Posts in:April, 2021

Is Disability the Last Bastion of the Representation Debate?

Posted April 30, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

From #MeToo to Black Lives Matter, as a society we have been discussing the relationship between representation and equality more than ever over the last few years. But while progress is being made in so many areas, people with disabilities are still struggling to find a voice above the accepted narrative, says Ross Lannon, the 27-year-old blogger and multi-media content creator behind “A Life on Wheels.”

He says: “While we still have such a long way to go, I think things have improved over the last few years.

“On TV and in the media now, you are starting to see all sorts of people: people of different shapes and sizes, different races, different sexual orientations. But disability is one thing that always seems to get left behind.”

On our screens, for example, people with disabilities are often one-dimensional, he says. They tend to be portrayed as struggling with their disability, rather than dealing with all the same highs and lows of life as everyone else.

“There are some positive disabled characters, but nine times out of ten their sole purpose in the programme is based around their disability,” says Ross, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 2 when he was a toddler.

“When you think that something like 22% of the population has some form of disability, you have to question how that counts as representation.”

It matters, he says, as it creates role models and lets young people know that their disability does not define them.

“We need to learn to break down those barriers. There are people in the world who look a little different or who have mobility issues, but we are just the same as everyone else. Just because we have to do things a little different, it doesn’t mean that we can’t succeed.

“The next generation need a better level of representation so they know they know they can achieve what they want to achieve,” said Ross.

Full article:

A Life on Wheels (blog):

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Social Security Disability for Back Pain

Posted April 23, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Back pain is an incredibly common condition, with as many as 80% of all people expected to experience back pain at some point in their lifetimes, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Additionally, the ACA notes that back pain accounts for over 265 million lost hours of work every year. It is one of the top reasons people miss work, and is a leading cause of disability.

Back pain can be caused by many different spinal conditions, many of which happen normally with age. Chronic conditions causing back pain include scoliosis and degenerative discs (created by wear and tear, or osteoarthritis); inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, arachnoiditis, and spondylitis; and problems impacting nerves in the back: spinal stenosis, nerve root compression, herniated discs, and spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae).

The first thing you need to know about qualifying for disability based on back pain is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not typically grant benefits to those with mild, moderate, or intermittent back pain. Despite the fact that the SSA receives millions of applications for back pain—more applications for any other type of illness or injury, in fact—it only grants benefits to individuals with “medically determinable” back impairments. This means that, in order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you’ll need to show that you have an impairment that can be detected and affirmed by a medical professional.

The Social Security Administration has a section on “Disorders of the Spine” in its Listing of Impairments, which is typically used to determine whether back pain is compensable. The SSA will look for diagnosed conditions, preferably with X-ray or MRI evidence, such as: herniated discs, compressed nerves, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and/or radiating spinal pain. In addition to your diagnosis, the SSA will also look for symptomology that would limit your ability to work, including (but not limited to): nerve root compression/pain, loss of sensation or reflexes, limited movement of the spine, motor loss or muscle weakness, and/or difficulty walking.

Back pain can be incredibly debilitating and may even prevent you from being able to earn a living to support yourself and your family. However, in order to qualify for Social Security disability, you’ll need to meet the Social Security Administration’s strict standards. Because the SSA receives so many disability applications for back pain, however, it may deny your claim even if you do have a medically determinable condition. This is why it can be helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

See more on SSA’s Musculoskeletal Disorders:

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Long COVID Sufferers are Seeking Disability Benefits. Will They Change the System?

Posted April 19, 2021 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

For Chantelle James, a registered nurse who lives in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, the push to keep worker’s compensation and receive short-term disability benefits has been demoralizing. In August 2020, the 43-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing chest tightness, coughing, congestion, rashes and balance issues. Now, months later, she still can’t fully find her footing.

“Anytime I got up, I would just kind of fall down, like I couldn’t walk straight,” James says.

A few days after her initial positive test, James, who works for health care provider Ascension Seton at a psychiatric hospital in Austin, says she requested worker’s compensation, which she received upon approval by third-party claims administrator Sedgwick, along with paid time off. Yet her symptoms persisted, even as she says she was expected to return to work without restrictions.

