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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.