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Dallas Social Security Disability Law Blog

Senators call on Congress to consider measures to help the disabled

While the overwhelming majority of the dialogue on Capitol Hill has recently been focused on immigration, international conflicts and other pressing issues related to the nation's economy, it has expanded over the last few weeks to include discussions about the very important issue of disability.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators along with various veterans' rights groups renewed their call for Congress to take steps to adopt the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. For those unfamiliar with this treaty, it is essentially modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act in that it mandates that all disabled people be afforded equality under the law.

141 nations have already taken steps to ratify the treaty, but the U.S. has yet to do so. Here, the delay stems primarily from apprehension that its passage would serve to introduce onerous new regulations on businesses. 

Research shows stroke risk is increasing for young adults

The unfortunate reality is that a stroke can occur virtually anytime, such that a person may feel just fine one minute while the next minute they start experiencing strange symptoms, including slurred speech, loss of vision and general confusion.

As if this wasn't frightening enough on its own, most people are aware that they need to get to a hospital as soon as possible in order to secure the necessary treatment to minimize any lasting damage from the stroke, such as impaired speech, limited movement and cognitive issues.    

While we tend to associate the nightmare that is a stroke with older people, a growing body of research is actually showing that this may no longer be the case. Specifically, this research shows that younger Americans are now suffering strokes in far greater numbers:

  • A 2010 study published in the medical journal Stroke determined that between 1988 and 2004 the rate of strokes among 35- to 54-year-old women tripled.
  • A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the hospitalization rate for ischemic (i.e., blood clot) strokes among 15- to 44-year-olds jumped by over a third from 1994 to 2008.

Congress will soon have to address impending SSDI budget shortfall

Anyone who follows the news on a regular basis is well aware of how legislative gridlock and brinksmanship has become the new norm on Capitol Hill over the last several years.  To illustrate, consider how lawmakers from both sides of the aisles have battled over issues that were once considered uncontroversial and altogether necessary, such as raising the debt ceiling.

Unfortunately, political experts are now indicating that the Social Security disability program may soon become the next source of political strife, perhaps to the determent of millions of Americans.   

That's because the current reserves for the SSDI trust fund, which is administered by the Social Security Administration, are set to be exhausted by as soon as 2016 unless Congress takes definitive action.

What makes this so problematic, say political experts, is that this deadline falls in the middle of a major election year, meaning it's a prime issue for politicians to seize upon as Americans go to cast their votes. 

Senate reports shows more SSA field offices are closing

The United States Senate Special Committee on Aging recently issued a rather eye-opening report concerning the accessibility of services offered by the Social Security Administration.

Here, the investigators determined that 64 SSA field offices have closed their doors since 2010, an agency record for the most closures in any five-year period.

The report also made the following discoveries:

  • 533 temporary SSA mobile offices, designed to serve more remote areas of the country, have been shut down.
  • 1,245 field offices remain open, but hours have been reduced.
  • Of the 43 million people who visited SSA field offices in 2013, 43 percent of those who wanted an appointment had to wait for over three weeks.

As if all of this wasn't disturbing enough, consider that the number of people receiving retirement benefits has jumped by nearly 20 percent over the last ten years, while the number the number of people receiving disability benefits has jumped by 38 percent over the same time period. 

Are researchers getting closer to developing a heart disease vaccine?

Most people are surprised to learn that the leading cause of death for both men and women here in the U.S. is not cancer, but rather heart disease. Indeed, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that roughly 720,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every year, while roughly 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year.

In addition, the CDC has determined that the costs related to heart disease average an astounding $108 billion every year, including health care costs, medications and, of course, lost productivity.

In light of these sobering statistics, the news that a team of researchers is moving ever closer to developing a vaccine to effectively eliminate heart disease becomes all the more encouraging. 

SSA figures show increase in system wait times

When a person suffering from a serious and otherwise incapacitating medical condition applies for Social Security disability benefits, they can generally anticipate waiting anywhere from six months to a year for a review and initial hearing to be completed.

In the event that disability benefits are denied after the initial hearing, a person may then ask the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council to review the decision, a process that can take up to another full year to complete.

While all of this may seem like an inordinate amount of time to wait for the processing, review and issuance of a final decision concerning an application for disability benefits, consider that the wait for just the initial hearing is currently over a year and a half in some SSA branch offices.

Are SSD benefits safe from debt collectors?

It wasn't all that long ago that many Americans found themselves in dire financial straits thanks to the economic downturn dubbed "the Great Recession."

Across the nation -- including right here in Texas -- we saw record foreclosures, declining home values, high unemployment and huge stock market losses.

Fortunately, the economy now appears to be on the mend and many people's financial fortunes have improved considerably. However, it's important to understand that there are thousands of people who are still feeling the effects of the recession or who have encountered money issues in the post-recession era.

While the reality of being hounded by debt collectors is undoubtedly frightening for these people, consider how much more frightening it is for those people whose disability has left them unable to work and worried about whether these debt collectors can come after their much-needed Social Security benefits. 

Study finds diabetic women at greater risk of heart disease

Ask any medical professional what they believe are the most significant health issues facing Americans today and there is a very good chance that the overwhelming majority will list Type 2 diabetes.

This makes perfect sense when you consider the staggering rates of obesity here in the U.S., and just how debilitating -- and potentially deadly -- Type 2 diabetes can prove to be to those diagnosed with the condition.

By way of illustration, consider a recently published study in the European medical journal Diabetologia that set out to examine the rates of coronary heart disease among men and women suffering from Type 2 diabetes.

After performing what is known as a meta-analysis, meaning the gathering and examination of results from other research efforts, the researchers discovered that women diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were actually 44 percent more likely than men diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes to develop coronary heart disease, which is well documented as the leading cause of death among all Americans. 

Can I qualify for SSDI because of my back pain?

It should come as no surprise to readers that back pain is among the most common health complaints in the United States. According to some estimates, nearly 80 percent of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. The causes and severity of back pain, of course, can vary widely, involving everything from some tight muscles to slipped discs, spinal stenosis and other serious conditions requiring surgical intervention.

In cases of serious back injury, the pain can become so bad that it prevents one from going about daily life, including work. When this happens, it is important to understand available options in terms of income. For some, disability benefits provided by an employer or through a private plan may be available, at least for a time, but for those who do not have these benefits or who are inadequately covered, it may be necessary to look into Social Security disability benefits. 

Disability advocates mobilizing here in Texas

Last month, the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin played host to the Civil Rights Summit, a three-day event in which experts and advocates from across the nation came together to discuss issues related to everything from immigration and race to gender and same-sex equality.

However, noticeably absent from the conference, which featured speeches by President Barack Obama, three former U.S. presidents and host of other notable speakers, were advocates representing the disabled.

Disability advocates -- representing the roughly 57 million disabled people here in the U.S. -- took notice and immediately called upon the conference organizers to include disability rights on the agenda.

Specifically, they pointed out how the disabled are continually confronted with barriers that violate their civil rights despite the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. These barriers include workplace discrimination, a lack of accessible housing, a funding shortfall for community services and low pay for professional caretakers. 

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