the battle. Many won. Some did not. I remember how most raved about their nurses and doctors and techs who traveled with them on their roller-coaster journeys.

What a difference they made. Not only to their patients, but to their patients’ friends and family, most of whom they never met. They left legacies, unaware.

In whose life will you leave a legacy today, whether or not you ever read of it in print?

This article originally appeared in NurseTogether.com. Published with permission.

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.

Heart Attacks Triggered by a Broken Heart

Most of us have heard that stress can cause heart problems. We have even heard the stories about a spouse who passes away, then the other follows close behind.

The mother in law of Invisible Disabilities Association’s Founder, Wayne Connell, has recently experienced increased heart trouble after her son Jim unexpectedly passed away last December. Carole has been battling Lung Cancer for the past year and found herself hospitalized shortly after her son’s death, due to severe chest pains, irregular heartbeat, shooting blood pressure and episodes of collapsing. They did not find artery damage, but her doctor said that her symptoms must be from a “broken heart.”

“It’s called stress cardiomyopathy, or ‘broken heart syndrome” (KENS5.com). A recent study discovered how a broken heart can trigger a heart attack.

New research presented this week at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego finds that during mental stress, blood flow through the heart increases in men, but doesn’t change in women. The findings suggest women’s hearts might not adjust properly to stress (KENS5.com).

This is not something to be taken lightly. Connie Pitts is a woman who lives with Fibromyalgia and Chemical Sensitivities, as well as the author of Get a Whiff of This, Connie shared with the Invisible Disabilities Association what happened to her mother shortly after her brother passed away.

My mother died of a heart attack three months after my brother took his own life. During that three months, her eyes lost their sparkle, and she lost over thirty pounds. I do believe it was the grief over her loss that caused her to have a fatal heart attack.

Dr. James Park, an interventional cardiologist at the Texas Health Dallas Hospital said, “What they theorize is the arteries spasm, causing damage to the heart,” he said. “Then, when I do an angiogram to look at the arteries, it looks like there’s no blockages there, but there’s damage to the heart.” (KENS5.com).

Read the full story from KENS5.com in San Antonio.

ARTICLE RESOURCES

A Great Loss for IDA Founder and His Wife

KENS5.com. San Antonio. Study: Broken heart can trigger heart attack. Janet St. James. WFAA.com. April 27, 2012.

Pitts, Connie. Author of Get a Whiff of This. IDA Interview April 2012.

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

Mistakes with Reporting SSDI Can Be Costly at Tax Time

Mistakes with Reporting Social Security Disability Income Can Be Costly at Tax Time, Allsup Finds

Lump-sum SSDI awards for new beneficiaries require special attention; Allsup outlines other cost-saving tax tip

Belleville, Ill. – February 17, 2012 – More than 1 million people with severe disabilities became beneficiaries under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program last year. But many of them are likely to improperly report their SSDI payments on their income tax returns, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance representation and Medicare plan selection services.

“It can take months and sometimes years to receive Social Security disability benefits. So, many people receive a one-time, lump-sum amount that includes back payments,” said Paul Gada, a tax attorney and personal financial planning director for the Allsup Disability Life Planning Center. “One of the most frequent questions we receive from claimants at this time of year is whether SSDI benefits are taxable and how to report lump-sum payments on their tax return.”

Up to 50 percent of Social Security disability benefits are taxable each year. The actual amount is determined by adding one-half of the taxpayer’s SSDI benefits to all of his or her other income sources. For 2011, a federal income tax return must be filed if gross income is at least $19,000 for couples filing jointly and $9,550 for individuals.

“The average monthly SSDI benefit for 2011 was $1,072.96 or $12,875.54 for the year. As a result, many people relying on SSDI will not owe taxes,” Gada said. “A problem can occur, however, if they mistakenly report all of a lump-sum payment received in 2011 as 2011 income, in which case they could end up paying too much in taxes.”

According to Gada, it’s essential that both individuals and their tax preparers understand how to report SSDI lump-sum payments. “The IRS allows taxes on SSDI lump-sum payments to be spread over previous tax years using the current-year tax return,” Gada explained. “This means recipients do not have to go through the time or expense of filing amended returns, or pay higher taxes on their current year’s income.”

People who received a lump-sum SSDI payment in 2011 will see this amount included in Box 3 of the Form SSA-1099 they receive from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Worksheets provided in IRS Publication 915 and discussed in Allsup’s free online guide, Managing Your Taxes, can be used to determine the taxable portion of a retroactive SSDI payment. However, Gada cautions it can be extremely difficult to do this by hand and recommends seeking help from a knowledgeable tax professional or, at the very least, investing in tax preparation software that covers this.

Other Money-Saving Tax Tips and Free Tax Filing Help

About 8.6 million disabled workers received income through the Social Security Disability Insurance program in 2011, including new beneficiaries.

Below, Allsup highlights additional tips that may help people with disabilities and their caregivers save on their taxes. More information is provided in Allsup’s Managing Your Taxes guide on Allsup.com, including links to free tax filing assistance resources.

Tax Credits

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This is a refundable tax credit of up to $5,751. When it’s applied, it could result in a refund. To be eligible, a taxpayer or a spouse needs to have been employed for part of 2011, earned below $13,660 to $49,078 (depending upon filing status and the number of children claimed) and had investment income of $3,500 or less. “Many people with disabilities don’t file a tax return because their income is so low,” Gada said. “But you could lose out on thousands of dollars from the EITC if you don’t file a tax return.”
  • Credit for people with disabilities. Taxpayers are eligible for this credit of up to $7,500, if they receive taxable disability income from a former employer’s accident, health or pension plan and meet income requirements. For 2011, adjusted gross income (AGI) must be under $17,500 for single filers, under $20,000 for joint filers with one spouse eligible for the credit, or under $25,000 for joint filers with both spouses eligible.
  • Dependent care credit. Taxpayers who pay someone to care for a dependent or spouse with physical or mental impairments may be able to take a credit of up to 35 percent of day care costs while they are working or looking for work.

