Archive for March, 2014

Here’s the second installation (which includes parts 2 and 3 from the Social Security Administration blogger) of Social Security Benefits information that I hope you find helpful:

Step 2: Medical Qualification

 In addition to meeting the income and work-related requirements explained above, all applicants will have to meet certain medical requirements. These medical requirements are listed in the SSA’s guide of qualifying conditions, known as the Blue Book.  The Blue Book is broken into many different sections—each pertaining to a specific condition or group of conditions.

Spinal cord injuries are listed under section 1.04—Disorders of the Spine. The requirements of this listing are as follows:  Applicants must have an injury that causes compromise of a nerve root with:

  • Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by pain, limited motion of the spine, motor loss, and sensory or reflex loss; OR
  • Spinal arachnoiditis confirmed using appropriate medical records; OR
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis.

It is important that you review this listing in its entirety. If you do not understand the terminology used, it may be in your best interest to schedule an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to explain the criteria to you and can perform the tests necessary to prove your eligibility. If you do not meet this listing, you may be eligible for disability benefits under a medical vocational allowance. This means that the SSA will evaluate your functional abilities, your previous job training, and your age to determine whether or not you are capable of holding a job. If they determine that you cannot work, it is likely that your application for disability benefits will be approved.

Step 3: Preparing for the Application

You will need to prepare by for the application process by collecting the necessary medical and financial records to prove your eligibility. Without this information your claim may potentially be delayed or even denied. Medical records should include:

  • Documentation of your diagnosis
  • A history of hospitalizations and treatments
  • Medical images- X-ray, CT, MRI
  • Surgical reports
  • Written statements from any treating physicians

Non-medical documentation will include forms of identification, financial information, and employment records. To view a complete list of non-medical requirements, visit the SSA’s Adult Disability Interview Checklist.

Read Full Post »

Happy Friday! Happy Spring! I hope the calendar means that warm weather and sunshine are on their way.

My most recent addition to Push to Walk’s Website – Family Corner section is on getting help from others after a loved one sustains a spinal cord injury. I know that I felt, as a Mom, that only I could do certain things for my child. And for a time, that was pretty true. Or at least I felt I was the only one who “could or should” do things; who else would do as good as job, etc. But as time passed, I knew accepting help from others would help all of us. Not only for the family relationships as mother/son, but for me and my husband as well, and also for Darren and his sister. Family dynamics (which I’ll discuss in an upcoming section) were greatly affected, and having others help with day to day tasks and/or specific jobs really became a lifesaver.

I found it really important for Darren to take charge of his own care, to articulate his needs and make sure things were done properly. Those lines get blurry when it’s a family relationship, then the relationship becomes strained and affects other feelings. While it is impossible to think everything will go smoothly when talking about daily care and family relationships, at least having a good framework to work within, or goals to reach definitely can help.

Please check out the Family Corner section of our website, and I hope my experience helps someone out there going through similar situations. If you have ways you did things that helped you and your family, please let me know!


Read Full Post »

Hello everyone,

Having more clients at Push to Walk with MS recently has led me to have conversations with a variety of people about this disease and condition. One of my friends is a nurse in a pediatrician’s office and she is seeing MS diagnosed more frequently in children now more than ever before. Is this because MS has become a catch-all diagnosis of sorts when no other explanation can be found? Is research showing groups of children exhibiting various symptoms that are similar to adult diagnoses of MS? Are there new causes of MS in children? I decided to search a little on the internet, and found some very interesting information.

According to WebMD, I found that while “multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs most commonly in adults, it is increasingly being diagnosed in children and teenagers. Of the 400,000 diagnosed cases of MS in the U.S., 8,000 to 10,000 are in children up to 18 years old. Neurologists think there are probably many more children with MS that have not been diagnosed.” I found this intriguing and wanted to know more. The article continued on to say “multiple sclerosis may manifest itself differently in children and adults. In children, it may begin after a period of neurological symptoms called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). For most children, the symptoms of ADEM — including headache, delirium, lethargy, coma, seizures, stiff neck and fever — are temporary. But other children continue to have symptoms or experience additional symptoms that meet the criteria of MS. MS is thought to progress more slowly in children than in adults; however, significant disability can occur at an earlier age in people whose MS begins in childhood or adolescence. The cognitive and psychological consequences of MS are likely greater in children and adolescents and may affect academic performance, self-image, and relationships with peers.”

I will continue to do more research in this area, and see if our program at Push to Walk would be helpful to children diagnosed with MS. If you have experience or knowledge of this topic to share with me and my readers, I’ll hope you’ll share it with us!


