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Dallas Social Security Disability Law Blog

SSA announces 2015 COLA increase for benefits recipients

News announced earlier this week in Washington, D.C. by the Social Security Administration regarding scores of millions of benefits recipients was not exactly prefaced by a drum roll or loud clash of cymbals.

In fact, there was no drama or hyperbole at all preceding a benefits-related statement issued by the SSA. Rather, the news item delivered was issued in straightforward and understated terms.

The reason why: A 1.7 percent increase in recipients' monthly disability checks doesn't exactly amount to earth-shaking news.

Are disability benefits an option for those with schizophrenia?

While the exact cause or causes of schizophrenia are unknown, the effects the illness can have on a person's life are certainly well documented. From hallucinations and delusions to memory issues and trouble focusing, those living with schizophrenia -- or helping to care for someone with the illness -- know just how trying the brain disorder can be. 

In terms of mental health, our society has come a long way in terms of treatment. However, currently, none of these treatments cures someone from having schizophrenia. Rather, medications and treatments, such as self-help groups and cognitive behavioral therapy, are just some of the ways of coping with the symptoms. Again, there is no cure and schizophrenia is a lifelong, chronic illness.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week

There are a large number of individuals in Texas and the rest of the U.S. who have had the misfortune of experiencing a mental illness. Mental illnesses can come in many different shapes and sizes and such illnesses can change a person’s life in a vast number of ways.

There is a special focus being put on awareness of mental illness issues this week, as it is Mental Illness Awareness Week. This annual awareness week was brought into being by Congress back in 1990. This year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week got underway on Oct. 5 and will continue until Oct. 11.

What the Compassionate Allowances initiative means for you -- II

In the previous post, our blog discussed the unfortunate employment reality facing those people diagnosed with especially debilitating -- and possibly deadly -- medical conditions. Specifically, we addressed how the majority of these people will eventually be unable to work despite their best efforts and that this loss of income can make already stressful times that much more difficult.

However, we also examined how these people may be able to turn to the Social Security Administration's Compassionate Allowances initiative for much-needed assistance.

In today's post, we will continue to discuss the CAL initiative and how it helps those diagnosed with severe medical conditions.

Updating the qualifying CAL conditions

It is important to understand that the qualifying CAL conditions are not set in stone, and that the SSA plans to add new conditions to the list every year after careful consultation with both the National Institute of Health and other medical professionals.

What the Compassionate Allowances initiative means for you

It's hard to imagine just how devastating it can be when a person receives the news that they are suffering from an especially debilitating -- and possibly deadly -- medical condition from their physician.

While they will undoubtedly do everything they can to try to cure or manage their condition, the reality is that they probably won't be able to work and that this can become the source of unwanted stress during already difficult times.

The good news is that not only can people in these situations turn to the Social Security disability insurance program for possible relief, but that they may be eligible for something known as the Compassionate Allowances initiative.

In the next few posts, our blog will devote some time to discussing the CAL initiative and what it means for those with severe medical conditions.

Could a blood test be used to diagnose, monitor clinical depression?

Statistics show that clinical depression is a reality for more than 18 million people here in the U.S. What's perhaps even more staggering is that many medical experts have indicated that the methods for diagnosing clinical depression -- subjective observations of moods and behaviors coupled with firsthand patient information -- are not always effective.

Interestingly, this may all soon change for the better thanks to the efforts of researchers at Northwestern University who may have found a much easier way to not only diagnose clinical depression, but also determine whether cognitive behavioral therapy is working.

Appealing an SSD claim denial

Generally, a person's greatest fear when they submit an application for something is that they will receive a denial in response to the application. Sadly, this is a fear that becomes a reality for many Social Security Disability applicants when it comes to their initial application. Initial claims denials are incredibly common in the SSD world. Some estimates have put the initial denial rate for SSD and SSI claims at around 90 percent.

It is natural to feel disappointed after receiving an SSD claim denial. It is always discouraging when an application you put hard work into initially proves unsuccessful. You may also be worried about your future.

SSDI payments can be reduced by other public disability benefits

Social Security disability benefits are an important resource for many seriously disabled Americans, as we like to point out on this blog. Still, for many disabled Americans, SSDI benefits are not the only benefits they receive. With the average monthly payments from SSDI being relatively low and in many cases inadequate as a stand-alone source of income, this only makes sense.

This being the case, it is important for those who apply for SSDI benefits to understand how other disability benefits can affect their SSDI payments. The first thing to say on this topic is that private disability benefits do not count against one’s Social Security disability payments. This includes private pension funds or private disability insurance. This is part of why it is so important for people to take the opportunity to obtain coverage for long-term disability. Doing so will not count against the receipt of Social Security disability payments, if one qualifies for them. 

SSA urging people to sign up for an online account

While most people might not have realized it, last week was "my Social Security Week," a campaign run by the Social Security Administration to raise awareness among people of all ages about the importance of retirement planning.

In particular, the SSA, acting through various social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, encouraged people to take the necessary steps to set up an online account enabling them to see their Social Security earnings statement.   

It wasn't all that long ago that the SSA would mail a hard copy of this statement to people just a few months before their birthday. However, as we've discussed on our blog before, the agency eliminated this service due to cost concerns.

Texas Legislature to consider 'three-strikes' nursing home law

Most of us associate nursing homes with providing long-term care for the elderly. While this is certainly accurate, it's important to understand that these facilities also care for other types of patients.

For example, they frequently house recipients of Social Security disability benefits, including those people requiring 24-hour medical care or those people recovering from a particularly difficult surgical procedure.  

In light of this reality, it becomes important to examine a recent recommendation by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the legislative panel "tasked with identifying and eliminating waste, duplication, and inefficiency for more than 130 Texas state agencies," concerning nursing homes.

Last week, the commission recommended that state lawmakers give strong consideration to the possibility of passing a law calling for nursing homes found by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services to have committed three or more egregious offenses over the course of a two-year period to have their licenses revoked.  

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