Tax Deductions

  • Increased standard tax deduction. People who are blind or visually impaired may be able to take a higher standard tax deduction.
  • Medical deductions. Taxpayers who itemize can deduct medical costs if those costs exceed 7.5 percent of their AGI. Deductible expenses include medical and dental costs, travel expenses for treatment, long-term care and medical insurance premiums, and costs for certain equipment for people with disabilities. Taxpayers with a chronic illness, or with a spouse or child with a chronic illness, may be able to deduct costs for attending conferences related to that illness.
  • Deduct the costs of seeking SSDI benefits. Taxpayers who hired a representative such as Allsup to help them get SSDI benefits and who itemize can deduct the representation fee paid from the taxable part of their benefits.

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ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information and a Free Consultation visit Allsup.com. Be sure to mention you heard about them from IDA.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Above Allsup Press Release published with permission.

ARTICLE RESOURCE

Mistakes with Reporting Social Security Disability Income Can Be Costly at Tax Time, Allsup Finds. Allsup News Room. February 17, 2012.

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Tips on Social Security Eligibility

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

Nurse-Patient Relationships Endure

When attending a patient’s funeral, they blended in among the other mourners.

Nothing made them stand out, as they would in their normal work environment.

But this was not that. The graveside service was simple yet honorable. Snippets of conversation floating on the breeze caught my ear.

It was those snippets that amazed me.

I knew nurses were dedicated to their patients, but this was all new territory, at least for me. They seemed completely at ease, as though this was part of what they do everyday.

It made me wonder if it was routine to them.

Do nurses follow their patients beyond bedside duty? Do they feel a responsibility, a caring, a compassion not only for the patient, but the patient’s family?

Once their caregiving is no longer needed, do they still feel a connection to their patients?

Do they go so far as to attend a funeral of a deceased patient who had been in their care?

How utterly and phenomenally lovely and loving is that?

It’s compassion I don’t fully understand, from my limited viewpoint as a patient. It’s one I admire more than I can say.

I would want that for me, one day – a loooong way into the future, preferably.

I listened a bit more intently.

“I’m sorry, I don’t recognize you. Are you a friend of someone in the family?”

“We’re here because we were among the nurses in the hospital who treated him.”

“Oh! I didn’t recognize you. I’m so sorry.”

“That’s ok. You probably weren’t expecting to see us here. It’s the whole ‘out of context’ thing when trying to recognize faces.”

“It’s so kind of you to be here. Thank you so much for taking the time. Our dad received such great care at the end and you helped make a really difficult time a little easier.”

Their conversation created a lump in my throat. Wistful memories flashed in my mind.

As with any funeral, each one takes me back to two specific earlier funerals: my mom’s and my dad’s. While I don’t recall health care givers in attendance, I wouldn’t have been surprised if some had been there, especially among those at my mom’s funeral.

As a college student, I was too wrapped up in my own grief to give much attention to anyone not immediately recognizable. But I do recall the seemingly extra measures of kindness shown my mom by her nurses in her last days, while hospitalized.

The memory of the nurses’ gentle care of my mom impresses me still, a quarter century later.

If they weren’t at her funeral, I know it wouldn’t have been for lack of caring. They seemed the type who would have been there or who would have wanted to be there, if circumstances allowed.

I’m glad they were there for my friend’s dad’s service.

I like to think it’ll be a comfort for him and his family years later. It’s hard to remember details of those days later on; our memories can only store so much in the form of details or grief. I know it had to be comforting at the time.

Those nurses took their patient relationship to the next level. It inspired not only those in the relationship, but the rest of us who had the comfort of witnessing it, if only from a distance and after the light of it faded.

Reprinted with kind permission from NurseTogether.com

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.

Social Security Disability Denial Rates

The following excerpts and statistics were provided by Allsup. For more information and to receive a FREE consultation visit Click Here.

There are four levels in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) review and award system for disability. There is an additional level that takes you out of the SSA system to Federal Court, although only a small percentage of applicants will pass through all five levels.

Level One – Application. About 65 percent of initial applications are denied.

Complete the initial Social Security disability application and in most instances, a detailed Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire. There is an extensive amount of paperwork to complete at this initial level. According to the SSA, it is necessary for a doctor to verify information in the application with pertinent medical information and confirm that the disabling condition will last 12 months or longer. Being vague about your work history and exaggerating the impact of your disability will contribute to your claim being denied.

The Disability Determination Services (DDS) in your home state makes the initial disability determination. They secure medical evidence and arrange for one or more consultative exams if there is not enough evidence to make a decision. DDS employees gather and evaluate all the information to arrive at a disability determination. The wait period at level One may take as little as three months, but the average is four to six months. Only about 35 percent of initial applications are approved.

There are more than 100 rare diseases and cancers that may qualify someone for a quicker SSDI decision through the Social Security Administration’s Compassionate Allowances program.

Level Two – Reconsideration. 87 percent of first appeals are denied.

Level Three – Hearing. Approx 62 percent of second appeals are awarded to applicant.

Level Four -Appeals Court. Only 2 percent of third appeals result in a favorable decision for the applicant.

Level Five – Federal Court. Approximately 70 percent of these are denied with a small amount receiving a decision in FDC that resulted in an award. The remainder of those are remanded (sent back) to the hearing level for an additional hearing.

Read Full Article Here

ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis.

For more information and to receive a FREE consultation visit Allsup.com.

ARTICLE RESOURCE

Allsup, Inc. About SSDI. SSDI Process. Updated 9/8/2011

RELATED ARTICLES ON IDA

Allsup Applauds the Work of the Invisible Disabilities Association

Common Mistakes When Social Security is Denied

Disability Links and Resources

Living with Unlimited Purpose

November Shines the Spotlight on Family Caregivers

Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

Six Advantages of Representation for SSDI

Social Security Disability Denial Rates

Spotlight Shines on Invisible Disabilities Champions

Tips on Social Security Eligibility

Free consultation with Allsup for those who are not receiving benefits and do not have representation.

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

Calm Amidst Chaos

Calm amidst chaos?

Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Calm amidst chaos. When I heard that phrase today, it stuck in the little cobwebby corners of my grey matter.

Since then, it’s been rolling around, breaking through some of those sticky strands.

Given that I’m writing this article today, the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I can’t envision any calm amidst the chaos of that day, or the days immediately following it.

