Disabled veterans will receive cost-of-living increase

Veterans will get a cost of living increase for 2016.
Veterans will get a cost of living increase for 2016.

Those who were wounded while serving our country truly deserve the best. It appears Congress may be making a move toward this, as the MilitaryTimes reported that there will likely be a cost-of-living increase for disabled veterans in 2016.

However, this veterans benefits increase will be tied to Social Security Administration disability benefits. The increase her will not be known until October, so veterans and their families will have to wait to hear about the increase in their benefits.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed the cost of living adjustment for disabled veterans, calling it a “commonsense adjustment,” according to the MilitaryTimes. The Senate still has to approve this veterans benefits increase, but there is almost no chance that any politician will choose to vote against this increase in payment.

The increase may not be huge, as the adjustment was an increase of 1.7 percent for the SSA and veterans benefits last year.

MilitaryTimes reports that this new legislation also deems it necessary for VA to pay accrued benefits to a decreased veteran’s estate, even if the veteran passes away without family to receive the payout. This change was passed in an effort to make sure VA does not withhold or cancel payments before every eligible beneficiary is identified

In an era where veterans are often caught in a benefits backlog, it is good to see the U.S. government attempting to do the right thing for those who nobly served our country.

Depression, anxiety more heavily affects management, study shows

Managers and supervisors at work have a greater chance of suffering from depression and anxiety, according to a recent report from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Those who find themselves suffering from depression and anxiety to the point of not being able to work should get professional medical help and apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

According to the study, the results of which were printed in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness, approximately twice the number of supervisors and managers suffered from mental health issues than than workers. For example, 18 percent of supervisors and managers suffered from depression, whereas 12 percent of workers said they did.

The study said this may be due to the added stresses of being in a position of power. Katherine Keyes, PhD, assistant professor of Epidemiology, said they chose to focus on these two mental illnesses due to the fact that the age of onset is usually older.

Typically, the stress of having less money and power is thought of as something that causes depression and anxiety. This study shows that may not necessarily be the case; people across all walks of life should be sure they are being attentive to their mental healthcare needs.

Depression and anxiety symptoms are, far and away, the primary reason people are unable to perform in competitive employment. The combination of depression and anxiety symptoms disables them from seeking employment and from performing work activities. The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates are experts in securing and presenting evidence to win Social Security benefits for it’s clients.

More than 50 million Americans live with disability

In the midst of politicized talk of funding versus de-funding the Social Security Administration, it may become lost that those taking disability benefits are real people with serious problems. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that one in every five people, or 50 million Americans, live with a disability.

50 million Americans live with a disability (photo By Nicolai Berntsen)
50 million Americans live with a disability (photo By Nicolai Berntsen)

“This report is a snapshot of the percent of adults with disabilities in the U.S., so we can get a better understanding of who people with disabilities are,” said researcher Elizabeth Courtney-Long, a health scientist at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

The most common disabilities include:

  • Mobility limitations which make it hard to climb stairs or walk
  • Trouble thinking or remembering
  • Inability to live independently
  • Sight
  • Self-care

The majority of those with disability tend to be 65 years or older and poor. Approximately 47 percent of people who suffered from disability made less than $15,000 annually. To compare, the median U.S. household income is about $50,500, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For those who cannot work, it is important that they file for disability benefits as soon as possible. There is a large backlog of cases pending before the SSA and it often takes more than a year to either obtain an approval on the record or set a hearing.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates are experts in obtaining disability benefits for clients. We are available to effectively represent clients before the SSA. Initial consultations with our firm are free of charge.

Veterans benefits extended to same-sex married couples

Gay veterans who are legally married will now have the ability to apply for and receive veterans benefits, according to The Hill.

In the wake of the ruling from Obergefell v. Hodges, a ruling which gave homosexual couples the right to marry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced all federal agencies will be required to give benefits to married couples.

Lynch said this will include the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Before July, the SSA and VA were still prohibited by a federal statute from fully adopting rules that would allow SSA and VA benefits to extend to same-sex couples, the Hill reported.

“Today I am proud to announce that the critical programs for veterans and elderly and disabled Americans, which previously could not give effect to the marriages of couples living in states that did not recognize those marriages, will now provide federal recognition for all marriages nationwide,” Lynch said. “The agencies are currently working towards providing guidance to implement this change in law.”

The extra costs are not yet known by either agency, but it is invaluable to be able to extend veterans benefits to those who bravely served our country, no matter their orientation.

Schizophrenia may make memory a challenge

Suffering from schizophrenia can be extremely challenging, as hallucinations, delusions, trouble speaking and other physical mental health issues can make it difficult to work and live. A recent study from UC Davis School of Medicine said the disease may also impact memory, an awful side effect that likely makes it far more difficult to hold a job and carry on with life.

