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October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month.  This designation hopes to raise public awareness about this disorder which impacts the spine and neurological system.

Spina bifida is a congenital condition that can result in a number of symptoms that involve the spinal cord, as well as neurological symptoms. In this condition, the infant’s spine is not completely fused during pregnancy.  Surgery may be required to fuse the spine after birth.  In some cases, however, the defect continues to exist even after the surgery, and the person may begin to experience symptoms later in life. Symptoms can include some degree of paralysis, numbness, and other nerve- related symptoms. Spina bifida is a permanent condition with no cure.

The Social Security Administration does not include spina bifida in its “blue book” of medical listings that qualify for disability benefits. However, because the symptoms are so often related to the spine, you may qualify for disability benefits based on whether you suffer from symptoms that are very similar to other spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, nerve root compression or spinal arachnoiditis.

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Early voting in Georgia runs from today, October 12 to Friday, October 30th.

Where do find out where to vote:

Dates and hours may vary based on where you live.  You can locate where to vote by logging into your My Voter Page .  There are you can find early voting locations, dates and times.  You can also review a sample ballot ahead of time.  You can also call 1 866 OUR VOTE to verify the proper polling place.

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Chronic back pain not only affects a person’s mobility and movement and increases the risk of disability, but it also impacts a person’s relationships.

When a person suffers from back pain, it can place stress on his or her marriage. These findings come from a recent study published in the European Journal of Pain. The researchers wanted to know the effect of a person’s back pain on a number of aspects, including his or her occupation and personal relationships.

They found that spouses of persons who complained of chronic back pain reported stress in their relationship. They also found that the person’s chronic back affected the spouse’s employment, with 20% of the respondents admitting that it had affected their occupations.

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Many symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD and related conditions may be managed with regular medications and lifestyle changes. However, in those cases in which symptoms are so severe  that going to work seems impossible, Social Security disability benefits can help ease the financial stress.

You can recover Social Security disability benefits for inflammatory bowel disorder, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and other conditions that are related to IBD. The term “inflammatory bowel disease” refers to both Crohn’s disease as well as ulcerative colitis.  In both these conditions, there is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract with symptoms that include pain, severe abdominal pain and rectal bleeding. The symptoms, in some cases, may be so severe that the person may require a visit to the restroom every few minutes. The constant loss of nutrients from the body may result in weight loss and fatigue.

If you have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you may be eligible for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. A mere diagnosis of these conditions will not, however, be sufficient for you to qualify for benefits.

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The World Health Organization marks July 28th as World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness about people who live with this condition.  July 28th is the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg (1925 – 2011) who discovered the Hepatitis B virus in 1967 and two years later developed the first vaccine.  Viral hepatitis causes more than one million deaths year.  Deaths from hepatitis are currently increasing

According to the World Health Organization approximately 900,000 people globally die from one of the forms of hepatitis every year. As many as 325 million people live with the disease. Many millions of people also may be unaware they have a strain of hepatitis.  Only 42% of children globally have access to the Hepatitis B vaccine.   These are the strains of hepatitis that are most likely to cause long term health damage, or even death.

Hepatitis is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver which can in some cases be fatal.  There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, A, B,C, D and E.  While they all cause liver disease, they differ in means of transmission, severity, geographic distribution and prevention methods.  Types B and C lead to chronic illness in hundreds of millions of people worldwide.  Some types are prevented through vaccination.

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Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue upheld state laws that allow public funds to be used to fund religious education.  That decision is set out below.  But it is important to know that Georgia has a similar tax program called the Qualified Education Tax Credit.  This is used to fund scholarships for students enrolled in private schools.  The donor makes a contribution to a private school through a nonprofit student scholarship organization.  The organization passes it to the school; and the school uses it as a tuition subsidy.  The donor then gets 100% of the money back as a state income tax credit.   The School Superintendents Association opposes tax-based tuition subsidies because they leave less money on the table for public schools.  In the report, Public Loss, Private Gain, the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy describes this law as a diversion of critical resources away from public schools.  The American Federation of Teachers stated that it feared the ruling would be used to “defund and dismantle public education”.

In Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue.  The Montana Legislature granted tax credits to those who contribute to organizations that provide scholarships for private school tuition.  The Montana state Constitution bars government aid to any school controlled in part by any church, sect or denomination.  Three mothers who were blocked from using the scholarships at religious schools filed suit, alleging that the schools discriminated on the basis of religion.  The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects religious observance against unequal treatment and against laws that impose disabilities on religious practice.  Montana’s no aid provision excludes religious schools from public benefits solely because of the religious status.  Therefore, strict scrutiny is required.  To satisfy strict scrutiny, government action must advance the interest of the highest order and must be narrowly tailored in pursuit of that interest.  The court held that Montana’s interest in creating a greater separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires cannot qualify as compelling in the face of the Free Exercise clause.   Justice Roberts delivered the majority opinion, joined by Thomas, Gorsuch and Alito.  Ginsburg, Kagan, Breyer and Sotomayor dissented.

The majority held that the Free Exercise Clause protects against any laws that penalize religious activity by denying any person an equal share of the rights, benefits, and privileges enjoyed by other citizens.  Disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefits solely because of their religious character imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that Puerto Rico residents are eligible for Social Security disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program.

The Supplemental Security Income program provides for financial benefits to be paid to persons who are disabled, blind or over the age of 65. Residents of Puerto Rico currently are covered under a program that is jointly funded by the federal government and provides meager benefits. The court’s decision changes all that.

The court’s decision came in a case involving a man who moved from New York to Puerto Rico to care for his wife. The federal government filed a lawsuit seeking to receiver $28,000 in benefits paid to the man. The court has ruled in favor of the man.

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The Net pundits have been predicting a baby boom post the Covid -19 pandemic, based on the millions who sheltered in place in March and April. There’s even a name given to the supposedly mass hordes of babies that will be born post the crisis – the Coronials. Jokes apart, none of this is likely to happen. In fact, there’s actually likely to be a dip in the birth rate, and that should be a concern for Americans.

History shows that during times of economic crisis, birth rates actually drop, not rise. During the Great Depression and the Great Recession, as unemployment skyrocketed, couples decided to postpone having kids. According to the Pew Research Centre, birth rates actually declined after the start of the Great Recession, following a long period of high birth rates. Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic also represents a public health crisis, hardly the time you want to plan a major medical event, like a pregnancy.

In fact, things are going to seem insecure for a while, and making babies will be the last thing on most people’s minds. That is generally bad news for Social Security. The Social Security System is based heavily on people and future generations paying payroll taxes into the system to keep it going. When birth rates fall, there are fewer people in the future paying taxes into the system, and funding the retirement, disability and other benefits the Social Security Administration pays to millions of Americans every year. The fewer babies born now, the fewer adults will be paying into the Social Security system, a couple of decades from now, placing even more stress on an already underfunded system.

 

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A group of 150 Democrat House members are calling on their party to push for protection of Medicaid funding in the next stimulus package. The push is even more important in Georgia where enrollments for the Medicaid program have been spiking in recent months since the pandemic began.

Traditionally, Medicaid enrolments increase during a recession. Medicaid coverage provides health insurance for persons who live at or near poverty levels. As the Covid-19 outbreak has devastated local economies and business, pushing millions of Georgians out of their middle class lives into near poverty levels and with the fear of a major and potentiality debilitating disease still on the minds of Georgians, enrollments for the program have increased in the state. According to some estimates, Medicaid and Peach Care enrollments in the state of Georgia have increased by as much as 38 percent over the past few weeks. Over March and April alone, at least 88,000 new persons enrolled in the Medicaid program. This program is going to be crucial in preventing financial catastrophe for Georgians living at poverty levels.

The House Members have written to Democrat leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push to retain the Maintenance of Effort provision in the next stimulus package. The provision requires states to maintain Medical coverage for their citizens. If past history is anything to go by, Medicaid funding will be one of the first programs to lose funding as states try to cut corners during a financial crisis.

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It seems like decades have passed between January when most of us were first alerted to the Covid-19 outbreak, and April, when we are now in the midst of a global pandemic during which life as we knew it in Georgia, has changed completely.

Over these weeks, there have also been changes in the way we approach prevention guidelines for Covid-19. These have changed significantly, too. Some Covid-19 precautions, however, remain standard.

Wash your hands frequently. An alcohol-based sanitizer is best. However, even thorough washing with a non-alcohol-based hand wash can also reduce your chances of contracting the infection.

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