Read Full Post »

Good Monday Morning, Everyone! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the first of 4 parts on Social Security information that I hope is helpful. I know navigating the system is difficult and can be very frustrating. Perhaps this can make it a little easier! This information was provided to me by a writer at the Social Security Disability Help blog.

Spinal Cord Injury and Social Security Disability Benefits

A spinal cord injury—no matter the cause—can prevent you from being able to work for long periods of time.

If you find that you are unable to work or earn a living after sustaining a spinal cord injury, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits. These benefits can be used to offset daily expenses and medical costs.

Unfortunately, many find the Social Security Disability application process to be quite difficult. For this reason, we have provided you with a step-by-step guide to benefit eligibility and the application process. Continue reading to see if you or a loved one qualifies for assistance.

Step 1: Choosing a Disability Benefit Program

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is responsible for several different benefit programs. The two main federal disability benefit programs are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each of these programs caters to a specific group of people. SSDI is a program for adults who have worked and paid Social Security taxes and SSI caters to disabled individuals who earn very little income.  Each of these programs has their own set of technical eligibility requirements.

To qualify for SSDI, applicants must have worked and paid taxes for a significant period of time. To determine a person’s eligibility for SSDI, the SSA assigns each applicant a specific number of “work credits”—a unit of measurement used to evaluate a person’s past income, work experience, and tax payments. You must meet the work credit requirements in order to receive SSDI benefits. Learn more about work credits and SSDI eligibility, here: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/ssdi/qualify-for-ssdi.

SSI is different in that eligibility is based on financial need, rather than employment history. To qualify, applicants must fall within financial parameters set by the SSA. These parameters govern the amount of income and resources you can have.  For more information about applying for SSI benefits, visit the following page: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-eligibility-ussi.htm.

It is important to look into these requirements to determine which program is the best fit for your particular circumstances and needs.

Check back next Monday for additional information. Please let me know if you’ve found any helpful resources or have any tips for applying for benefits. Thanks!


Read Full Post »

Happy Friday!

My latest edition to the Family Corner section of Push to Walk’s website describes how I felt about establishing a schedule and routine for Darren, me and our family when we arrived home from Shepherd Center.

My intent was to establish a schedule of sorts as soon as possible, which was not necessarily a project that progressed evenly or predictably. Unplanned events happened, Darren would get sick, I don’t even remember all that was going on right when we got home. But I was pretty insistent on at least trying to maintain a regular routine, partly for my own sanity if nothing else.

I hope this information on our website helps some of you in similar situations, or helps reaffirm the fact you are not alone in going through this difficult transition. If there is anyone reading this blog post or website section, and you would like to discuss anything related to SCI, please feel free to comment here or get in touch with me. I am always available, and would be happy to help.


Read Full Post »

I’ve been thinking about a friend of mine who has MS and follows a very strict diet that has improved how she feels on a daily basis. It’s primarily a gluten free diet, but I’m not sure what else she might do, like taking vitamins, supplements, etc. Maybe she’ll respond to this post and provide more information!

So thinking about the whole connection between MS and nutrition, I did a little research and came across this site: http://www.nhfw.info/multiple-sclerosis.html. The author writes below:

“I have a disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is supposedly an incurable hereditary connective tissue disorder (HCTD). Yet, in doing research on EDS, I found lots of diet and supplement tips that helped my condition by collecting nutrition books and reviewing studies in Medline, the medical research database at the National Institute of Health’s website.  An acquaintance of mine has multiple sclerosis, and in comparing symptoms there seemed to be some overlap between MS and EDS.  In order to help my friend, I did the same research for MS that I did for myself and EDS. Her MS symptoms improved through changing her nutritional habits, which is why I decided to put up this web site.”

A few of the nutrients she writes about are Magnesium, Gluten, Uric Acid, Estrogen, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. It seems to me that there are not a lot of studies providing concrete evidence of how to manage one’s diet after being diagnosed with MS, but by talking with your Doctor and perhaps consulting a nutritionist, diet changes could make a positive impact on your day to day quality of life. In northern New Jersey, one of the most respected medical centers, Barnabas Health, provides a comprehensive MS program that includes a wellness and exercise program as well as general info on MS.

I hope this information and links provide useful information. If you’ve found something that works for you, please post and share it with us. Thanks for reading!


Read Full Post »

Hello Everyone!

I’d like to give a shout-out to my friends at Pushing Boundaries in Redmond, WA. They are celebrating their ninth anniversary! I love their tagline: “Exercise, health and hope for people with paralysis.” It really sums up what they do, and they do it well!