The heroes who helped, the heroes on-site, the ones in the hospitals – they likely didn’t feel any more calm than the victims or their loved ones felt. But I’m betting that if any calm was found that day, it might have been felt by the injured who were in the arms of, or under the gaze of, any of the emergency workers, including nurses, doctors, paramedics or any other healthcare professionals.

Maybe it comes naturally to some, maybe it’s in the educational training, but healthcare professionals seem to exude a certain calm in any storm, on or off the job. Lucky for the rest of us whose days might deteriorate at the mere sight of a torn fingernail.

While it’s in no way the same scale or significance of event, I would say that most of us experience individual shakeups that might feel like our own mini 9/11. Most often, our biggest shakeups involve sudden health crises of our own or of a loved one.

At those times, our world is unexpectedly rocked. We don’t know what’s going on anymore. What our calendars showed as priorities, no longer are. The world we thought we knew is wiped away and replaced with the unknown. Lots of unknowns. More question marks than answers.

What happened, and why? How do we fix it and recover? Or do we? Who needs to be involved? Where do we go from here? How much time will it take? What does the future look like – and can I get a guarantee with that?

In the meantime, in the haze, we’re left wondering if it’s the left foot or the right foot that takes the next step.

If we’re fortunate, we have family or friends whose presence can be calming. Often times, though, they’re struggling with the same issues we are. It’s hard to lean on a pillar if the pillar itself is leaning.

The ones not leaning are strangers: those strangers who take care of us when we can not, who guide us through unknown territory, who lend some calming compassion to an otherwise objective frame of mind.

It’s the calm we need when the terrain around us changed without our permission. We need a little guidance around the newfound stones, rocks and boulders in our path.

We lean on you, our healthcare professionals. We might have only met, but it’s your strength and calm that keeps us navigating through the fog.

Our individual, private catastrophic events are ones you see every day. They don’t throw you off as they do us. If they do, you’re a master at disguising it. And the Oscar goes to…YOU!

I long ago lost count of how many healthcare professionals calmed me during my own health crises or those of loved ones. Repeatedly, you’re there, offering calming reassurance, even in the face of unknown or fatal outcomes.

If only for an instant, you make me believe I’ll be ok, no matter the outcome.

#####

Reprinted with kind permission from www.NurseTogether.com.

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.

Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

September is Pain Awareness Month

Allsup offers free posters, explains how chronic pain is evaluated for SSDI benefits

Belleville, Ill. – August 29, 2011 – Chronic pain affects an estimated 116 million American adults—more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined, according to a recent Institute of Medicine report. Allsup, a nationwide Social Security disability representation company, helps thousands of people with chronic pain obtain their SSDI benefits each year. To salute those who persevere, Allsup is distributing free posters for Pain Awareness Month in September and explaining how chronic pain is evaluated in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims process.

SSDI is a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program established in 1954.  It provides a monthly benefit for people who have worked in the past, paid Social Security taxes and are unable to work for a year or more because of their disability.

“Pain is a major consideration in many claims,” said Ed Swierczek, Allsup senior claimant representative. “In fact, there are court cases throughout the country that state the effect of pain on a person’s functioning must be considered in the evaluation of a disability claim.”

The Social Security Administration is required to consider pain and the limitations it causes when evaluating a disability claim. However, before pain may be considered, a medically determinable severe impairment must be established and the established impairment must reasonably be expected to produce the pain.

For example, individuals with lupus often experience pain in their joints or muscles, or in the form of migraines. Systemic lupus erythematosus is included in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments and is considered a medically determinable severe impairment. Another common example is lower back pain due to a condition that meets the SSA listing of disorders of the spine.

“Because pain is subjective, the presence of a medically determinable severe impairment lends credibility to the pain,” Swierczek said. “It is important for individuals to inform their treating physicians each time they experience pain, and to document the presence of the pain at each office visit, if the pain is present.”

When evaluating a disability claim, the SSA must consider whether pain is severe enough to significantly limit a person’s ability to perform basic work activities. These activities include:

  • Walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling
  • Seeing, hearing and speaking
  • Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting

The SSA also considers:

  • The location, duration, frequency and intensity of the pain (or other symptoms).
  • Factors that precipitate and aggravate the symptoms.
  • The type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medication the individual takes or has taken to alleviate pain (or other symptoms).
  • Treatment, other than medication, the individual receives or has received for relief of pain (or other symptoms).
  • Any measures, other than treatment, the individual uses or has used to relieve pain (or other symptoms—e.g., lying flat on his/her back, standing for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or sleeping on a board).
  • Any other factors concerning the individual’s functional limitations and restrictions due to pain (or other symptoms).

“The most important thing to remember is always let your doctor know what your symptoms are, be it pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, etc.,” Swierczek said. “This not only documents your claim, but gives your doctor important information that he/she needs to provide treatment.”

For more information on the SSA’s five-step process to determine if a chronic pain patient qualifies for SSDI, visit Allsup.

Free posters highlighting Pain Awareness Month are available through Allsup to hospitals, clinics and other community groups by calling Karen Hercules-Doerr at (800) 854-1418, ext. 65770, or order online at AllsupCares.com.

###

ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information and a Free Consultation visit Allsup.com. Be sure to mention you heard about them from IDA.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Above Allsup Press Release published with permission.

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

People with Disabilities are the Largest Minority Group in the US

Most people may not be not aware of the prevalence of those living with disabilities. In fact, there are probably more people living with disabilities in the United States than people realize.

According to the Institute on Disability, “If people with disabilities were a formally recognized minority group, at 19% of the population, they would be the largest minority group in the United States.”

ARTICLE RESOURCE:

Institute on Disability. University of new Hampshire. Report Finds Significant Health Disparities for People with Disabilities. August 25, 2011

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

Ontario Woman Strives to Make Town More Accessible

Port Hope, Ontario resident, Selena Forsyth, gives of her time to make her town accessible for people with disabilities.

“Ms. Forsyth is Port Hope’s Accessibility Advisory Committee chairwoman and since 2004, the committee, through its ‘Access for All’ activities, has increased awareness of barriers people with visible and invisible disabilities in the community face each day. Its goal is creation of an environment that offers people with disabilities the same opportunities as those offered the able-bodied. Improvements initiated through council’s annual participation in the event exercises have helped make Port Hope one of the most accessible towns in Ontario, she says.”

