Single Traumatic Brain Injury May Lead to Alzheimer's Disease

Even though many people may not be aware, traumatic brain injury or TBI is a common injury. Every year around 1.7 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries from traffic accidents, construction accidents, falls, participation in sports and even assaults. The recent coverage of TBI in the media demonstrates the growing recognition of how widespread brain injury has become and how much more there is left to learn. Those who suffer a traumatic brain injury sometimes face long-term consequences. Recently, research has shown a link between traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer's disease.

The new research suggests that a single moderate-to-severe TBI can lead to Alzheimer's disease. Moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury is caused by trauma that results in the loss consciousness. In a study using mice and tissue samples from Alzheimer's patients, researchers at Tuft's University School of Medicine found that one significant TBI can disrupt proteins in the brain that regulate an enzyme identified with Alzheimer's.

The research team in a live experiment sought to measure the effect of a single TBI event and how it could alter the brain. Within the first two days following injury, the team detected reduced levels of two proteins, GGA1 and GGA3, and elevation of enzyme BACE1. The research team then compared the results to post-mortem brain samples from Alzheimer's patients and observed that similar changes to the protein and enzyme levels had occurred.

The team then examined the relation among the two proteins and the enzyme even further. The team conducted an experiment using genetically modified mice with reduced levels of GGA3 and found that particular protein was associated with the increase in BACE1 enzyme associated with Alzheimer's. Enzyme levels in the mice were still elevated one week after traumatic brain injury, even though the level of the GGA1 protein had returned to normal. The team concluded that their experiments suggest that reduced levels of GGA3 are solely responsible for the increase in BACE1 level.

In a discussion of their findings, the research team explained that when the GGA1 and GGA3 proteins are at normal levels they work together as a clean-up crew for the brain by regulating the removal of BACE1 enzymes. The discovery of the relation between the two proteins may lead to the development of a drug to regulate the BACE1 enzyme and therefore treat the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 5 million people in the U.S. and is the most common cause of dementia among adults age 65 and older. Studies have linked head trauma to long-term consequences like brain disease and specifically Alzheimer's. If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury and you believe another party is responsible, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal options.

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Distracted Driving Remains Traffic Accident Issue in Tennessee

Despite the passage of specific distracted driving laws in Tennessee, traffic accidents caused by distracted driving remain a serious issue in the state. Every 24 seconds in the United States there is a crash involving drivers using cellphones and texting, and in Tennessee the rate of car accidents involving distracted driving is higher than the national average.

But, what is distracted driving? Distracted driving is any task that removes a driver's eyes from the road, hands from the wheel, or mind from the primary task of safe driving. Texting and handheld cellphone use while behind the wheel are two of the most pernicious forms of distracted driving because the tasks involve all three forms of distraction. When texting or using a handheld cellphone, a driver removes his or her eyes from the road to focus on the text message or dialing, removes his or her hands to manipulate the cellphone, and removes his or her concentration from driving to focus on conversation. It does not take long for repercussions to follow.

A texting driver removes his or her eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. At 55 miles per hour, the driver's vehicle travels the entire length of a football field during that time. Moreover, researchers have found that when a driver concentrates on texting or handheld phone use, brain activity associated with the task of driving declines by nearly 40 percent. Finally, texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash, the VTTI study shows. It's therefore clear that multitasking while driving is not just inefficient, but also extremely dangerous.

Even though distracted driving is a clear threat to the safety of drivers, passengers and other users of the road, drivers in Tennessee continue to engage in the dangerous driving habit. According to the most recent statistics, more than 3,000 people were killed because of cellphone use while driving and more than 400,000 were injured. In Tennessee, the number of car accidents is on the rise and approximately 20 percent of traffic crashes in Tennessee involve cellphone use, which is 2 percent higher than the national average.