Schizophrenia can impact how memory works (Photo by Jordan Sanchez)
Schizophrenia can impact how memory works (Photo by Jordan Sanchez)

“People with schizophrenia have difficulty retrieving associations within a context, and this creates a pervasive loss of memory that makes everyday life a challenge,” says J. Daniel Ragland, professor of psychiatry in the UC Davis School of Medicine, according to the school’s website. “You can’t work if you can’t remember the next step in what your boss told you to do.”

Dysfunction of the frontal and temporal lobe regions of the brain may be at the heart of these medical issues, according to the researchers. Trouble will often arise when trying to form relationships between items or facts, such as putting together ingredients for a meal or trying to form an anecdote.

For those suffering from schizophrenia, it is a good idea to get treatment as early as possible and apply for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. While this cannot make up for the loss of normalcy in life, the extra money from SSA benefits may help reduce a bit of stress and make it easier to exist.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates have been highly successful over the past 30 years in obtaining Social Security disability benefits for clients who are disabled from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Contact us today for your free consultation.

The problem with the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration must fix the disability program.
The Social Security Administration must fix the disability program.

Anyone who has been following the Social Security Administration over the past few years can tell you how much financial trouble it is in, but few have answers to how it can be fixed.

Bloomberg’s Matthew Philips took the institute’s pending insolvency to task in a recent article, first citing President Dwight Eisenhower’s desire to have the SSA be run efficiency and effectively to help “rehabilitate the disabled so that they may return to useful employment.” These days, the SSA is a far cry from Eisenhower’s desire.

One problem the SSA has is its lack of ability to return the disabled to work. Philips noted that economists say it does more to keep some capable out of the labor force than it doe to help them back in.

There are currently 11 million people on disability, with less than 1 percent reentering the workforce in 2013. While the lack of incentive to return to work hurts, what may hurt even more is the 1 million rejected disability benefit applications waiting for appeal, causing a gigantic backlog spanning the entire United States.

Social Security disability benefits are necessary for millions across the country who cannot work, but does the current system work as it is laid out? Economically, it doesn’t seem to be working very well, as millions wait for benefits, more millions are on benefits with no incentive to get off of them, all the while the SSA is trying to figure out how it can be funded into the future.

“What is especially problematic is that [SSDI] absorbs people who might otherwise work when economic conditions improve,” Stanford economist Mark Duggan told Philips.

What can be done to help the SSA avoid disaster and insolvency? The most likely scenario is diverting part of Social Security’s payroll tax revenues to avoid disability benefit cuts, but this is not a permanent solution in and of itself. Duggan said it often takes a crisis before Congress makes meaningful reform; SSA has all the making of a crisis coming to light one day.

With case hearing dates taking far longer come to fruition and political pressure to deny claims, it is more critical than ever for a claimant to hire competent attorney to represent them as they seek SSA disability benefits. The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates has more than 30 years of experience in successfully representing clients obtain their disability benefits.

Major illnesses, disability could lead to depression

Illness and disability may cause depression.  (photo by By Austin Ban)
Illness and disability may cause depression. (photo by By Austin Ban)

The effects of a major illness or disability can be devastating. The loss of an ability to move or function in a certain way takes enough of a toll on a human being, as we have seen with many of our clients who successfully apply and win disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.

However, there may be an added effect for those with a major disability: depression.

The Tampa Bay Times spoke with Dr. Nick Dewan, a psychiatrist and medical director for behavioral health, who said they see the impact of depression on those who are disabled or ill every single day.

“Specialists like me see about a quarter of all cases, the ones that are more severe,” Dewan told the Times. “Most of the rest are handled by primary care docs. It’s so common to see depression in the face of illness that [we now have] social workers in primary care offices to create better access to mental health care.”

The more advanced an illness or disability is, the greater the chance there is of depression following. One report cited by the times found that 34 million of those 18 and older in the U.S., 17 percent of the adult population, suffered from depression in addition to a chronic health condition. About 25 percent of cancer patients develop depression, and approximately 33 percent of heart attack patients suffer from it.

No matter what disability or illness someone is suffering from, mental health cannot become an afterthought. It is important to seek treatment for the primary ailment, as well as SSA disability benefits if you cannot work, but don’t forget about mental health. If left untreated, the impact of depression can be life altering.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates Ltd. have successfully represented hundreds of clients suffering with depression receive their Social Security disability benefits. While this cannot be the last step to recovery, it may help with medical bills and could kickstart the road to recovery.

Don’t be fooled by SSA misinformation

It's important to have all the information when filing for disability benefits.
It’s important to have all the information when filing for disability benefits.

Oftentimes, clients come into the Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates discouraged by what the Social Security Administration has told them about their disability benefits. Perhaps there has been a denial of their claim, or perhaps they called a local office and didn’t receive the information they needed.

In any case like this, it is important to consult with an attorney to ensure claimants can get what they deserve from their application for disability benefits.

On PBS’ website, Boston University economist Larry Kotlikoff said he receives emails nearly every day “from people who have been misled or misinformed, sometimes terribly,” by the SSA. In an attempt to clear up some of this confusion, Kotlikoff created a blog post to help cut away at much of the misinformation he has heard over time.