Read Full Story

ARTICLE RESOURCE:

Walk a mile in her shoes. Northumberland News. The Independent. June 05, 2011.

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

Tips on Social Security Eligibility

Are You Eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits?

SSA uses a five-step evaluation process to determine SSDI eligibility

Belleville, Ill. – June 1, 2011 – An aging population and the struggling economy are factors in the rising number of people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, but eligibility requirements remain strict, according to Allsup, the nation’s leading SSDI representation organization.

Millions of working Americans pay for coverage under the Social Security Disability Insurance program through their payroll taxes. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), a 20-year-old worker has a 3-in-10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. In 2010, about 3 million people applied for SSDI benefits.

Enacted into law in July 1956, SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the SSA and is intended to provide regular monthly income to qualified people who are unable to work because of a severe disability. SSDI operates separately from the retirement program and is funded by FICA taxes.

The SSA uses a system known as sequential evaluation to determine if an individual qualifies for SSDI. The following is an explanation of the SSA’s five-step process to determine eligibility:
1) Determine if an individual is “working (engaging in substantial gainful activity),” according to the SSA’s definition.

2) Conclude the disability must be severe enough to significantly restrict a person’s ability to perform basic work activities needed to do most jobs. For example:

  • Walking, standing, sitting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying or handling.
  • Seeing, hearing and speaking
  • Understanding/carrying out and remembering simple instructions
  • Responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers and usual work situations
  • Dealing with changes in a routine work setting

3) Ask if the disability meets or equals a medical listing. For some specific conditions, the SSA uses medical listings of impairments to determine if they are severe enough to prevent an individual from doing any gainful activity.

4) Explore the ability of an individual to perform work he has done in the past despite the disability. If the SSA determines that a person can do his past work, benefits are denied. If the applicant cannot, then the process proceeds to the fifth and final step.

5) Review age, education, work experience and physical/mental condition to determine what other work, if any, the person can perform. To determine disability, the SSA enlists medical-vocational rules, which vary according to age.

To get assistance with an application, a disability appeal or for a free evaluation of SSDI eligibility, contact the Disability Evaluation Center and tell them you heard about them from IDA!

ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit Allsup.com.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Above Allsup Press Release published with permission.

RESOURCES:

Are You eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits? Allsup. June 1, 2011.

RELATED ARTICLES ON IDA

Allsup Applauds the Work of the Invisible Disabilities Association

Applying for Disability Benefits with Chronic Illness – Attorney Scott Davis

Avoid Common Mistakes When Your Social Security Disability Benefits are Denied.

Common Mistakes When Social Security is Denied

Chronically Ill Patient’s Rights – Jennifer C. Jaff

Endocrine Disorders Removed from Social Security List of Impairments

Free Social Security Disability Evaluation with Allsup

Health Care Issues for Patients with Chornic Illness – Attorney Jennifer C. Jaff

Living with Unlimited Purpose

New ADA Revisions Limit “Service Animals” to Dogs

November Shines the Spotlight on Family Caregivers

Programs4People – the Invisible Disabilities Association’s page for links to help with groceries, utilities, clothing, prescriptions and more.

Six Advantages of Representation for SSDI

Social Security Benefits Go Electronic

Pain and Social Security Disability Benefits

Six Advantages of Representation for SSDI

Social Security Disability Denial Rates

Spotlight Shines on Invisible Disabilities Champions

Tips on How to Pay for Medical Care – Jacqueline L. Jones

Tips on Social Security Eligibility

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

A ‘What’ Scan?

“A what scan?”

A scanner connoisseur, I added a new scan to my appointment this week.

The oral surgeon’s office has a newfangled scanner called a CBCT: Cone Beam Computed Tomography. I’ve had MRIs, CTs, tomography (um, regular??) and now CBCT.

It rocks.

The CBCT scanner is quick, easy and tunnel-free. It provides standing room only. The best part, it only outputs about 1/100th of the radiation of a traditional CT scan.

“Put your chin up against this small cupped rail, stand still, and the two scanner parts will circle around your head. It’ll take about two minutes.”

The images pulled up immediately afterward. How weird to see what looked like a hologram of my lil’ ol’ skeletal head. Freaky, but cool.

My dentist recommended I see the oral surgeon and have him take x-rays of my jaw joint. A couple months ago, my left jaw bone seemed to crack, crumble and then – OUCH – get stuck, on and off, for a week or two.

Taking no chances, my dentist wanted to make sure all was mechanically ok and I wouldn’t be unexpectedly experiencing a frozen jaw anytime soon.

And for once, I heard really great news at a surgeon’s office. In fact, he went so far as to say that my jaw bones, both sides, looked really, really good. Well, ok, really, really good for someone who has had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis for four decades.

I’ll take it.

“Wow, now that’s something I seldom hear: ‘Kris, you have really good bones.’ Woo hoo!” The surgeon chuckled.

“I’m happy to say there’s no need for surgery and you should be just fine. And keep up the singing lessons. They probably are helping.”

Whaddaya know. Another payoff for my newfound fun.

I started taking singing lessons a year ago. I’ve never sung in my life, not even in a choir. But it’s been tugging at me the last few years, so I decided to give in and see if there is anything there that wouldn’t scare human or animal.

Apparently, there is – I mean, there is some ability there. Anyway, my instructor keeps after me to relax my jaw.

Four decades of arthritis taught my body to remain tense to protect it from pain. While constant pain is long gone, my body didn’t get that part of the message. So tense it remains.

Forcing my jaw muscles to relax is challenging. It’s what caused the cracking and crumbling recently. Then it went into spasm (locking and unlocking my jaw) for a few weeks while it figured out what to do with its newfound state of relaxation.

My dentist noted that I could open my jaw wider than in the last decade he’s seen me. I notice it, too. And my singing instructor happily notices more movement for singing.

I’ve found singing is good for the soul. Who knew it was good for jaw muscles, too?

Oh yea, and for opening doors to new scanners, as well. Woo hoo.

####

Reprinted with kindly permission from the Journal of Nursing Jocularity.

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.