Per emergency room summaries provided by James and reviewed by U.S. News, James visited a hospital in August and September, twice in October, and again in November for ailments that included chest pain, rapid heart rate, dehydration and muscle spasms – all of which she says started only after she got COVID-19. But in November, a nurse practitioner at Ascension Seton Occupational Health Clinic, whom James says had to weigh in on whether she should continue receiving benefits, instead wrote that she was ready to return to work.

Afterward, James says she continued to get sick at work, was denied further worker’s compensation and is now trying to seek short-term disability.

It’s still unclear precisely how many people have the condition now called long COVID, which is characterized by persistent symptoms of illness weeks or months after an initial case of COVID-19. Concerns have warranted an initiative by the National Institutes of Health aimed at identifying its underlying causes and treatments, while support groups and clinics have cropped up to help the multitude of people suffering from it.

But for some long-haulers, including James, their symptoms have made it difficult to work full time or at all, leading them to pursue disability benefits, including worker’s compensation or Social Security disability payments. And challenges exist when it comes to accessing and navigating a system some may be encountering for the first time.

“I think part of what’s happening is a new category of folks with disabilities that are not always easy to quantify and proved are running against a culture, within the Social Security Administration, that is generally not easy to navigate for people that have disabilities that are not easy to quantify or prove,” says Andy Imparato, executive director of Disability Rights California, a nonprofit legal services organization.

There are already some signs of how long COVID may change the disability services landscape. For instance, Stop The Wait – a coalition of disability, health and aging organizations – is reupping a fight to eliminate a two-year waiting period for Medicare coverage and five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability Insurance for many people with disabilities.

Advocates say the pandemic adds a new urgency to their efforts. Eve Hill, a disability attorney and lead organizer for Stop The Wait, says the waiting periods are counterintuitive and costly.

“We’re really being short-sighted,” Hill says. “If we say, ‘Well, we want to save money by denying people benefits’ … giving people early benefits lets them pay health insurance premiums, or use Medicare and work on their health and recover and return to work. Delaying it makes their disabilities get worse, without treatment, or get more permanent and harder to recover from.”

A bipartisan effort in the last Congress, led by Republican Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, sought to eliminate the waiting periods, but the bicameral bills were never voted on. Congress has, however, eliminated the waiting periods for people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

A spokesperson for Casey’s office says the senator plans to update his legislation and reintroduce it before the summer. Stop The Wait also posted an open letter to Congress, urging them to pick up the issue again.

“Many people with disabilities, including those caused by COVID-19, will be unable to return to work. Denying them access to their earned insurance benefits for five months and their healthcare for 24 months exacerbates these effects – leaving people with disabilities unable to pay COBRA or other health care premiums, rent, and other essential expenses, and forcing them onto welfare and Medicaid to survive,” the letter reads.

“The pandemic is forcing people out of their jobs,” Hill says. “Both because they’re getting COVID, or they’re getting long COVID.” She adds that people with disabilities may have lost their jobs completely during the pandemic, too, and that those who have long COVID may be navigating the disability system for the first time.

“I think people are going to be in really desperate circumstances, people who never thought of themselves as having a disability,” Hill says. The waiting periods could be a wake-up call for them as well as for Congress, she says

Stacy Cloyd, director of policy and administrative advocacy at the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives, says Doggett and Casey both are planning to reintroduce the waiting-period legislation. She says her conversations with lawmakers on eliminating the delays have so far been positive, and there’s bipartisan interest in modernizing the Social Security Disability Insurance system.

She also points out that the Biden administration’s disability plan, unveiled on the campaign trail, includes working on legislation to eliminate the waiting periods.

“There are absolutely people who died during these waiting periods,” Cloyd says. She points to a 2020 Government Accountability Office report that found 109,725 individuals who appealed a decision about Social Security disability benefits died prior to receiving a final decision from fiscal 2008 through 2019.

“They die without seeing any of those benefits,” Cloyd says.

Contact our office today if you or anyone you know would like to learn more about qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.

Full article:

By: Joyce Trudeau of Premier Disability Services, LLC®