While we recommend visiting PBS’ website to read the entire post, one point pertinent to readers of our site is that it is not necessarily true that disabled workers can collect auxiliary benefits, such as window(er), spouse, divorced spouse or other similar benefits.

“Disabled workers are treated as having filed for their retirement benefits,”  Kotlikoff  writes. “This is true before and after they reach full retirement age, at which point their disability benefit is called their full retirement benefit. Filing for your retirement benefit means that you can never collect an auxiliary benefit by itself while letting your retirement benefit grow. Instead, your auxiliary benefit is transformed into your excess auxiliary benefit.”

If you have other questions or concerns about SSA disability benefits, don’t hesitate to contact our offices for the help you deserve.

Veterans hope VA benefits will pay for in vitro fertilization

There’s a 23-year-old law on the books that deems the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will not pay for in vitro fertilization for injured veterans. However, this law  is being challenged by veterans and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle, according to The Washington Post.

In vitro fertilization help is not offered to U.S. veterans.
In vitro fertilization help is not offered to U.S. veterans.

For veterans with spinal or genital injuries, this could mean a chance to have biological children that would otherwise not be there post-injury.

Previously, the Post said the IVF ban was adopted by the VA and Congress due to conservative opposition of assisted reproduction. However, now the practice is commonplace and has helped start many families. Veterans and lawmakers alike argue that the ban is outdated and should be overturned.

Another argument for the overturn of this law is the use of improvised explosive devices (otherwise known as IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan, which caused a litany of reproductive injuries for troops overseas.

The IVF procedure is expensive, costing upwards of tens of thousands of dollars, and also may take multiple tries. However, many veterans trying to start a family have paid for it with their own dime, taking on a debt and even skipping an education to work in an effort to pay for IVF. Many completely rethink their plans to start a family.

The Post spoke with Army Staff Sgt. Alex Dillmann, who became paralyzed from the abdomen down after a bomb blast during his time in Afghanistan. While Dillmann feels lucky to be alive, part of his life dream was to become a parent.

“But this is a big pill to swallow for all veterans facing combat injuries, which have hurt their chances to have children,” Dillmann said, noting that the upcoming round of IVF he and his wife will undertake will cost approximately $25,000.

Perhaps if Congress was more concerned about the men and women who serve this country, veterans would get the care they require and deserve. While we cannot yet help veterans get money for this treatment, the Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates can help ensure veterans we work with can get the full amount of VA benefits they are entitled to receive.

Childhood mental illness tends to go untreated in the US

Although 17 million children in the US suffer from mental illness, less than 35 percent get the help they deserve. (Photo by Shlomit Wolf/Unsplash)
Although 17 million children in the US suffer from mental illness, less than 35 percent get the help they deserve. (Photo by Shlomit Wolf/Unsplash)

Suffering from mental illness is never easy to cope with; for children, it can be downright impossible. However, with treatment, there is always hope. Even so, a recent report from New York’s Child Mind Institute found that more than 17 million children in the U.S. have or have had a diagnosable mental illness, yet most are not treated.

Lack of treatment hurts a child’s development. This is a very serious public health program, according to what Child Mind Institute President Harold Koplewicz, MD, said to Medscape Medical News in a recent interview. He said physical illness, such as peanut allergies, asthma and diabetes are given preference in society today. However, mental illnesses are, unfortunately, far more prevalent.

“What is most troubling is that less than 35 percent of these kids ever get help,” Koplewicz told Medscape. “So it’s not a surprise that 70 percent of kids in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable psychiatric illness, and we are not just talking about symptoms, which affect 50 percent of the population under 18. If we are talking about serious debilitating illness, it’s 22 percent of the population. This is absolutely, truly, a public health crisis.”

The report noted 80 percent of children with anxiety disorders, 40 percent with attention-deficit disorder, and 60 percent with diagnosable depression are not getting the treatment they deserve. Koplewicz called this “tragic,” especially the 80 percent not getting treatment for anxiety, which he said helps prime “the brain for depression in your teen years.”

Treatment may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Parents may be able to get monetary assistance through the Social Security Administration by filing for disability benefits for their child, if the illness is serious enough.

It’s the great dirty secret in the that mentally ill children in the U.S., especially the poor, are under served by the mental health system.

Often, children are simply prescribed a regimen of psychotropic drugs that may not be appropriate for the treatment of their particular long term problem. Counseling services are often limited or not available to them due to public aid cutbacks. Since children are the future of our nation, it is critical that federal and state governments step up their assistance for mentally ill children.

While SSI benefits may be available to a child claimant, the reality is that they must have a well documented medical file reflecting at least two marked or one extreme impairment. This has to show that their daily living is impacted. SSA judges then determine if SSI benefits will be granted. It is often a lengthy, arduous process in a time where treatment is essential.

The law offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates, Ltd. have successfully obtained SSI benefits for it’s child claimant clients.