Endocrine Disorders Removed from Social Security List of Impairments

Allsup Explains Impact as SSA Eliminates Endocrine Disorders
from its Listing of Impairments for Disability Benefits

Diabetes, hypoglycemia and other hormonal imbalances no longer reach “listing-level severity”

Belleville, Ill. – June 7, 2011 – Effective today, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will remove endocrine disorders from its Listing of Impairments used to evaluate Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications. Allsup, the nation’s leading SSDI representation organization, explains what this change could mean to individuals with diabetes, hypoglycemia, thyroid disorders and other endocrine disorders who are unable to work and contemplating filing for SSDI.

Generally, people with endocrine disorders that prevent them from working will still be able to seek and obtain Social Security disability benefits, said Ed Swierczek, Allsup senior claims representative. “They may meet the requirements of another listing. Their endocrine disorder may produce significant functional limitations.”

One step in the SSA’s disability review process involves determining if a condition meets or equals a medical listing. Because endocrine disorders are being removed from the medical listing, there will be changes in how claimants are evaluated with regard to those conditions.

The SSA’s changes call for evaluating the effects of endocrine disorders under listings for other body systems. “For example, diabetes mellitus can cause peripheral neuropathy affecting individuals’ abilities to use their hands and/or legs,” Swierczek explained. “Therefore, they could meet the medical listing for ‘peripheral neuropathy.’ The peripheral neuropathy may not be listing level, but could limit them to less than sedentary work, warranting a finding of disabled at any age.

“Additionally, if a person with diabetes mellitus has had an amputation, blindness, vascular disease or renal failure, that person will be evaluated under the medical listings that cover those body systems,” Swierczek said. “Whatever the impact, it is important to show SSA how it affects a person’s ‘residual functional capacity’—their ability to do any past relevant work or any other work, considering their age, education and previous work experience.”

Examples of how endocrine disorders can be evaluated under other listings:

  • Amputations can be evaluated under musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Diabetic nephropathy can be evaluated under genitourinary listings.
  • Peripheral neuropathies can be evaluated under neurological disorders.

SSA’s Listing of Impairments describes medical conditions that are so severe the SSA presumes any person who has a medical condition(s) that satisfies the criteria of a listing is unable to perform any gainful activity and, therefore, is disabled. The inability to work also must have lasted or be expected to last for at least 12 continuous months or be expected to result in death. According to SSA, the listings are special rules that help them identify claims that should clearly be allowed for Social Security disability benefits.

In announcing the rule changes in the April 8, 2011, Federal Register, the SSA stressed they will continue to recognize diabetes mellitus as a medically determinable impairment that can result in disability and will consider its effects under the remaining listings.

“We are revising the listings for endocrine disorders because medical science has made significant advances in detecting endocrine disorders at earlier stages and newer treatments have resulted in better management of these conditions,” the SSA said in its announcement. “Consequently, most endocrine disorders do not reach listing-level severity because they do not become sufficiently severe or do not remain at a sufficient level of severity long enough to meet our 12-month duration requirement.”

In response to public comments and healthcare provider concerns about the new rules, SSA said it will publish a Social Security Ruling (SSR) with detailed information about specific endocrine disorders, including diabetes mellitus, the types of impairments and limitations that result from these disorders, and how SSA determines whether persons who have diabetes mellitus and other endocrine disorders are disabled.

For more information about SSDI eligibility requirements, visit Allsup.com. To find out if you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, please contact the Disability Evaluation Center for a free evaluation and be sure to tell them you heard about Allsup from IDA!

ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit Allsup.com.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Above Allsup Press Release published with permission.

RESOURCES:

Allsup Explains Impact as SSA Eliminates Endocrine Disorders from its Listing of Impairments for Disability Benefits. Allsup. June 7, 2011.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Applying for Disability Benefits with Chronic Illness – Attorney Scott Davis

Avoid Common Mistakes When Your Social Security Disability Benefits are Denied.

Chronically Ill Patient’s Rights – Jennifer C. Jaff

Free Social Security Disability Evaluation with Allsup

Health Care Issues for Patients with Chornic Illness – Attorney Jennifer C. Jaff

New ADA Revisions Limit “Service Animals” to Dogs

Programs4People – the Invisible Disabilities Association’s page for links to help with groceries, utilities, clothing, prescriptions and more.

Six Advantages of Representation for SSDI

Social Security Benefits Go Electronic

Tips on How to Pay for Medical Care – Jacqueline L. Jones

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

A Gadget Guru’s Paradise

“A gadget guru’s paradise. Really?”

A medical office?

As soon as I was called back into the inner sanctum for my appointment, I knew something was different. This was merely the warm up act. I walked over to the scale. While not exactly a gadget, it was creatively updated.

Ready to step up and onto the scale, I realized there was no need. The floor was cut to accommodate the base of the scale. It was set down in, flush with the floor.

The ease of use was an unexpected treat for those of us dealing with mobility issues.

Explained Joy, my nurse, “Everyone gets a kick out of it. Except some of our older patients. They tend to step up, not realizing there is no step. We’re hoping not to lose someone that way.” Good goal.

Joy was friendly and talkative. After turning around from the scale (which, by the way, needs to be drastically adjusted to calculate correctly…), I was met with a vaguely familiar gizmo, heading toward my ear. Fully expecting the old ‘thermometer in the ear’ trick, this time it went past my ear, and behind it.

One second later, Joy pulled the thermometer back toward her. “99.8.” No nasty inner ear contact going on there. Love that.

We were off and running (ok, slowly meandering) to The Room, all the while, chit chat filling the airspace.

“Finger, please.” This time I was familiar with the device, softly clamping around my finger, probing for medical measurables.

Next, Joy reached for the blood pressure cuff. My standard line: “Ohhh, usually nurses end up using a kid’s cuff on me. The adult size is too big.”

Still struggling to wrap it around my arm, I heard the expected reply: “This isn’t going to fit. I’ll need to get something else.” Excellent idea.

Joy came back with another new device. Not a traditional cuff at all, this ‘bracelet’ cuff (uh huh, like Super Woman – but not gold) fit around my wrist, barely, and sported its own LED display. We both gave it a thumbs up.

The next gizmo needs a drastic update. Not at all the reason for the visit, but a discovered need during the exam, I was readied for my first-ever ear irrigation. After seeing all these high tech electronic tools, I was fully expecting to see something out of Star Trek for this procedure.