Pushing Boundaries’ founders, Allan and Sharon Northrup, created a wonderful organization that has benefited so many people in the Northwest, and they continue to grow and expand. Their Executive Director, Tricia Lazzar, has been a tremendous help to me and to Push to Walk over the years, providing guidance and advice, and sharing information.

I know Pushing Boundaries is going to be a major sponsor at this year’s Working 2 Walk conference to be held October 17-18 in Seattle, and they are involved in the entire SCI and paralysis community for the good of so many.

Congratulations to Pushing Boundaries for doing what you do, and doing it well. We wish you many more years of success for you and your clients!


Read Full Post »

Happy Friday!

First, a shout-out to the Kinnelon High School Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and their advisor Anna Ellington for supporting Push to Walk and raising $600 for us through their help with the Jack O’Lantern Jamboree held last October. Thank you for all of your energy and enthusiasm!

For the next several Fridays, my blog post will be tied to new content we’ve added to the Family Corner section of our website. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve added new information to that part of our site, but I have committed to completing it, and have thought of new topics as well.

On the topic of “Doctors and Out-patient Therapy,” I hope I have provided some helpful information. Even though it has been almost 10 years (this July) since Darren’s injury, I can still remember the worries I had in coming home. He had battled SO many medical issues during his in-patient stay, that I was fearful of what lay ahead. At Shepherd Center, if there was a need for a doctor or a specialist, they were just called in. They did their rounds, came to his room – it was all very convenient. But the idea of being home without that medical support (in addition to all the other concerns!) was overwhelming.

Preparing ahead was the key, and making connections well before our arrival home made the transition that much easier. Read my post here. I hope you find it helpful.

If you have ideas for new topics in our Family Corner, or have questions you can’t find answers to anywhere else, please let me know!

Enjoy the weekend,


Read Full Post »

As Push to Walk’s clients now include a growing number of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I wanted to do my part to spread awareness and information about this often misunderstood and misdiagnosed autoimmune disease. With permission from my friend, Cathy Chester, I am re-posting her recent blog entry about living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Cathy’s Blog:

I was thrilled to see that my post, “5 Things I Want You To Know About Multiple Sclerosis And Me” reached 1K “likes” on The Huffington Post. I hope it will help to spread awareness about MS and make our world a better one until they find a cure.#ms #multiplesclerosis #disabilityadvocate

5 Things I Want You to Know About Multiple Sclerosis And Me

The month of March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, an effort to help expand knowledge, support and understanding about the disease. I wrote this short piece to educate others about what it feels like to live with MS and a disability. It is my hope that you’ll join me in spreading awareness about MS by helping to educate others.

Don’t feel sorry for me, but do me a favor by learning more about MS. Then the next time I tell you I’m tired or I seem to often cancel plans, you’ll have a better understanding why.

I don’t look like there’s anything wrong with me, but my immune system tells a different story. So the next time I feel the need to occupy a handicapped parking spot, first ask whether my placard is registered before you begin shouting obscenities at me. I appreciate your concern, but I think you should treat a disabled person with the respect they deserve.

Practice compassion and tolerance whenever you see someone with a disability. Their road is a daily battle of maneuvering the challenges of life. The things able-bodied people take for granted, such as walking, talking, dressing, exercising, seeing, peeing, pooping and intimacy is considerably more difficult for people with disabilities.

Help us keep our self-esteem intact. Imagine falling down in front of a crowd and people begin to whisper that you look drunk. Or you find yourself attending an event with some friends and are unable to keep up with their fast pace. We don’t enjoy burdening others with our issues. Yet, in our silence, we’d be comforted in knowing that not only do you understand why our bodies are disobeying us, but that you’ll also be willing to slow your pace down to help us feel better about ourselves.

Be patient. We are fearful of the next exacerbation (flare-up) that may wreak havoc on our bodies. So if you’re trying to make plans with us, and we seem to ask a lot of questions (how long will the event be, where is the nearest parking lot, is the venue accessible) please be mindful there’s a reason why we’re asking so many questions. It’s not that we don’t want to see you; it’s simply that we need to take care of our MS.

For more information about Multiple Sclerosis, please visit The National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.

Follow Cathy Chester on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@CathyChes

Look for new blog posts from me each Wednesday related to various MS topics. If you have any suggestions for information and resources, or would like to write a “guest” blog post for me related to MS, please let me know. Thanks for reading, Cynthia

Read Full Post »