Air Travel – Long Haul Flight Tips for the Disabled

For those of us who are lucky enough to travel to far off places on our planet, whether it is for business or pleasure, the flight can prove a nightmare, especially if you suffer from a disability. With more planes being designed to fly further such as the 777ER (extended range), and Boeing developing an aircraft that can fly so far it will not require a hub, so no changing planes, our flight time in the same cramped seat is getting longer.

Some people obviously have the money to fly Business Class or First Class, which gives you more comfort, but for the majority of disabled travellers, we are packed up like freight in economy.

So what can you do to improve your trip?

You can start from the point of when you book your flight. The majority of long haul operators will not allow you to book seats in advance, so you can end up being seated anywhere on the day of your flight. The best thing to do here is as soon as your flight is confirmed, is search the airlines web site for the internal seating plan for the aircraft you will be on, and note down the reference numbers for those seats that are only doubles, as these tend to have the most leg room, and are usually situated close to a toilet.

Once you have done that, contact the company concerned informing them that you are disabled, state what your disabilities are, and tell them that it would help your health tremendously if they could reserve the seats you noted earlier. In the majority of cases they will do this.

Another helpful tip when you contact the airline is to ask them for a ‘special’ meal. All airlines now do these, and range from salt free to meat free, fish only to carbohydrate only, etc. You will usually find a list of these on the airlines web site, so check first, if you are unable to find it, just ask them for the list. This service has is extra cost.

The reason you do this is that these ‘special meals’ are handed out before the normal meals, so you finish before everyone else, and do not have to queue up for the toilet, as the majority of other passengers are eating.

If you are looking for a better service on the aircraft, treat the stewards with respect. I always hand them a couple of boxes of chocolates as soon as we reach cruising altitude, this usually ensures I get preferential treatment.

Most of all enjoy your flight and trip.

Disability Claim Denials, Is This the Wrong Time to Be Disabled in America?

14 million Social Security disability applications were denied in a single decade, between 2000 and 2010, while the percentage of denials escalated from 34 percent to 65 percent. Is this the wrong time to be disabled in America?

Note the following headlines:

Federal Disability Traffic Jam The Washington Times

Soldiers risk ruin while awaiting benefit checks Associated Press

Disability Claims can be tough to collect Wall Street Journal

It’s time to stop billions of dollars of disability benefits from being denied, unnecessarily.

Does the Disability Safety Net have holes in it? If more than 60 percent of Social Security disability claims are denied initially, then why are 63 percent approved at the hearing stage? What causes the turn around? Unfortunately 39 percent of claimants give up before determining if they would be successful going through the appeal process!!

1.2 million Social Security Disability applications were filed in 1999 (48 percent of 579,000 were declined). In 2009, ten years later, 2.8 million Social Security Disability applications were filed (and 65 percent or 1,830,530 were declined). The number of disability applications more than doubled while denials more than tripled. In one year, more than $23 TRILLION dollars of annualized benefits were lost. That’s 1.8 million Americans who won’t collect benefits they thought they were entitled to.

Based on the 2010 average payment to those who qualify, that represents more than $19.5 million of monthly benefits that won’t be paid. Annualized, $23+ trillion dollars per year is an overwhelming amount of disappointment.

Many initial disability claims are denied for simple mistakes and omissions which have absolutely nothing to do with the claimant’s disability status. Think about what it is like to wait 17 months to hear you didn’t answer one question. Then you can wait another 17 months after you’ve added one simple answer. There must be a better way. Those facing claim denials are filing an unprecedented number of appeals burdening the already damaged system even more. With an average of nearly 17 months waiting for a judge to hear their appeal, what’s happening in the meantime?

Currently there’s three-quarters of a million Americans stuck in the Social Security disability backlog. Not being able to pay their bills causes the man of the house enormous mental anguish. The state of marital relationships in these situations deteriorates rapidly. Soon our divorce courts will be experiencing the same type of backlog the Social Security Administration is now facing.

Is this the wrong time to be disabled in America? Tens of millions of dollars in disability benefits go unpaid by private insurers. Over 40 states jointly investigated how one insurer handles their disability claims. Another state set up a system to scrutinize the handling of every rejected claim. What led to the dramatic change in the handling of disability claims? Or has anything changed at all and there’s just more adverse publicity?

As reported in USA Today… 22,500 Veteran’s PTDS disability claims denied as personality disorders. How is it possible that a personality disorder, assuming it existed prior to military service, is diagnosed when psychological evaluations aren’t done prior to induction?

