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Catching COVID-19 a second or more time heightens one’s risk for contracting Long COVID.  A recent Veterans Administration Health Study found that the risk of Long COVID increased with each subsequent re-infection.  Long COVID symptoms include malaise, fatigue, pulmonary problems, neurological issues, cardiovascular abnormalities, gastrointestinal pain and mental health impairments.  The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Long COVID may affect 10 to 33 million working age adults in the US.

The correlation between Long COVID and re-infection rates is concerning given that the newest Omicron subvariant – BA.5 — readily infects the vaccinated, the boosted and people with prior immunity.  BA.5 currently accounts for 82 percent of all infections in the U.S.  Subvariant BA.5  is particularly proficient in dodging vaccination and prior immunity guardrails.  The swift mutation of the COVID-19 virus and its mutated sub-variants alarms medical professionals attempting to get infections rates under control.  To add to this concern, experts report that subsequent infections may be causing extensive cumulative damage to the body even when the symptoms are mild.   Multiple infections can contribute to death, hospitalizaiton and long term damage to major organs

Long COVID symptoms impact a person’s ability to work.  Over 15 percent of unfilled jobs are now related to Long COVID.  Claims for Long COVID are affecting employer provided disability insurance, worker’s compensation and health insurance.  For those industries particularly prone to employee COVID infections, such as healthcare or manufacturing, they may be disproportionately affected by absenteeism and rising healthcare costs.

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Can you invest your Social Security Disability benefits in a Roth IRA?

Roth IRAs are a type of individual retirement account that can allow you to save earned income while allowing that income to grow.  You can withdraw that income at a certain point of time in the future.  Roth IRAs are meant to be used to invest your after – tax  earnings.

Do Social Security disability benefits qualify as earned income to be invested in a Roth IRA?   The simple answer is NO.  Social Security disability benefits are not considered earned income.  However, if you are working part time  and have a source of income in addition to the benefits that you receive every month, this earned income can be invested in a  Roth IRA retirement account.  One caveat to working under substantial gainful employment (the maximum amount you can earn each month and still be considered disabled) is that these earnings might trigger a continuing disability review by Social Security to see if you are actually still medically disabled.  This is a risk undertaken when working while collecting disability.

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Yesterday the 11th Circuit lifted immediately an injunction from the lower courts on Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill – HB 481, making it law in Georgia.  The statute, known as the “Heartbeat Bill” provides that unborn persons have equal rights with born humans.  An unborn child becomes a person upon a detectable heartbeat determined (unscientifically) to be at six weeks.   Oddly, the bill references the 14th Amendment and its substantive due process inalienable rights of “life, liberty and property”.  Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in the Roe v. Wade destruction case Dobbs vs. Jackson Health held that the US Constitution provides no substantive due process rights.  Nevertheless, a fetus now has these rights of equal (actually greater status) than the mother.

Per the statute, abortions after six weeks are illegal.  These exceptions apply.  Abortion is allowed to remove a dead unborn child caused by a spontaneous abortion.  Here is an important word: dead.  Women incurring a miscarriage will not be medically treated to remove the fetus, but rather will continue to have their health weighed against the balance of a heartbeat until death can be determined.  Again, the health of the mother is now, legally, secondary, to a fetus during a miscarriage.

An abortion to remove an ectopic pregnancy is an exception to the abortion rule.  The ectopic pregnancy is a  non-viable pregnancy certain to cause the death of the mother.  Very generous of the legislature.  Wild applause.

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The Trump administration’s anti-fraud program, known as the Civil Monetary Penalty Program, unfairly levied fines against the  poor and elderly.  Without providing due process for the beneficiaries, staff attorneys for the program were directed to assess fines more than the double the amount of the original payment made in error.  Attorneys who objected to the program were fired or demoted.

The program launched investigations into over-payments made to disabilty and retiree beneficiaries.  All of the beneficiaries belonged to a lower socio-economic class.  Many of these beneficiaries were fined outlandish amounts that ran into the thousands of dollars and far exceeded the original overpayment.  The program has recently come under increased scrutiny and criticism, and the Social Security Commissioner has directed the Social Security Inspector General to suspend the program.

It is believed that under the Trump administration’s anti fraud program, approximately 100 beneficiaries were levied fines.  Many of the fines were levied without due process and without enough evidence against these beneficiaries. One woman, who had received about $30,000 in benefits wrongfully, was fined $132,000.   The Social Security Inspector General’s office was aware that many of these beneficiaries would find themselves unable to challenge these fines in court.  Now, an investigation into these fines is on and hopefully, justice will be done to these victims.

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The week between June 12 and June 18 this year was marked as Scleroderma Awareness Week occurred between June 12 and  18.  Scleraderma is an autoimmune condition that is characterized by thickness and tightening of the skin. The skin may look leathery and become darker in colour.  The thickening of the skin may continue internally and may involve the internal organs such as the lungs and kidneys.  Problems with these internal organs may include tightness, scarring, pain and inflammation.