I was hugely disappointed. You gotta be kiddin’ me. A squirt bottle, a drip pan, and water? Seriously? What happened to vaporizing lasers? There’s gotta be a better way.

“Ya know, ear candling doesn’t hurt. In fact, it feels good,” I offered.

“We have candles, but we’ve never used them.” Hmmm. I’d have gladly been their guinea pig.

From Space Age to ‘Hey, Fred, let’s discover fire”, I got to experience The Ages all in the span of 30 minutes.

For the next ear cleaning, I’m hoping for a laser gadget – the 2200A Series Super Sonic Wax-Melt-Away Model. Bring it on.

#####

This article appeared originally in The Journal of Nursing Jocularity. Published on IDA with permission.

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.

Social Security Benefits Go Electronic

Social Security Benefits Go Electronic May 1

Paper checks no longer an option for anyone applying for federal benefits.

Belleville, Ill.– April 28, 2011 – Anyone applying for federal benefits on or after May 1, 2011, will receive payments electronically, as the U.S. Department of Treasury phases out paper checks. As a result, it’s important for people applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, or other Social Security benefits, to plan accordingly, advises Allsup, which represents tens of thousands of people in the SSDI application process each year.

Effective May 1, paper checks no longer will be issued to individuals applying for benefits. Instead, applicants must choose either direct deposit into a traditional bank or credit union account or deposit onto a payment card, such as a debit card. The Treasury Department offers the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard®. The government estimates stopping paper benefit checks will save Social Security $1 billion over the next decade.

“If you are seeking Social Security benefits, you need to have a plan in place for receiving your benefits,” said Paul Gada,personal financial planning director for the Allsup Disability Life Planning Center. “The Treasury Department’s rule means that all participants will need to have an existing account or create an account to receive electronic payments through direct deposit. If you don’t, an account will be created for you.”

Those already receiving paper checks, including Social Security disability benefit recipients, will need to switch to an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013. Those who do not choose electronic payment at the time they apply (or by March 1, 2013, if already receiving benefits)—will receive benefits via the Direct Express card to avoid interruption of benefits, according to the Treasury Department. Current beneficiaries will receive information about making the switch with upcoming payments.

Below, Allsup offers details on debit and bank or credit union account options for Social Security beneficiaries. Find more details about Social Security disability benefit payment options online at http://www.allsup.com/personal-finance/financial-planning/ssdi-benefit-payment-options.aspx.

Debit Card: Streamlined Payment Option

Beneficiaries who do not take steps to establish a method for receiving payments, such as a bank account or debit card, will automatically receive the Treasury Department’s Direct Express card. Direct deposit has some safety advantages. For example, there is no paper check to get lost or stolen. Additionally, benefit payments placed on the debit card or deposited into a bank or credit union are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).

“If you are evaluating your options and don’t have an account already—it’s important to be aware of potential fees through any service you choose,” Gada said.

The following are features of the Treasury Department’s Direct Express card, which can be used to compare with other offerings available to consumers.

Debit card free features:

• No cost to sign up and no monthly maintenance fees.
• No cost for purchases made at retail stores.
• Banks or credit unions that display the “MasterCard” acceptance mark must provide cash back with no surcharges.
• One (1) free ATM cash withdrawal per month for each deposit made onto the debit card (Additional withdrawals following the first one carry a fee; see below).
• Free basic customer service, including calls, web account access, deposit and low-balance notifications. One replacement card each year.

Debit card potential costs:

• Cash back fee with some purchases and some banks.
• Surcharges from some stores for card use.
• Charge to use ATMs outside the Direct Express network.
• ATM withdrawals after the first one cost 90 cents per withdrawal, plus non-network ATM surcharges.
• Electronic bill payments cost 50 cents per bill paid using the card.
• A mailed, monthly paper statement costs 75 cents.
• Fees for purchases made outside the United States.

Compare Financial Options For Flexibility

No matter the method someone chooses for receiving benefits, such as debit card or traditional checking account, there are likely to be fees and costs for an account. For example, checking accounts may charge fees for paper statements, ATM withdrawals and overdraft services.

“It’s important to realize you have options for receiving electronic deposits from the Treasury,” Gada said. “By looking ahead to how you will use your benefits and comparing your options, you’ll have a better chance of finding a cost-effective solution to manage your Social Security benefits.”

Anyone with questions about eligibility for Social Security disability benefits can contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 279-4357 for a free disability evaluation.

ABOUT ALLSUP

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, visit Allsup.com.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

Above Allsup Press Release published with permission.

RESOURCE:

Social Security Benefits Go Electronic May 1. Allsup. April 28, 2011.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Applying for Disability Benefits with Chronic Illness – Attorney Scott Davis

Avoid Common Mistakes When Your Social Security Disability Benefits are Denied.

Chronically Ill Patient’s Rights – Jennifer C. Jaff

Free Social Security Disability Evaluation with Allsup

Health Care Issues for Patients with Chornic Illness – Attorney Jennifer C. Jaff

New ADA Revisions Limit “Service Animals” to Dogs

Programs4People – the Invisible Disabilities Association’s page for links to help with groceries, utilities, clothing, prescriptions and more.

Six Advantages of Representation for SSDI

Tips on How to Pay for Medical Care – Jacqueline L. Jones

About

The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) encourages, educates and connects people and organizations touched by illness, pain and disability around the globe. Formerly known as The Invisible Disabilities Advocate, IDA was founded in 1997 and incorporated in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. IDA reaches out through our websites, projects, articles, pamphlets, booklet, social network, resources, videos, radio interviews, seminars, events and more! Get the word out! Share a link to our articles and pages with Google Plus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and through Email by clicking on the Share link. Leave a comment!

It’s Not Easy Being the Observer, Either

“How do you do it?”

How does anyone keep going through insurmountable difficulties? We’re talking the really big stuff. The stuff that can’t be fixed with chocolate (gasp) or a pitcher of margaritas or a box of tissues and a friend’s slobbered-on shoulder. We’re talking the ‘I don’t think I could ever get through it and I have no clue how they do’ type of situation.

Many of you have been in that trench. For my friends in healthcare, you’re in the front row seat and sidecar of other people’s unimaginable lives much more often than the rest of us.

It’s not easy being the observer, either.

