Attorneys can be helpful in navigation of veterans benefits

If you’re a veteran, you know how difficult it can be to navigate an extremely bureaucratic system after returning home. Paperwork and meetings aren’t exactly what a veteran, especially one who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder or another disability, wants to be doing with their time.

NPR’s Steve Walsh said without someone to help navigate veterans benefits, they can often be overwhelming and difficult.

One example he gave is in difference of payment. Veterans may not notice this difference, but Walsh said the latest data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows that Indiana, as an example, gives veterans $4,935 each year. This is the state with the 35th most veterans. If veterans in Indiana got as much as veterans in the state with the 35th highest return, Utah, they’d get an additional $558. If it were upped to the national average, they’d receive $1,153 more, on average.

This led one retired general to tell Walsh that he believes Indiana has “neglected veterans,” as they clearly have a lack of education as to what their benefits are.

Without clear education on benefits from VA, it will take the veteran being proactive and working with someone who can help them understand their benefits. Working with an attorney or representative can take some of the mystery out of the process, something that can mean saving time and money.

While there are many competent and well meaning service officers, volunteers and representatives available to assist veterans in navigating the claim process, it ultimately may take the assistance of skilled legal counsel to obtain the the benefits Veteran are entitled.  The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates, Ltd. is committed to winning the highest level of VA benefits available for our veteran clients.

Brain’s habit system may drive OCD; early treatment necessary

Those who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder know just how much of a struggle it can be. Anything from constant hand washing to a continuous streaming of thoughts of death can overtake a person’s life, leaving them disabled. While disability benefits through the Social Security Administration can help when the impact of OCD gets dire, new research from the University of Cambridge underscores just how necessary early treatment is for these patients.

Dr. Claire Gillan and Professor Trevor Robbins said OCD should be thought of as less of a disorder caused by obsessions or faulty beliefs and more as a condition “brought about when the brain’s habit system runs amok.” Robbins and Gillan found that patients with OCD had a harder time stopping certain habits due to a brain’s increase in activity in the caudate nucleus. This is a region of the brain that helps control habits, something many of us end up taking for granted.

“It’s not just OCD; there are a range of human behaviors that are now considered examples of compulsivity, including drug and alcohol abuse and binge-eating,” Gillan said. “What all these behaviors have in common is the loss of top-down control, perhaps due to miscommunication between regions that control our habit and those such as the prefrontal cortex that normally help control volitional behaviors. As compulsive behaviors become more ingrained over time, our intentions play less and less of a role in what we actually do.”

If you notice early signs of OCD in yourself or a loved one, early treatment can be extremely helpful in coping with and perhaps even stopping these compulsions.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates, Ltd., have successfully represented numerous clients over the last three decades to obtain federal disability benefits based on their inability to work from symptoms associated with OCD.

OCD is a devastating mental disorder that robs an individual of the ability to focus on work related activities, among other limitations. We are experts in the presentation of evidence for OCD cases that will enable the SSA to approve disability benefits for our clients.

Could treatment of arthritis, leukemia be as simple as reducing fatty acids?

While those who suffer from arthritis and leukemia will likely qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, the suffering is far from worth the money paid. This is why we love to see this new research from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, which claims the same fatty acids associated with obesity and diabetes may lead to the development of arthritis and leukemia. This brings us one step closer to the treatment and prevention of these diseases.

A high number of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps keep away infections, can be a sign of acute inflammation and is associated with many diseases, researchers found. The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that without certain lipids, they rapidly lost weight and their white blood cell count was very low.

Dr. Clay F. Semenkovich of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research, said they believe these findings could lead to innovative treatments of these diseases, as well as a look into how they can be prevented.

“This may be a pathway to limit inflammation,” he said. “If we could reduce the activity of these enzymes without eliminating them entirely, it could lower the levels of ether lipids and potentially help patients with leukemia and inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis.”

With 52.5 million Americans suffering from some form of arthritis and 24,090 deaths from leukemia, these is a very welcome sign from these University of Washington researchers.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates, Ltd, has successfully represented numerous clients  suffering from arthritis and various forms of cancer before the SSA.

Congressional change may cut disability payments

It is no secret that there is political turmoil, with many looking to diminish the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits system. However, the payments have kept coming, even if at a slower rate. The Washington Post’s Max Ehrenfreund wrote in a recent post that recent action on the first day of the 114th Congress could cut payments by as much as a fifth.

Currently, SSA has the disability insurance program and the Old Age and Survivors Insurance program that are linked closely together, with money exchanging between both. Ehrenfreund said there is enough money to keep both of these programs in working order until at least 2034. However, the House has adopted a new rule that creates an obstacle to reallocating that money.

This is a move, some have said, to prevent fraud. Texas Republican Representative Sam Johnson said there needs to be further steps taken. However, Ehrenfreund notes that fraud in both of these systems is few and far between, with A report by the Government Accountability Office finding that a mere 0.4 percent of disability beneficiaries get improper benefits.