To encourage the reduction of traffic crashes caused by distracted driving, Tennessee adopted a number of laws aimed specifically at the issue. In Tennessee it is against the law for all drivers to text while behind the wheel, and while there is no handheld ban prohibiting handheld cellphone use while driving in Tennessee, there is a specific handheld ban that applies to school bus drivers and teen drivers who have learner or intermediate licenses.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving distracted driving, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can review your legal options.

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Cervical Cancer and Social Security Disability Insurance

Cervical cancer has become is a concern for women in Tennessee and across the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Fortunately, the treatments and detection methods for this disease have improved, and fewer women are dying as a result.

Cervical cancer and its detection

Cervical cancer is a disease that affects women of every background and ethnicity. It typically happens in women who are over the age of 30. Women with cervical cancer do not always suffer obvious symptoms. Two tests are critical to the detection of cervical cancer. Pap smears and human papillomavirus tests should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that the disease is discovered early.

Social Security Disability Insurance for cervical cancer

When cervical cancer affects the life of a woman to the extent that she is no longer able to work, SSDI may be an option for her. This program helps working individuals with severe disabilities pay for their expenses. Severe illness can qualify as a disability, but the illness must be expected to last more than a year or be terminal.

Cervical cancer itself may not directly affect the person's work, but the treatments often produce side effects. Radiation and chemotherapy are among the more common treatments available and often cause extreme fatigue or nausea, making it difficult for the person to work.

Qualifying and applying for SSDI

Qualifying for SSDI first requires an individual to work in a job covered by Social Security. The condition that causes the disability must also qualify under the specific definition provided by the Social Security Administration. Under this definition, disabled people can no longer perform the work they were once capable of, the condition doesn't allow them to adjust to other work and their current disability is likely to last more than 12 months or is terminal.

To apply for SSDI, individuals can fill out an online application, call a toll-free number or visit a local Social Security office. Several important pieces of information that the Social Security office will need to process the claim include an individual's Social Security number and proof of age, names and addresses of doctors and hospitals, test results, medical records, medication information and W-2 forms.

SSDI reconsideration

Unfortunately, about two-thirds of the SSDI claims are denied. A denied claim can mean many things, but it does not mean that there are no other options. Requesting reconsideration by a different person, appealing to a judge, a review by the SSA Appeals Counsel and an appeal in a federal district court are all possibilities and could lead to an approved claim.

In order to request reconsideration by these methods, it is imperative to have the assistance of a professional on one's side. Experienced SSDI attorneys are able to navigate Social Security's administrative process and provide valuable assistance to clients applying for Social Security disability benefits or clients appealing a prior decision.

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Compassionate Allowances initiative fast tracks most severe SSDI claims

The Social Security Administration is notorious for its slow-moving bureaucracy that processes disability benefit applications at what seems like a snail's pace. To its credit, the SSA has tried to decrease the amount of time an applicant, especially someone with disabilities applying for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, has to wait for a final decision on his or her application.

Speeding up the process is crucial for a claimant who is sick or injured and unable to work. Getting monthly benefits sooner rather than later can mean the difference between keeping or losing a place to live or being able to pay for medication or food.

A newer SSA initiative that began in 2008 is the Compassionate Allowances program, or CAL for short, that focuses on expediting claims of people who are obviously going to meet the agency's definition of disability because their illnesses or injuries are extremely severe, often fatal.

The list of 200

CAL has developed a list of 200 disabling conditions after extensive outreach, including a series of public hearings that focused on particularly traumatic illnesses like cancer, brain injury, schizophrenia, early onset Alzheimer's disease, autoimmune diseases and more. SSA also reached out for input about which medical conditions should qualify for CAL treatment to other government agencies, nonprofit organizations and medical authorities.

While plans for more hearings are on hold, the SSA does plan to continue to add more conditions to the CAL list.

