Articles Posted in Uncategorized

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Athletes receive plenty of attention for brain injuries.   However, other professionals  are also very likely to suffer head injuries and may require disability benefits. According to a new study, theater workers and actors are at a high risk of head injuries, due to the risky nature of many of their job activities.

According to the results of the study conducted by researchers at Ohio University, more than two -thirds of surveyed theater workers had suffered at least one head injury on the job. A total of 258 workers were surveyed as part of the study. More than three-quarters of the theater workers said that they had suffered more than three head injuries on the job, and 40% admitted to having suffered more than five head injuries. Many of the injuries were moderately serious, and resulted in concussion-related symptoms, like dizziness.

However, while head injuries among professional athletes are taken very seriously, the same doesn’t happen in the case of theater workers. Approximately 50% of the workers admitted that they had never reported their injuries to anyone.  Theater workers don’t benefit from medical specialists on standby, as sports athletes do, and are, therefore, less likely to seek medical treatment when they are injured.

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A simple test involving a keyboard may allow quick detection of Parkinson’s disease, thereby helping patients slow down progression of the disease.

Early detection of Parkinson’s disease is crucial in helping limit the deterioration of symptoms. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can worsen in intensity, and over a period of time, the person may find himself unable to perform routine activities without great difficulty. Diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease however, is a challenge. A lot of precious time may be lost between the appearance of the earliest symptoms of the disease, and an accurate diagnosis of the condition. The current standard for detection of the condition is the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale Part 3 III. However, the test can only be administered by a trained specialist and at a diagnostic clinic.

Research into Parkinson’s disease therefore, has focused on early detection of the condition. Digital technologies have proved vital to the development of detection techniques. Researchers have recently found that a simple keyboard method can be used to detect the earliest symptoms of the condition.

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Last Thursday, the Trump Administration invited states to add a work requirement to Medicaid eligibility.  States and the federal government jointly fund Medicaid, but states are responsible for running it. The federal government cannot impose work requirements without Congressional approval.  However, states can impose a work requirement by requesting a waiver from the regulations for new programs that carry out the underlying mission of Medicaid.  States do this by applying for a waiver and having it approved by the President.  Hence, it is news when the President of the United States invites states to do this.

Presumably, the work requirement will exempt children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  There is hope that it will also exempt full-time students and family care-givers.  Assuming all of these groups that currently receive Medicaid would be exempt under the new work requirement proposal that only leaves a small group that would be affected by it.

According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 1 in 10 people who receive Medicaid would be subjected to the work requirement.  Kaiser research further shows that in the non-exempt populations, more than 50% of the adult Medicaid recipients who would not be covered by the exemption are already working. Thus, a relatively small portion of the individuals who receive Medicaid would be affected.

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This week the A&E channel  highlights Atlanta in a series of Intervention episodes focused on the “Heroin Triangle.”  Intervention documents individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol.  “The Heroin Triangle” consists of areas just outside of Atlanta, mainly in Cobb County.  Cobb County officials report a growing opioid and heroin epidemic.  Examples of opioids are morphine, hydromorphone, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, codeine, tramadol and burprenorphine.  Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine.  Research indicates that 80% of Americans using heroin first misused prescription opioids. 

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports over 30,000 deaths last year from opioid overdose.  There were 20,000 overdose deaths from heroin and illicit opioids.  Drug overdose deaths in 2016 totaled approximately 64,000 people, making it the leading cause of death of individuals under 60 – exceeding car accidents.  Opioid death rates are highest for white males.

What is the cause of this opioid epidemic?  The New England Journal of Medicine (“TNEJM”) reports that the “widespread use of opioid analgesics has resulted in a national epidemic of opioid overdose deaths and addictions.”  Opioid analgesics are the most commonly prescribed class of medications.  Thirty percent of adults and forty percent of older adults suffer from chronic pain.  However, research suggests that opioids soon become the problem.  As TNEJM explains:  For a patient in chronic pain,  even mild levels of pain can trigger the learned associations between pain and drug relief, which are manifested as an urge for relief.  Such a conditioned urge for relief from even mild pain can lead to the early inappropriate use of an opioid outside of prescribed scheduling.  Given the current overdose and addiction epidemic, doctors and medical associations are starting to question the practice of prescribing opioids for chronic pain.    The Center for Disease Control reports that over 2 million Americans are estimated to be dependent on opioids and an additional 95 million are dependent on prescription painkillers.

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Last night Congress agreed to fund the government through December 22, 2017 and just hours ago the President signed that bill.  One of Congress’ constitutional obligations is to approve government funding.  The federal government’s fiscal year runs through October 1st to September 30th.   Because Congress cannot agree on spending priorities, particular the defense department, immigration and healthcare, annual funding has been delayed.  With the approaching holidays and more work to be done, another possible shutdown, days before Christmas, is a possibility.  According to Reuters, “the White House and lawmakers say the bill will give them more time to negotiate several end-of-year agenda items, including the budget, a children’s health program and hurricane aid.”   

For those of you who rely on SSDI or SSI monthly disability benefits, these will not be affected by a government shutdown.  However, for those of you who have pending claims before the Social Security Administration, there may be a slowdown in services.  It is hard to imagine that it could be any slower, but apparently that is possible.  If the shutdown lasts between 1-5 days, essential SSA employees will continue to work.  Ninety-seven percent of hearing office employees will report for work.  However, if the shutdown lasts for more than five days, SSA will “re-evaluate its contingency plan.”  We do expect that scheduled hearings will continue.  However, a shutdown that lasts beyond five days will furlough more employees and create more backlog in workloads.