According to the data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, more than 25 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan vets seeking care at the VA have PTSD. And this statistic doesn’t include the mentally ill vets who haven’t had treatment at the VA due to the stigma associated with PTSD. In the meantime, families go on welfare and food stamps. Homes are being foreclosed. Drugs and alcohol disrupts any hope for family harmony. Homelessness occurs! Suicides begin to take lives that the battlefield didn’t.

One very simple yet insurmountable obstacle is the application process itself. The VA has a long history of bureaucracy. The disability claim form itself is a 23 page document. How many vets are accustomed to 23 pages of paperwork? The word “intimidation” comes to mind as a reason many veterans will never file a claim. A claim for benefits they were eligible for.

Each year TRILLONS of dollars in Insurer, Social Security and Veterans Administration disability claims WILL continue to be denied. It’s imperative the claimants understand how to correctly file a Long Term Disability claim, “doing it right” the first time and dramatically improving the likelihood of collecting benefits.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently projected a 75 percent increase in the age 65+ population by 2030. That will increase the number of age 65+ Americans to 69 million, more than 20 percent of the entire population. An aging population brings with it an automatic growth in the disability “TSUNAMI”. Since the Americans with Disability Act forces disability insurers to continue disability coverage to those over age 65, an older workforce guarantees more claims.

We haven’t seen any valid creditable source that has identified any reason for the escalating rate of claim denials or what we’ll call disability claim “deterioration”. Hence, I can offer what I believe is happening in the backrooms of the insurers claims departments.

Americans currently face the highest unemployment level we’ve experienced over the last three decades. The current state of the economy has impacted our American workforce in disastrous proportions. There’s a natural escalation of disability claims incidence with increasing unemployment.

Mortgages are being foreclosed at an unprecedented rate. Several states have begun to deny previously valid claims as Medicaid budgets have become overwhelmed. Is it any wonder that the cost of medical care, and not being able to pay for it, is the largest cause of mortgage foreclosures?

To continue, we now have causes of disability that didn’t exist two decades ago. Carpel tunnel and chronic fatigue syndrome are being diagnosed more than at any other time in our history. When we add fibromyalgia to the new list, we have an evolving problem that’s creating a nightmare for the disability insurers. These are known as “self reported” disabilities in that there’s no specific medical testing that can diagnose these conditions. It’s easy to understand how disability claim examiners can mistrust “self reported” symptoms. This makes it an onerous process for those who are truly adversely effective by one of these conditions from collecting benefits they’re entitled to.

In summary, we now face a dramatic increase in the 20 percent of the population in an older age group. They’re still working with an increasing incidence of disability. Unemployment compounds the problem even more. And adding new causes of disability and our litigious society results in more PROMISES UNKEPT.

Allan Checkoway

Copyright 2011

Poor, And Disabled!

“He’s in a nursing home,” my friend got teary eyed. Her best friend, John, became addicted to pain pills after a bad fall that broke his neck earlier this year. “He doesn’t have insurance. He was getting therapy at Beaumont hospital and making progress, and didn’t have the coverage to continue. The nursing home is really far, I haven’t been able to see him,” she explained. I’ve heard stories like this before. My other friend was surprised. Many people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) cannot get the adequate care they need to recover. It’s so tragic. “We had a fundraiser, and raised $11,000 dollars. His wheelchair alone cost $37,000,” she continued.

Lifetime costs of someone with SCI are anywhere from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000, depending upon their level of injury. In Michigan, we have something called “no-fault” insurance. This usually applies to automobile coverage, in which accident victims receive direct payment from the company with which they themselves are insured. No matter whose fault it is. It relieves a lot of tension, and avoids hassle.

I also had an accident. While crossing the street on my way to school, at sixteen years old, I was hit by a car. It was auto-related. I was a minor, and my father had insurance at the time. Thus, for life, I am covered for physical therapies, or any appointments related to my accident because Michigan has no-fault insurance.

We are one of a few states that has it. There is a battle to try to ban it. If that were to happen, people would have a limited number of physical therapy sessions per year. I’ve completed maybe several hundred hours of physical therapy. A “fixed” number of therapy sessions would not be enough. How could anyone get out of a wheelchair and walk, with a fixed number of therapy sessions? With a spinal cord injury it would be hard.

The problem is, people like John, and others whose stories I’ve heard either exhaust their savings, or simply cannot afford to get well. I met a guy who fell from a tree while hunting, and became spinal cord injured. He was athletic, a gym teacher, and no one would’ve thought. He had a fundraiser, as did John, but how much can fundraisers cover with the outrageous rising costs of healthcare and physical therapy? It’s almost as if you have to be a millionaire, to get injured. Only then could you afford it.