The process

CAL just makes sense. SSDI applications have many levels of review or appeal:

  • Application
  • Reconsideration
  • Administrative law judge hearing
  • Appeals Council
  • U.S. District Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals
  • U.S Supreme Court (rarely)

It can take months if not years to pursue a claim through all of these appeal levels if the application is improperly denied at the beginning or if the case is a difficult one or a close call. By contrast, in a CAL case, the approval can be as fast as days or weeks.

When a person has a terrible medical problem that is so severe it can be the basis for an automatic approval, it is certainly more compassionate to expedite the processing.

Some claims require the gathering and development of extensive medical evidence, but in CAL claims, once solid, objective medical evidence of a diagnosis on the list is in the SSA's possession, the case can be immediately approved. A CAL application is not a separate or different one, but rather when the SSA identifies a CAL condition on a claim, the application is then fast tracked under the CAL program.

Legal counsel

A claimant can help to speed the process by telling the SSA that his or her condition is on the CAL list and providing clear, objective medical evidence with the application. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced SSDI attorney can also help with the speed and strength of the claim as a knowledgeable lawyer will know how to develop the medical record quickly and what medical evidence the SSA needs. When necessary, legal counsel can also represent a claimant on review or appeal.

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Disabled adult children can receive SSDI benefits

Residents in Hamilton County, TN with disabled adult children that have conditions requiring care beyond the age of 18 may wish to take the time to understand their options to help fund such care. The national program that provides Social Security Disability allows for parents to make and receive SSDI benefits to provide care for their adult disabled children based upon select circumstances.

Requirements for claiming benefits for adult children

In order to qualify for an SSDI claim for your adult child, some basic requirements must be met. These include:

  • The minimum age for the child is 18 years old.
  • The child's disability must have commenced before he or she reached 22 years old.
  • The child should not be married (although there are some very rare situations in which marriage may be allowed to another adult with an equal disability).
  • No wages beyond the disability amount can be earned by the adult child.
  • Benefits must have been earned by the parents who will be claiming them.

Stepparents, adoptive parents, grandparents, step-grandparents and others also be able to make claims on behalf of a disabled adult depending upon the circumstances.

Additional eligibility requirements

The above list can provide an initial screening guideline but you will want to also pay attention to the type of disability that your adult child has. The government has clearly outlined an official list of impairments that identifies what constitutes a qualifying disability versus a disability that cannot be leveraged for SSDI benefits.

Medical records from physicians and other care providers may be requested as part of the application process. The details required will be specific and may be extensive. Information as to the cause of the disability, onset, duration and more will be required in order to prove a valid claim. This is important especially if the disability is not clearly identified or on the official list.

Obtaining benefits while working

The government does allow for some form of employment to be engaged in by a disabled person. There are stated limits on how much money your adult disabled child is able to earn while still allowing you to file for benefits on his or her behalf. Additionally, you can deduct expenses that are considered related to the employment such as bus fare to provide transportation to the job and home again.

Tennessee's need for SSDI

State and federal data indicate that at the end of 2012, more than 49,000 people in Hamilton County were receiving disability income. That represents close to 17 percent of the population. Nationally, 10 percent of all disability recipients were adult disabled children.

If you have an adult child with a disability and are interested in receiving SSDI benefits, you are strongly encouraged to discuss your situation with an attorney. There are many nuances involved in such claims and proper processing up front can make the difference between getting what you need and not.

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Disability benefits appeals backlog continues to increase

The backlog of applicants waiting for appeals of denied Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is at an all-time high.

Much media attention has come lately to the backlog of veterans currently waiting for care at the nation's understaffed and underfunded Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals, causing well-deserved outrage on the part of servicemember and healthcare advocacy groups. The hope is that, by drawing scrutiny to the VA's clearly deficient processes and procedures, change can come that will allow the nearly 530,000 veterans awaiting medical attention to get the care they both need and deserve after serving our country.

Though the VA backlog is certainly substantial, and action needs to be taken immediately to remedy that situation, there is actually a government program with an even bigger proverbial "log jam" standing in the way of much-needed assistance: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)/Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appeals. There are currently almost one million people waiting for decisions on appeals they filed after being initially denied for SSDI or SSI benefits.