News reports from the last two weeks play around and around in my head, like a hamster on a wheel. I don’t know that my thinking is getting me anywhere, but that lil’ hamster is smoking up the place.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly is a marvel. How does he keep rollin’?

He notices and applauds those who have a hand in his wife’s recovery. He repeatedly mentions Gabby’s professional caregivers, specifically her nurses. “I also want to thank her…ICU nurses that have attended to her around the clock.”

Seriously, would we blame him if he was a might too distracted to notice or show gratitude? Uh, hello.

One of those nurses, Tracy Colbert, noticed, in addition to her patient’s vital signs, her patient’s humanness. “She is a very gentle person. Her personality is coming out with her touches…the way she looks at us. I’m very lucky to know her.”

And Gabby herself. How does she silently inspire?

Mark Kelly, Tracy Colbert, and Gabby know the secret to moving through the impossible. Mark summed it up in talking about the people who have made a difference.

“The love and support that we have received is a bit overwhelming… But we are very appreciative. And I want to apologize for all of those folks that have done so much for us that we haven’t recognized yet. I know one of the first things Gabby is going to want to do as soon as she is able to is start writing “thank you” notes, and I have already reminded her of that.”

There’s a sweet absurd comicalness in thinking of the seriously injured person – and her loved one – feeling the need to write thank you notes, and apologizing for their delay. And yet, it shows the depths of gratitude toward others that transcends the trauma. Gratitude for those who help us get through the mess weighs more than the help itself.

If we can find a tiny dose of funny, a micro-spec of humor that makes the corners of our mouths turn up unexpectedly, that’s when we’re often at our most resilient. We need that laugh, however small, in the midst of really big seriousness. We’re grateful for the break in the somber scene, and grateful to those who provide it, however they do it.

Be someone’s needed mouth-corner-turner-upper today, for Gabby, won’t you?

#####

This article appeared originally in The Journal of Nursing Jocularity. Published on IDA with permission.

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.

Where to Begin: Finding Help During Chronic Illness

When my husband first got sick, I was honestly just so overwhelmed trying to “maintain,” that finding help for our household was put on the back burner for several weeks.  When things finally calmed down, I realized that my family needed help, but I had no idea where to begin looking for it.  I am honestly fairly ignorant regarding government assistance programs.  I didn’t know what programs were applicable, when I should apply, or who could answer my questions.

I asked just about everyone I knew for information and assistance: friends who are suffering from cancer, support groups, doctors, teachers, lawyers, school social workers, church deacons, financial counselors, and many other people.  One doctor put us in touch with a hospital social worker who handed me a copy of the Seniors Blue Book and evidently considered her responsibilities fulfilled.  While there’s some good information in the blue book, the vast majority of it really isn’t applicable to my 37-year-old husband.  At this point, he is not looking for a retirement home or assisted living center.  While everyone tried to give some direction, no one could really give me a complete picture or a clear path to follow.

I admit that I am one of those people who prefers to have a checklist at all times (even if I make my own).  In fact, I would have loved an instruction booklet called The Step-by-Step Guidebook for New Caregivers: What to Do When Your Spouse Becomes Disabled.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found one yet.  I think if I ever have this system all figured out, I should write one.  Until then, I’ve had to “muddle” my way through “the system.”  I still don’t have all the answers.  However, I am hoping that by sharing some of the information below, the information will at least give other caregivers a place to start.

  1. The first thing I recommend doing is talking to your doctors about your concerns.  Doctors can prescribe various services such as physical and occupational therapy.  Sometimes their recommendations are covered by your insurance company.  They can also put you in touch with medical social workers.  Which leads to #2.
  2. I have found that a knowledgeable MSW is your greatest resource during a health crisis.  A good social worker will recommend government assistance programs and provide applications to charitable organizations.  They should answer your questions, help you navigate the system, and become your advocate.  In fact, consulting with more than one medical social worker will increase your chances of finding all available programs and services.  For example, one social worker recommended a discount program to us at the hospital called CICP.  Another social worker submitted an application for Project Angel Heart, a nonprofit organization providing meals to cancer patients.
  3. The human resources department at your place of employment should guide you through benefits and insurance issues.  I have found that sometimes you have to “badger” them for the information you want, but it is their responsibility to provide you with significant dates, payment information, copies of insurance policies, and termination procedures.  Try to become familiar with laws governing your employment such as FMLA.  If you think your rights are being violated, consult an attorney.
  4. You do not always need to buy medical equipment.  There are several nonprofit organizations such as the Assistance League of Denver that will loan or give you medical equipment for free.  (To obtain wheelchairs, you will need a letter or prescription from your doctor.)  Some nursing homes and other organizations also give away equipment.  If you do choose to buy medical equipment, several stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot are beginning to carry equipment such as tub benches, safety rails, and toilet risers for the aging population.  Youcan Toocan is a great online or catalog resource.
  5. If your disability or illness is expected to be long-term or terminal, you will want to apply for social security disability.  Applications can be submitted online.  If you qualify, social security will provide some financial resources during your illness.  Along with your disability application, you will want to apply for SSI.  Several people have told me that you will typically be turned down 2-4 times before finally receiving SSI – so you may need to re-apply several times.  Do not give up.
  6. If your families’ income is below a certain level or you have special medical needs, you can also get an application for assistance at your county’s welfare office or online.  I personally found the list of services, qualifications, and application daunting, but it is important to turn this application in as soon as possible because some programs post-date their payments up to three months.  However, the catch is that, to qualify you typically need to have under $2k in resources – so you may have to wait to apply until you have used up your short-term disability insurance, exhausted your savings, or gotten rid of a second car, for example.  Beware, you will need to gather quite a bit of financial information including proof of residence, income and resources, mortgage or lease, etc.  Set aside a few hours for this project.
  7. Especially if it is winter, you may want to apply for energy assistance.  Applications can be found online or at your county welfare office.  In Colorado, LEAP assists with your heating (gas) bills from Nov-Apr.  Phone companies also have discount services available to low-income customers.  Our electric company referred us to the Salvation Army and a couple other local charities, but I haven’t tried to call them yet.
  8. Food banks are another good resource when things get rough.  You may have to call around or ask your welfare office for referrals.  These charities usually have an application process, maximum number of allowed visits, and limited hours.  Most often you will receive nonperishable items and day-old bread, but some food banks offer milk and dairy, produce, or gift cards to grocery stores.
  9. Local churches, synagogues, and charities may be able to provide financial assistance.  If you do not belong to a church, ask your family or friends where they attend worship services.  Some places will have special programs already available to the public.  At other places, you may need to ask for what you need.
  10. If you have children, you can apply for reduced or free lunches from your school district.
  11. For those who cannot drive, call to see if the bus or another service will pick you up at your house and take you to medical appointments or work.  Your social worker or doctor can submit an application for low-cost or free transportation.
  12. I have found that support groups are wonderful at giving empathy and suggesting resources.  Check out nonprofit organizations relating to your particular disability or illness.  We have found the Nephcure Foundation very emotionally supportive.  Oftentimes these organizations hold in-person meetings and mixers, but a social worker also suggested online support groups such as those provided by the American Cancer Society for the times when you do not feel like getting out of the house.
  13. As our pastor told us, losing your job or health creates a grieving process.  You may be grieving what you have lost or your future dreams.  I plan to write a blog on this sometime.  But if your family needs counseling to help deal with your new circumstances, your county’s mental health program will prorate services and hook you up with a local counselor specializing in your issues.  Local churches typically have counselors available as well.
  14. Last but not least, sometimes we do not want to burden family members and friends because we know they lead busy lives.  However, many of your friends and family members will be glad to help bring meals, clean, or do repairs as they are able.  Sometimes they just don’t know what to do.  Call or send out an email to see who is available.