“The effect of the rule appears to be to force Congress into a debate about Social Security next year instead of sometime before 2033,” Ehrenfreund wrote in the post. “Without action from Congress, Social Security will be forced to cut disability payments to all recipients by about one fifth.”

The politicians have apparently decided to pick on the weakest members of American society, the disabled, in order to save money. They know the disabled versus retired recipients of government benefits are less likely to be able to defend themselves from legislative game playing with SSA benefits.

There is absolutely no financial rationale for their actions in attacking the recipients of disability benefits. Hopefully, Congress will take an objective look at the numbers and decide not to reduce benefits.

No matter what, the Law Offices of Harold W. Conick, & Associates are ready, willing and able to zealously represent clients seeking federal disability benefits.

Q&A: Why are approval rates on disability benefits down 12 percent?

If you’ve tried to apply for Social Security Administration disability benefits in the past year, there’s a fair chance that your claim has been denied.

The National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives said in a recent newsletter that the average processing time for fiscal year 2014, ending in September, was 422 days. In all actuality, the average waiting time this past September was 454 days.

Why is this happening? How can you avoid long wait times? Harold W. Conick, owner of Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates Ltd., answered some questions about the long waits and SSA disability backlog.

Q: From the average person’s perspective, how will these numbers impact them?

Conick: Well, it’s not happy news. There’s a longer wait and the denial rate is up across the board. Hearing times are increasing, fairly dramatically in some locations. They have all these different offices, some are worse than others

Q: How does the longer processing time hurt the claimant?

Conick: They don’t have money and their claim is not adjudicated. Their ability to get benefits is delayed. That’s a big problem.

It’s a trend and it’s worse than it’s been in 30 years. One chart shows that in the year 2010, the backlog of pending cases was at a little over 700,500 people. Since then, it has grown every year and is approaching 1 million in 2014. That’s four years where it’s grown and they haven’t reduced it.

The hearing time has suffered with an increase of nearly 70 days since the year 2012. The adjudicatory capacity has also dropped even though the number of judges has grown by 18 percent from 2010 to 2013. Long story short, the payroll is up but their efficiency has dropped

Q: Why is this happening?

Conick: They use the excuse that there’s a delay in hiring, but my theory is the reason the backlog has increased is because they don’t have sufficient staff to help them with decisions before and after hearings.

The bottom line is the public should know that the backlog has increased substantially and approval rating is down across the board.

Q: How can people get past this?

Conick: The reality is there probably isn’t a lot you can do about it. but if you think you’re disabled, apply early. It’s a good idea to hire a lawyer sooner than later so you can get your evidence lined up and get in line to file a claim. Also, you need to have someone nagging for you, unfortunately.

My opinion is that they’re short of staff and there’s a lot of inefficiency. I see the inefficiency. I can’t say them all in this post, but I think due to budget constraints, they’re short of staff.

Risk of heart disease rises in those who suffer from asthma

Suffering from asthma can be extremely frightening. One moment, you may be breathing perfectly; minutes later, you’re left gasping for breath, wondering if you’re going to pass out. This affects more than 23 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and in certain instances can be debilitating enough to obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Adding to the horrors of asthma which already exist are studies that have come from the 2014 American Heart Association‘s Scientific Sessions, which found those who suffer from asthma may also have an increased risk of heart attack.

Assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, and one of the studies’ authors, Matthew C. Tattersall, found that patients with asthma are 60 percent more at risk for experiencing a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular risks.

In another study, this time authored by Young J. Juhn, M.D.,  a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mayo Clinic, found patients who have asthma are 70 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

Both of these studies go to show that asthma sufferers must frequently visit with their doctor to ensure the illness does not get out of hand. SSA disability benefits are available for extreme cases, but having baseline visits with a doctor will help treatment in the long run.

While many people are affected by asthma symptoms, those that have asthma and cannot work must prove their case through medical evidence. Pulmonary tests and physician office notes are critical in convincing the SSA that the claimants asthma symptoms are severe enough to grant benefits. Children are also affected by the limitations caused by asthma and have the ability to bring a claim for SSA disability benefits.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates have successfully represented numerous clients who suffer from asthma in obtaining their Social Security disability benefits. Our firm has substantial expertise in obtaining benefits for asthmatics who cannot work.

Gland injury during concussions may worsen PTSD for veterans

The horrors of war have left many U.S. veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many soldiers have been forced to turn to veterans benefits, treatment and more to get the help they need to cope with life after war after experiencing concussions from bomb blasts or extreme stress. A recent study from Saint Louis University found that some veterans may not suffer from a stress disorder, but hormonal irregularities from gland damage suffered during a concussion.

The university looked at brain scans from both civilians and military servicemembers, looking at patients with concussions and those with concussions and PTSD. In both, there were vast differences in metabolic activities of the pituitary gland.