Motor vehicle crashes account for 40.4% of reported SCI cases. The next most common cause is falls at 27.9%, acts of violence at 15.0%, recreational sporting activities 8.0%, and other/unknown 8.5% – according to Mikeutley.org

Physical therapy can cost anywhere from $100-150 dollars per hour. Sometimes more! I’m blessed to have coverage. I receive physical therapy now two times a week. I go to the gym alone the other times. I thank God I’m healthy. Now I am able to walk with forearm crutches. I’m hoping to recover enough to walk with no walking device. But what if my circumstances were different? What if my injury had been worse? What if my accident wasn’t auto-related, or my father didn’t have insurance? What if I was not in Michigan, and in a state that didn’t have no-fault?

Why Disability Insurance? Chances Of Becoming Disabled Are Greater Than Your Chances Of Not

If you and your loved ones depend on your salary for support, then you probably need long term disability income insurance.

Think about it: if you were to become disabled, even for a few months, how would you and your family manage? Who would pay your bills? Disabling illness or injury is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States.

Most people do not realize that their chances of becoming disabled are greater than their chances of dying prematurely. Yet they are more likely to buy life insurance than disability insurance. For this reason, people in the insurance industry call disability “the forgotten risk.’ According to statistics from the Journal of the American Society of Chartered Life Underwriters, if you are age thirty to fifty-five, your chances of becoming disabled are two to three times greater than your chances of dying.

If you are thirty-five years old, you have a 50:50 chance of experiencing a disability lasting last three months or longer before you retire. One in seven workers will become disabled for more than five years before he or she reaches age 65.

Many people mistakenly believe that the government or Worker’s Compensation will pay them an income if they become disabled. Actually, more than 80% of the people who apply for Social Security disability benefits are rejected. Social Security does not pay benefits for partial or short-term disability. Your disability has to either last a year or be expected to last a year before you can collect Social Security. Worker’s Compensation pays only if you were injured on the job and benefits are often limited to a few years.

Your health insurance will cover your hospital, doctor and other medical bills, but you will still not have a salary. Long-term care insurance only covers bills from nursing homes or assisted care center. Disability insurance, however, does not pay bills. Instead the insurance company gives you money on a regular basis. It is designed to replace your salary so that you and your family will not experience financial hardship during any period when you are too sick or injured to work.

What should you look for when you are buying long term disability insurance? First, the insurance company itself should have a top rating from Moody’s, A.M. Best, and Standard and Poor. These agencies rate companies in terms of capitalization, growth, earnings and other indicators of financial stability.

Secondly, you should make sure you understand the terms of your policy. Some policies require a waiting period before you start receiving benefits. For example, your policy may have a six-month waiting period before benefits are paid. In this case, your benefits would begin six months from the time of disability.

The waiting period is often called the elimination period. Choices usually range from 30 days to 720 days.

Look for a waiver of premium provision. This means if you become disabled, you will not have to keep paying for your disability policy.

What are the conditions for renewing the policy? If you’re policy is not automatically renewable, the insurance company has the right to cancel it.

Payment period options are another consideration. Some policies will only pay for a certain period of time, sometimes for only two years. Other policies last a lifetime. The most popular policies pay benefits until you reach retirement age, when you can begin to collect Social Security payments.

Most policies have a residual disability clause. If you suffer a disability, very often you will return to work part-time at first. Or because you were off work for a while, it may take you time to build your business back to the level it was before you became disabled. Your insurance should provide income for both these scenarios.

Check over the policy for a recurrent disabilities benefit. A recurrent disability is one that happens after you recover from your original disability. Your insurance should waive a new waiting period and/or not require proof that the two disabilities were related.

When you buy disability insurance, you buy it according to your income level. The more money you make, the larger the benefit of your policy. But you also have to figure that your income will rise as you get older. For this reason you want a future increase rider or automatic increase rider. These riders allow you to keep your policy but increase the amount of your benefits based on your increased earnings as you grow older.

When you buy your insurance, certain factors will affect your price. You will pay less for the insurance if you decide to replace 50% of your income instead of 80%. You also pay less if you opt for a longer elimination period. The insurance company factors in your current health and may exclude preexisting conditions. Women and smokers may pay more for disability insurance because they make more claims than non-smoking males. If you are in a high-risk job, your policy may cost you more.

Disability insurance policies can be confusing. It is always best to sit down with a professional insurance agent to discuss the terms of the policy together and to ask questions until you completely understand the details of the policy quotes being presented.