The sad truth

According to a recent Washington Post expose, applicants regularly wait a year or more before their appeal can be heard by one of the 1,445 Administrative Law Judges on the Social Security Administration's staff. Meanwhile, these applicants are unable to work in any capacity due to their disabling medical conditions. The majority of them must thus sit idly by while their financial situation worsens and they could even be losing out on much-needed medical care because they can't afford treatment. One judge contacted by the Post revealed that she has had claimants die while awaiting a decision, and anecdotal evidence suggests that hers isn't the only court in which that tragedy has occurred.

Asking why

To the outside world, it seems odd that it should take such a long time for a judge to make a decision about a disability applicant's appeal. Notwithstanding that there simply aren't enough judges to keep up with the demand of SSA appeals - an estimated 70 to 75 percent of initial disability applications are initially denied, so there is a high appeal rate - the process itself is based upon laws, regulations and occupational descriptions that are, in some cases, hopelessly outdated.

The first step in the SSA's appeals process is "reconsideration," when a different SSA claims examiner will review the application to determine if the original examiner's denial was proper. Only after reconsideration can an applicant get a hearing before a judge.

Keep in mind that the process up to this point can take months or upwards of a year in addition to any time spent waiting before the initial claim was denied. This doesn't even take into account the fact that overworked judges can have a full docket for months in advance, so there is an additional waiting period required before a hearing can be held. If outside experts like vocational specialists or independent physicians are needed, things could take even longer.

Moving forward

While there are many issues with the current system, including its outdated job titles and duties and a pressing need for additional staffers, disability benefits provide a financial lifeline for many people suffering from debilitating conditions that prevent them from working. If you have a serious medical condition and haven't been able to work - or anticipate that you won't be able to work - for a year or more, you may be eligible for SSDI or SSI benefits. Should you pursue disability payments, you have a statistically better chance of being awarded benefits (either at the initial stage or upon appeal) if you work with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney like those at the law office of Wagner & Wagner, Attorneys at Law.

Keywords: social security disability, SSDI, supplemental security income, SSI

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Understanding SSDI evidence requirements is essential for claimants

Many SSDI claims are denied because applicants don’t submit adequate medical evidence or satisfy Social Security’s evidence requirements.

It's not unusual for people seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Chattanooga to have their claims denied on medical grounds. According to a Social Security report, medical reasons were cited in 688,348 unfavorable SSD claim decisions made in 2010, the last year for which data is reported. Nearly one-quarter of all claims made that year were denied on this basis.

Many people who claim SSDI benefits may legitimately meet the medical criteria to qualify for benefits. Unfortunately, regardless of the severity of a medical condition or disability, inadequate documentation can lead to SSDI claim denial. Therefore, it is essential for people seeking SSDI benefits in Tennessee to understand Social Security's medical evidence standards and requirements.

Mandatory and recommended evidence

According to materials from Social Security, SSDI applicants are responsible for securing and providing medical evidence that is relevant to their claims. Social Security specifically requires a diagnosis from an acceptable medical source, such as a licensed physician, to prove the existence of a disabling condition. Additionally, Social Security requires the following forms of evidence to make a claim decision:

  • Medical records and other evidence from treating sources and facilities
  • Medical reports that describe diagnoses, clinical and laboratory findings, treatment protocols and medical history
  • Opinions and statements from treating medical professionals regarding the disabling condition, its effects and its prognosis
  • Statements from other sources, including employers and caregivers

Applicants can further support their claims with statements from personal sources, such as co-workers, friends or family members. Applicants also may submit direct reports regarding their medical conditions and functional limitations. Social Security will consider this information alongside other medical evidence. However, this subjective evidence carries less weight and cannot take the place of medical evidence.