I am sure there are services that I have forgotten to mention here, but I hope these suggestions will provide other caregivers with some ideas about what kinds of assistance and programs are out there and where to turn.  Please feel free to add your ideas under my blog comments section so that everyone can benefit from what we have all learned.

#####

Jason Graham was the recipient of the 2010 IDA Inspiration Award – Read the Article and Watch the Video Here. Read the Graham Family’s Full Story Here.

UPDATE: We regret to inform you that Jason passed away on April 2, 2011. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Graham family. Read full story.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Programs4People – the Invisible Disabilities Association’s page for links to help with groceries, utilities, clothing, prescriptions and more.

Applying for Disability Benefits with Chronic Illness – Attorney Scott Davis

Chronically Ill Patient’s Rights – Jennifer C. Jaff

Common Mistakes When Social Security is Denied

Free Social Security Disability Evaluation with Allsup

Health Care Issues for Patients with Chornic Illness – Attorney Jennifer C. Jaff

Six Advantages of Representation for SSDI

Tips on How to Pay for Medical Care – Jacqueline L. Jones

About Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham is an IDA Publications Contributor. Her husband, Jason, has battled a pituitary tumor and kidney disease since the age of 29. Although he had a successful brain surgery, his first kidney transplant began to fail within a few weeks. During these years, Michelle found out she had an autoimmune disease and underwent several surgical procedures. Jason was planning a second transplant in 2010, but was diagnosed with a brain mass (PTLD -rare type of lymphoma caused by transplant drugs) and has been undergoing treatment. Jason and Michelle have a son named Kendall. Jason was the recipient of the 2010 IDA Inspiration Award. Jason’s father, Tom, played in the NFL in the 70’s and his brother, Daniel, currently plays for the Denver Broncos.

The Fewer Times I See You, the Better

“Nothing personal, but the fewer times I see you, the better.”

My comment elicits smiles from my medical caregivers. They know exactly what I mean.

I admire the heck out of all of them. I’m extremely grateful for their dedication and commitment.

Almost as far back as I can remember, I’ve been involved in the medical community – on the receiving end. No one had any way of knowing it would be a life-long relationship oh-those-40-years ago.

As a seven-year-old diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, my parents and I were often told throughout those early years that I would likely grow out of JRA. It wasn’t to be.

While I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, least of all my little seven-year-old self, I have to admit that I’ve learned so much from my experiences associated with JRA that I can’t imagine who I’d have become without it.

Has it sharpened my empathy for other people’s struggles? Check.

Has it caused me to slow down and reflect when I might not have otherwise? Check. Check.

Has it required that I either draw inward in despair or look outward in gratitude? Check. Check. Check.

It’s not been until more recent years that I’ve come to fully appreciate the medical care I’ve received. But it’s more than that. It’s not solely the care – though that’s certainly the most obvious part of it. It’s also about appreciating the people providing the care.

It’s YOU. You who cared enough to choose this profession. You who endured rigorous education and training to realize your goal. You who push through workplace and home challenges so you can continue to provide the care you set out to provide.

Many of you go above and beyond the norm, and the norm itself is simply amazing. For instance, my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Douglas Dennis, and PA, Jim Boyle, returned last week from a week-long missions trip to provide complimentary care in third world countries. They led a group of 65 other professionals who also give of themselves twice yearly to help patients walk – patients who they may never see again.

I’m privileged to have met and been treated by tremendously talented, encouraging, and giving healthcare professionals. They inspire me. YOU inspire me. You keep me going in ways beyond physical health. You are among the many untold StickPeople in my life. You help me keep going and Stick to it – no matter what!

In all, realize this:  you are not one person treating one patient at a time in a never-ending mill of patients. Rather, you are leaving a legacy. You are one of many professionals playing a part in your patient’s story, and the role you play adds beautifully to the medical tapestry of your patient’s life. Speaking on behalf of your patients, we’re humbled and thankful. Thank you for all you’ve done, do and will do. You are a StickPerson extraordinaire.

Nonetheless, I’m all for limited exposure to you and your office. Don’t take it personally.

*****

This article appeared originally in The Journal of Nursing Jocularity. Published on IDA with permission.

About Kris Harty

The Short Chick with the Walking Stick is Kris Harty, Stickability Specialist. Kris’ expertise as an entrepreneur and a lifelong patient helps entrepreneurs and those in healthcare – on the giving and receiving ends – to persevere and Stick To It-No Matter What! Kris speaks, writes, facilitates and regularly contributes to online medical journals, in addition to recently publishing her first book A Shot in the Arm and a Strong Spirit: How Health Care Givers Help Patients Persevere. She can be reached through her company's Web site, www.ShortChick.com or call 1.877.711.KRIS or through any of the links directly below.