Research leader Thomas Malone said higher metabolic activity in patients with both PTSD and concussions could be due to the gland working harder, likening it to having your car stuck in the snow but not being able to move when pressing the gas pedal.

Read more about this study on the Los Angeles Times website, but also be aware that options for treatment are available. The Department of Veterans Affairs has veterans benefits available for those suffering from PTSD, as this is a severe anxiety disorder that can have multiple harmful effects on health.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates has represented numerous veterans suffering from PTSD. It’s very important that the veteran seek treatment of PTSD as soon as they experience symptoms. The more medical evidence that is available to prove the claim, the better chance there is to obtain an earlier approval and higher rating for veterans benefits.

What does the midterm election mean for Social Security disability benefits?

There was a considerable shift in the political spectrum this month, as Republicans increased their lead in the House of Representatives and took over the lead in the U.S. Senate.

What does this mean for those who receive disability benefits through the Social Security Administration? Dan Caplinger of The Motley Fool said the chances are low that it will negatively impact disability benefits. In fact, he believes benefits may be enhanced in some cases.

“Despite some of their benefit-cutting proposals, some Republicans owe their victory at least in part to campaign strategies that emphasized the value of preserving Social Security benefits,” he wrote, adding that states such as Colorado, Arkansas and North Carolina all saw Republican ads highlighting the reasons why Social Security benefits needed to stay in tact.

One change Caplinger sees could happen to the Social Security Disability Trust fund, which has enough to last until 2016. However, this fund may see cuts of 20 percent after 2016. While there could be a solution for this, such as money transferred between this fund and the retirement benefits, this is definitely an issue to watch out for, especially for those who receive SSA disability benefits.

Hopefully, the SSA is sufficiently funded by Congress so benefits are not reduced. It is important for citizens, and the disabled especially, to communicate with their Congressmen and insist that the Social Security program is maintained. Anyone can unexpectedly become disabled and need SSA disability benefits; we must ensure they are there for us.

Early treatment necessary to treat OCD in young children

Anxiety, stress, depression. These are not usually attributes that might be associated with a child but are very real in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Suffering may include loss of sleep, increased anxiety and even causing harm to themselves or others. Disability benefits from the Social Security Administration are available for children who suffer, but diagnosis and treatment should be every parent’s aim.

Janet Singer wrote on PsychCentral that while rituals are an important part of helping young children understand the world, children with OCD will only experience “a fleeting calm” once they complete their ritual. This means that over the days, months and years, children will likely develop even more rituals they feel they need to take on. Parents should take note of which rituals are soothing for children for more than a few minutes and pay attention to how long the child performs rituals on a daily basis.

Treatment is the best option for children suffering from OCD. Not only is a record of treatment necessary to attain disability benefits from the SSA, it will also help fight the disease. The New York Times reported that when properly treated, 60 percent to 85 percent of patients see significant improvement and will remain better for years.

“If you suspect, for any reason, that your child might be suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, I’d suggest taking him or her to a doctor who can do a proper assessment,” Singer wrote on PsychCentral. “If your child doesn’t have OCD, you will have peace of mind, and if your child does have the disorder, he or she can benefit greatly from early therapy.”

Children affected by OCD require sustained medical treatment. Social Security benefits are available for these children. However, many children who suffer from this disorder will be denied benefits by the SSA.

To prevent denial of benefits, it is important for the parents to secure all relevant medical and school evidence in order to document the symptoms that affect their child’s daily activities and limitations.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates are expert and zealous advocates on behalf of children seeking disability benefits as a result of suffering from OCD and other mental illnesses.

VA may not be ready for wave of veterans affected by PTSD

The numbers have been shocking. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said 11 to 20 percent of veterans were affected by post-traumatic stress disorder during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The number was estimated at 12 percent during the Gulf War and 15 percent during Vietnam. While veterans benefits are available through the VA, many still have to live with the horrors of war on an everyday basis.

The Huffington Post quotes Sandro Galea, who said we may be on the “cusp of a wave of PTSD,” meaning VA and Congress may not be prepared for the amount of troops who are mentally scarred by war. The website spoke with Akshay Nanavati, a six-year marine corps veteran who said he struggles with PTSD every day.

Coming home, he said life seemed very unstructured and meaningless. He also experienced guilt over not dying and had to learn how to reconnect with people.

Thousands of veterans suffer from PTSD and are entitled to veterans benefits and mental health treatment. PTSD can come in many different forms; it is important to be properly diagnosed to get the best possible treatment for the disease.

PTSD is the great silent killer of our veterans. It’s a fact that veteran suicides are on the rise and many more of those returning home are mentally disabled from their wartime experiences. Although the VA is attempting to treat the Veterans who are suffering from PTSD, their efforts often fail due to lack of an appropriate number of medical providers or Veteran non compliance with established VA treatment protocols.

It is important for Veterans to seek medical treatment as soon as PTSD symptoms become apparent. The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates are knowledgeable and zealous advocates in proving PTSD claims and winning benefits.