Reporting adverse medical evidence

Many SSDI applicants suffer from disabling medical conditions that are episodic or not readily apparent. As a result, there may be medical records or professional opinions that suggest these applicants don't qualify as disabled. Prior to April 20, 2015, applicants did not have to submit this unfavorable evidence. Instead, applicants were asked to submit all evidence that could be "helpful" to their claims. However, in March 2015, Social Security issued a new ruling on this matter.

Under this ruling, applicants must submit all known evidence that pertains to their disabling conditions or SSDI claims. The only exceptions are for information that was already furnished and certain communications between applicants and their representatives. People who qualify for SSDI benefits on the basis of incomplete medical information risk losing their benefits later.

Documenting disabling conditions

Given these requirements, it is essential for SSDI claimants to submit full medical documentation and provide additional evidence to justify any adverse medical information. During this process, the assistance of an SSDI attorney may be invaluable. An attorney may be able to offer advice on effectively documenting the medical condition and establishing its debilitating nature.

Keywords: Social Security, disability, benefits, insurance

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The five-step disability evaluation process for SSDI claims

On behalf of Mike Wagner at Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law

The definition of disability for SSDI is unique among benefit programs.

It seems that whether someone is disabled should be an easy question when his or her medical condition prevents work. But for purposes of Social Security Disability Insurance eligibility, the definition of disability is complex and distinct. The Social Security Administration has developed a five-step evaluation process to answer the question for every application.

It is important to understand that being disabled for SSDI purposes is not the same as it might be for a state workers' compensation benefit, which might allow benefits for partial or temporary disability, or for a private disability insurance program with its own definitions.

Social Security law says that a claimant is disabled if he or she has a severe physical or mental medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments expected to last at least one year or result in death that prevents him or her from engaging in substantially gainful employment.

Again, at first glance this may seem like a reasonably simple question, but the governing law is complicated and the need for extensive medical evidence significant, so engaging an attorney to assist with an application or appeal of a denied application can make all the difference.

The agency uses a five-step evaluation process to determine whether an applicant is disabled for purposes of SSDI eligibility.

At the first step, the SSA asks whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity, known as SGA. For 2016 for a nonblind individual, monthly SGA is $1130, so a claimant making less than this monthly on average is not considered to be working for SSDI purposes. If yes, the claimant is not disabled. If no, the second step is considered.

At the second step, the SSA asks whether the claimant's impairment is severe, meaning that it negatively impacts basic work activities (lifting, standing, sitting, understanding and following simple instructions, responding appropriately to managers and colleagues and so on) and is expected to last at least one year or result in death. If no, the claimant is not disabled. If yes, the third step is considered.

At the third step, the SSA asks whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals a listed impairment from a list of medical conditions that the SSA considers so severe that meeting or equaling one of them automatically means the claimant is disabled. If yes, the claimant is disabled. If no, the fourth step is considered.

At the fourth step, the SSA considers the claimant's residual functional capacity, called the RFC, which assesses the claimant's remaining ability to do sustained work activity after accounting for the restrictions and limitations caused by his or her impairment. The question is whether, considering the claimant's RFC, he or she can perform any past relevant work or PRW, meaning SGA in the previous 15 years done long enough to reach an average level of performance in the job. If yes, then the claimant is not disabled. If no, the fifth step is considered.

At the fifth step, the SSA considers whether other jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could do after considering his or her impairment, age, work experience and education. If yes, the claimant is not disabled. If no, the application for SSDI will be approved.

The Chattanooga, Tennessee, lawyers at Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law advocate for SSDI applicants in Tennessee and Georgia at every stage of the application and appeal process.

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Privacy Policy

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We collect information about our users in three ways: directly from the user, from our Web server logs and through cookies. We use the information primarily to provide you with a personalized Internet experience that delivers the information, resources, and services that are most relevant and helpful to you. We don't share any of the information you provide with others, unless we say so in this Privacy Policy, or when we believe in good faith that the law requires it.

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Effective September 14, 2015

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