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Autism diagnosis likely ‘passive’ for young children, study finds

In an ideal world, parents with children who have autism will get an immediate diagnosis and the ability to begin treatment right away. In many situations, this will allow them to apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration to get additional aid for medical bills. However, a recent study found that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder had 14 percent fewer proactive responses than parents with other development or intellectual disorders.

Dr. Katharine Zuckerman, of Doembecher Children’s Hospital at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland, said in a study in the Journal of Pediatrics that proactive responses, such as discussing concerns with the schools, development tests and specialist referrals, were far more rare for children with autism spectrum disorder. Passive response was more likely, which included saying “the child might grow out of it” or that ” it was too early to tell if anything was wrong.”

In addition, Zuckerman and colleagues found that parents of children with autism spectrum disorder often brought their children in to doctors nearly a full year before those with other intellectual disorders. This passive diagnosis could cause a year-plus delay in the proper treatment of the child.

“Each proactive response to parents’ concerns was associated with a reduction in the mean delay between first conversation and ASD diagnosis by at least 1 year,” according to the authors of the study.

The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick & Associates, Ltd. are experts in presenting medical evidence of autism. We have successfully represented numerous children afflicted with autism before administrative judges of the Social Security Administration.

Many adults with mental illness can’t get help

When trying to obtain disability benefits from the Social Security Administration for a mental illness, doctors visits are essential. The court needs to see that the claimant has been visiting a doctor and receiving treatment while not able to work.

Unfortunately for many who suffer, a recent report from the American Mental Health Counselors of America found that more than a half million adults with serious mental illnesses were not able to visit doctors due to a lack of resources and ineligibility for Medicaid.

A study by AMHCA found that an estimated 568,886 adults aged 17 through 64 were unable to get treatment for their mental illness. To add insult to injury, this likely means that they would not be approved for SSA disability benefits.

Joel Miller, AMHCA’s executive director, said that if all states provided Medicaid coverage, as the option for the Affordable Care Act is available, “the health of hundreds of thousands of people would be improved.”

In Illinois, a mere 31 percent (or 15,584 people) of the uninsured people with a severe mental illness were eligible for Medicaid. AMHCA said those who do not get treatment often end up in jail or homeless. AMHCA found that the majority of those who were mentally ill and wanted treatment were between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, showing that age is not a discriminating factor.

Added coverage for those suffering mental illnesses would not only help people get the treatment they need, it would likely save the U.S. taxpayers a lot of money due to a reduction in homelessness and the incarcerated population.

Claimants seeking SSA disability benefits who struggle to obtain appropriate treatment should still attempt to seek counseling services through social workers. Often times, their notes and reports can be valuable evidence in helping to obtain benefits .

The Law Offices of Harold W Conick & Associates, Ltd. is highly skilled in successfully presenting supportive medical evidence for disability.

Vietnam veteran files class action lawsuit against VA

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has long experienced a hellishly deep backlog that has caused severe delays of veterans benefits for those in need. One Vietnam veteran has decided to take matters into his own hands, filing a class action lawsuit against the VA.

Conley Monk Jr., the lead plaintiff in the case, is a Marine veteran who said he has waited for years for disability benefits stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to toxic chemicals. He said he came under fire in 1969 and 1970 and was exposed to Agent Orange during his time in the war.

The New York Times said he was diagnosed with PTSD and diabetes (sometimes related to exposure of Agent Orange) in 2011 and was denied VA benefits. After appealing that decision in 2013, he has yet to hear anything from the VA on his disability benefits. Monk told the Times that it has been frustrating to “be stuck in limbo.”

“It’s been hard to make ends meet,” Monk told the Times. “And we Vietnam veterans are getting older. We can’t wait forever.”

Reducing the number of claims of claims in the VA backlog has been a focus of VA, but the Times reports that appeals are at an all time high at nearly 300,000. That means much like Monk, many others may be suffering as they wait for a decision on their veterans benefits from VA.

In the opinion of attorney Harold W. Conick, the VA’s backlog could be trimmed by converting the Veterans  paper records to an electronic platform. The VA is apparently in the process of doing this, but it is taking far too long.

Additionally, it would be helpful if VA personnel were more open and cooperative with counsel for veterans in attempting to resolve claims. This is not currently being done; the system is very adversarial to both the veteran and their counsel. “Stone walling” is standard operating procedure at the VA and delays the adjudication of claims. This needs to change to better serve the U.S. veterans in the benefit claims process.

‘Band-Aids’ not enough to keep SSA disability running

There has been a stated level of confusion on how disability benefits through the Social Security Administration will be funded; this level of confusion has not been seen before. Some of the confusion impacts the general public’s perception of SSA disability, but perhaps more importantly, the confounding dilemma of benefit funding may also throw off those in positions of power.

Jason Fichtner, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, wrote on MarketWatch that this confusion has meant the steps to reform, vital to the survival of the SSA, have not been taken. Instead, he said there has just been a “financial Band-Aid” put on the SSA time and again.

Last year’s Social Security Trustee report found that the disability trust fund could potentially run out in 2016, making SSA disability benefits a likely presidential election issue.

One option Ficther pointed out is “to allow the disability trust fund to borrow from the retirement trust fund for a temporary period. This interfund borrowing would provide the short-term financial patch necessary to ensure that those receiving disability benefits would continue to receive full benefits.” However, this would simply be another Band-Aid for SSA disability. To fully fix the program, there would need to be an honest look in the mirror as a country to see how we want and need to move forward with disability benefits.

In the past, Congress  has allowed the disability and retirement programs to borrow from each other as needed. Recently, there has been Congressional action to stop this transfer of funds, thereby placing the disability program in crisis. This is purely a political move and is not only ill considered, but harmful to a program that many people, who cannot work, depend on to pay for the basic necessities of life.

Since the disability program potentially serves all Americans, it should not be used as a political football. Perhaps a solution to help continue to run the retirement and disability programs is to lift the ceiling on the Social Security income tax cap. This way, higher income individuals pay their fair share into the system and maintain its solvency.