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The Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) is at risk of going belly up thanks to Congressional inaction on funding the widely popular children’s health insurance program.  Created in 1997, the program provides federal dollars to states to fund an insurance program for children whose families are low income, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.  CHIP benefits 9 million children nationwide.  In Georgia, that program is known as Peachcare.  Peachcare provides low cost (about $35 a month) health insurance coverage for children whose families earn below 200 % of the poverty level (roughly about $40,000 a year for a family of three).

While members of Congress from both parties agreed that the CHIP program should continue, neither the House nor the Senate can agree on how to fund CHIP.  CHIP provides about $13 billion in federal funds annually.  In November, House Republicans voted to fund CHIP by taking money from other public health programs (such as vaccinations).  House Democrats disagreed on that approach.

In Georgia, Medicaid and Peachcare cover over one-half of all the children in Georgia, approximately 1.3 million Georgia children.  Prior to 2018, CHIP had never had a lapse in funding.  State officials predict that Peachcare’s funds will last through Spring of 2018 if Congress does not fund this program over the next two weeks.  Meanwhile, both houses of Congress have passed a massive tax cut for this country.

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At 37 years old, Michelle had stopped working as a teacher due to complications with gastro paresis and rheumatoid arthritis. Gastro paresis is a disease that prevents her stomach from correctly digesting food. Because her stomach muscles did not work properly, she could not digest food. Michelle contacted me in May of 2015. She came into the office with her mother because she needed to file for Social Security Disability. Quickly into the conversation, Michelle and her mother made it clear that her debilitating disease was the gastro paresis from which she had no relief.
She suffered from intractable nausea and vomiting daily. She could not keep food down. Over the course of our two-year representation, she was hospitalized nine times in 2016; six times in 2015 and ten times in 2014. By 2016, she received all of medicine and nutrition through surgically implanted gastric port called a GJ- tube for short. Her days consisted of infusing a specialized high protein prescription formula and medicine into two different ports; cleaning the ports after use; and dealing with some very difficult bathroom issues. If she was not in her bed, she was in the bathroom, resting on the cold tile floor for relief from her nausea.

One would think that Michelle’s case would have easily been approved at application. It was not. In May of 2015, we filed an online application for Michelle and sent in a mountain of medical records. We continually faxed over medical records to SSA and spoke with the adjusters each time Michelle entered the hospital. Despite her ten hospitalizations in 2015 and favorable doctor’s statements, the disability review team at the SSA determined that she could stand and walk and lift and carry as necessitated by her job as a preschool teacher and her claim was denied.
We requested reconsideration of this denial in September of 2015 and that was denied again in March of 2016. In the time period from September of 2015 to March of 2016, Michelle had five additional hospitalizations. Her disability file indicates that the second level of review was denied because during one hospitalization, the treating doctor prescribed Humira (a drug to treat her rheumatoid arthritis) and the reviewing SSA doctor thought that would work and she would improve. Also, the reviewing team ignored her treating doctor’s statements that she met a medical listing. A medical listing is a list from SSA of conditions that are considered to be disabling. Continue reading →

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Women, who suffer from pain as a result of some kind of medical condition or disability, are much more likely to have their reports of pain dismissed. This is even though women may actually be more likely to suffer from pain due to physiological and other causes.

women in pain.jpgDoctors have known for very long now that women and men vary greatly in the way that they respond to certain drugs, and even the way that they feel pain. Women have hormonal cycles that determine their level of tolerance to pain. Their organs are smaller, and their bodies are made up of a much higher body fat composition, which means that drugs affect their bodies differently.

These differences are even more acute for those women who live with chronic pain across the country. As many as 25% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, and a significant proportion of those Americans are believed to be women. There are millions of women who currently live with symptoms of chronic pain, and many of them are on Social Security disability benefits.

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A new estimate indicates that the number of Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease could triple over the next 4 decades, if there is no progress made in treatment soon. Any Social Security disability attorney would also be very concerned about the implications for these patients, considering the slowness with which disability claims are currently processed by the Social Security Administration.

Fortunately, The Social Security Administration recently added early onset/younger onset Alzheimer’s disease to its Compassionate Allowances program, which means that people who suffer from these conditions could have their Social Security Disability Insurance claim processed quicker.

The new estimates were reported in the journal Neurology, and researchers say that by the year 2050, there will be at least 40 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which normally affects senior citizens, and results in symptoms like cognitive deterioration, mental impairment, and a progressive loss of memory.

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Contrary to the picture of a person with mental or psychological disabilities that has been painted by the media in the wake of the recent school shootings in America, the fact remains that people who suffer from mental disabilities are much more likely to be victims of violence, than perpetrators. According to World Report on Disability, violence is the number one cause of morbidity among disabled people.

The researchers analyzed data between 2009 and 2010 in the United Kingdom, and estimated the chances that a person, who suffers from physical or mental disabilities, would experience violence including sexual, domestic, physical and non-domestic violence.

The research found that people who suffer from a mental disability are much more likely to be victims of violence, and not perpetrators of violence. The report also found that persons who suffered from disability, suffered severe psychological impact after suffering violence. These people were deeply traumatized, and not surprisingly, also sustained a much higher economic burden after the violence.