Scleroderma is a chronic disease.  Management of symptoms is typically the only treatment.  Over a period of time, more serious effects, including internal organ damage, cardiovascular problems and joint problems may occur.  All of these symptoms on their own or in combination with each other can make it difficult for a person to continue working at his/her regular job.

Make sure that you are aware of the symptoms of scleroderma, and get the symptoms checked out by your doctor as soon as they occur.  The most important thing to know is that  pain and stiffness are not necessarily the earliest symptoms.  When the condition progresses, the deterioration in skin health could lead to catastrophic adverse health events such as cardiovascular events and renal failure.  In some cases, people do not even realise that they suffer from scleroderma until the disease begins to affect the internal organs.

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June 5th commermorated National Cancer Survivors’ Day.  The occasion celebrated cancer survivors’ strength and determination.  The first Sunday of June is typically National Cancer Survivors’ Day, and is meant to be a celebration of those who have beaten cancer.

The National Cancer Survivors’ Day website defines a survivor as any individual who has been diagnosed with cancer, has undergone treatment for cancer, is living with cancer, had cancer as a child, or someone who is now free from cancer.

One of the major worries that cancer patients have after their diagnosis is the economic impact of the disease. According to some estimates, the total healthcare cost to Americans from cancer every year is as high as $80 billion.  However, it is not just medical costs that can cripple a person financially, but also the fact that in many cases, cancer patients are no longer able to work and earn a living.  The financial impact of being unable to work can be crushing for cancer patients as well as their families.

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Sickle cell anemia is an inherited condition that can cause a number of complications.  A person who suffers from sickle cell anemia has red blood cells that are sickle- shaped rather than the standard round -shaped cells.  The cells are also much more likely to die early, causing a chronic shortage of red blood cells in the body. Also, the sickle- shaped cells are sticky and may become clogged when they pass through the small blood vessels. This can give rise to complications such as pneumonia and stroke.  A person who suffers from sickle cell anemia could also suffer from joint problems, nervous system, and brain impairments.

Treatment options for sickle cell anemia are limited.  Bone marrow transplants may be recommended.  Having a diagnosis of sickle cell anemia alone will not qualify you for Social Security disability benefits. You must be able to provide evidence that the condition makes it difficult for you to work at your job, or any other job.  If your sickle cell anemia symptoms have caused you to become hospitalised several times recently or if they have caused you to require numerous intravenous medications,  then you may have a better chance at a successful claim. If your condition requires you to have regular transfusions of red blood cells or the symptoms cause your hemoglobin levels to drop below 7 g/dl, consult an attorney about your eligibility for disability benefits as you may meet a medical listing which authorizes approval of benefits.

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Arthritis is one of the most commonly-cited causes of Social Security disability claims in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 58 million Americans suffer from arthritis.

More than 23 million American arthritis sufferers above the age of 18 suffer from some physical limitations as a result of their condition. In Georgia, between 32% and 39% of adults with arthritis also report physical limitations that make it difficult for them to go to work.

Joint pain remains one of the most common symptoms of arthritis.  This makes it difficult for a person to perform physical work. In some cases, the pain can be severe enough to prevent the person from performing even routine physical tasks.  In the state of Georgia between 30% and 34% of adults with arthritis also report joint pain.

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You might not know this but disability benefits claims filed in some states have a much higher chance of being approved.

While the Social Security Disability Insurance program is a federal program, claims in some states have a higher approval rate.  According to data, Georgia ranks at number 26 on a list of states based on their disability claims approval rates.

The data shows that Georgia had a 48.4% approval rate for Social Security disability claims in 2020. While that is lower than the approval rates of at least 24 other states, it is better than the national average approval rate for 2020 which was just about 45%.  It was also much higher than the state’s poor performance in 2019. In that year, the approval rate for disability claims was a dismal 43.1 %. In 2019, Georgia ranked Number 33 on the list for claims approvals.  The average disability benefit paid out in Georgia in 2020 was $1,260.

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In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden tackled an issue that has long been on his agenda. The President called for a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

That proposal, along with the capping of the price of insulin at $35, was included in the Build Back Better bill that failed in the Senate last year.  However, it is clear the president does not intend to give up on this subject.  He expressed his hopes that Congress would permit Medicare in the future to negotiate drug prices.  The agency is currently not allowed to negotiate the prices of pharmaceutical drugs.

The Build Back Better bill had included provisions for Medicare to be allowed to negotiate prices starting with an initial list of 10 drugs. That number would ultimately have increased to 20 drugs by the year 2028. The bill had also included provisions to cap out -of- pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries at $2000 for drug benefits.  Unfortunately, the bill failed in the Senate, but hopefully these measures that are so important to strengthen the social security safety net for millions of Americans, will be taken up again in the future.

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