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Sleep Disorders and Social Security– What You Need to Know

Social Security Disability Series: Part 2

Sleep Disorders and Social Security Disability – What You Need to Know

By Anjel Burgess, JD

Jennie has been fortunate enough to secure her short-term disability benefits. She has also hired an Attorney to assist her with the Social Security Disability application process. Although her family encouraged her to “file on her own instead of paying out of pocket to hire an attorney,” Jennie has learned throughSomnusNooze that Social Security Disability attorneys are not paid by a retainer, as many attorneys are. Rather, they work on a contingency basis, which means that Jennie does not have to pay out of pocket to get representation. For the attorney to get paid, two conditions must be met:

  1. The attorney must win Jennie’s case.
  2. Jennie must be entitled to past-due benefits (also known as back pay).

If both conditions are met, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay Jennie’s attorney 25% of Jennie’s back pay, up to a maximum of $6,000. Since obtaining the benefits is of the utmost importance to Jennie, she has decided that she can’t afford NOT to have an attorney. She has hired an attorney who will file an initial application for her and represent her through each step of the process.

Jennie’s attorney has explained to her that most people who receive Social Security Disability benefits have been through a three-step process and that it may take two years or more before she is approved (note that in some states, it is a 2-step process, as the Reconsideration step is eliminated). These steps include the following.

  1. Initial – Roughly 30% to 35% of applicants are approved at this level. Once SSA receives the initial application, they request medical records from Jennie’s providers. Once the SSA receives Jennie’s medical records, SSA will have its own physician or psychologist (or both a physician and psychologist) review the medical records to give their opinion as to what limitations they believe that Jennie has, as well as the impact of those limitations on her ability to work. This would also include a review of the opinion of Dr. Wonderful and any other of Jennie’s treating physicians. Oftentimes, SSA will decide that they need an outside opinion in making their decision. If this occurs, the SSA may require that Jennie be examined by an independent physician or psychologist (at SSA’s expense) who may not have an expertise in idiopathic hypersomnia. This independent professional then prepares a report that summarizes her or his observations and professional opinion. If the case is denied initially, Jennie can appeal.
  2.  Reconsideration – Roughly 7% to 10% of applicants are approved at this level. At the Reconsideration step, SSA obtains updated medical records and completes another internal review of Jennie’s file to see if any new evidence would result in a favorable outcome. It is possible that the SSA may send Jennie out for an independent examination at this stage as well. Again, if Jennie is denied, she can appeal.
  3. Hearing – Roughly 50% to 55% of the remaining applicants are approved at this level. This is the stage at which most people are awarded benefits, particularly after attending a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. The hearing is the opportunity for Jennie and her attorney to present the big picture to a judge. The big picture includes all medical records and testimony from Jennie herself. Jennie’s attorney will also have the opportunity to make oral and written arguments on Jennie’s behalf.

The common theme in each step of the process is medical records. Medical records are vital in a disability case because they can provide objective support for an individual’s complaints. For Jennie, her medical records tell the story of a very symptomatic individual who tried multiple medications but could only be productive for about 3 hours throughout the day. Her doctor ruled out many other conditions, and was able to confirm the diagnosis of idiopathic hypersomnia via a polysomnogram and Multiple Sleep Latency Test. Jennie’s medical records provide proof that she has idiopathic hypersomnia and authenticate her symptoms, which are reasonably due to idiopathic hypersomnia.

If you, too, are ready to file for Social Security Disability or have been denied at any step in the process, contact a qualified Social Security Disability Attorney to assist you with the process.

Anjel Burgess is a partner/attorney at the Law Firm of Burgess and Christensen located in Marietta, GA. She exclusively practices Social Security Disability Law for adults and children, as well as the ancillary areas of Guardianships and Special Needs Trusts. By doing so, she has been able to make a positive difference in the daily lives of people who need help the most. You may reach her at Anjel@DisabilityHelpLine.com or 770-422-8111. You can learn more about her services at www.DisabilityHelpLine.com

Have you joined the registry yet?
A patient registry is a collection that is established to collect standardized information about a group of patients who share a common condition or experience. In the case of the Hypersomnia Foundation Registry at CoRDS  (Coordination of Rare Diseases at Sanford), the people who participate have one of the central disorders of hypersomnolence: idiopathic hypersomnia, Kleine-Levin syndrome, or narcolepsy (type 1 or 2). Becoming part of the registry is easy and it could help solve the puzzle of hypersomnia! Simply go to http://www.sanfordresearch.org/cords/ and click on the ENROLL NOW button.

A patient registry is a collection that is established to collect standardized information about a group of patients who share a common condition or experience. In the case of the Hypersomnia Foundation Registry at CoRDS (Coordination of Rare Diseases at Sanford), the people who participate have one of the central disorders of hypersomnolence: idiopathic hypersomnia, Kleine-Levin syndrome, or narcolepsy (type 1 or 2). Becoming part of the registry is easy and it could help solve the puzzle of hypersomnia! Simply go to http://www.sanfordresearch.org/cords/ and click on the ENROLL NOW button.

 

Watch Beyond Sleepy in the Mile-High City

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Were you one of the more than 1250 people who joined us at Beyond Sleepy in the Mile-High City, the Hypersomnia Foundation’s Regional Conference, in person and online on June 12, 2016? If not, you can still watch the conference in its entirety by registering at http://www.hypersomniafoundation.org/2016-hypersomnia-regional-conference-register/. If you previously registered and missed any part of the program–or simply want to watch it again–please go to http://www.hypersomniafoundation.org/2016-hypersomnia-regional-conference-live/. The video will only be up for two more weeks!

 

Posted in: Action, Awareness, BeyondSleepy, Conference, CoRDS Registry, Education, Hypersomnia, idiopathic hypersomna, Kleine-Levin syndrome, narcolepsy, News, SomnusNooze, SSDI

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Solving the Puzzle of Hypersomnia One Piece at a Time

The Hypersomnia Foundation Board of Directors is thrilled to announce the launch of the Hypersomnia Foundation’s Registry at CoRDS (Coordination of Rare Diseases at Sanford). Whether you have idiopathic hypersomnia, Kleine-Levin syndrome or narcolepsy type 1 or 2, please enroll in the Registry today to help solve the puzzle of hypersomnia. Your information will help researchers comprehend the journey that people with hypersomnia travel in their search for a diagnosis and will answer many other questions, including the symptoms that you experience, which may help to distinguish among these disorders, and the treatments that have and have not worked for your symptoms. Registration is simple (the second figure below describes the process). Simply go to http://www.sanfordresearch.org/cords/ and click on the ENROLL NOW button. Your answers to the Registry questions will help researchers design better diagnostic tools and more effective treatments and, eventually, find a cure. CoRDS personnel are available to help you, if needed, during the registration process. They can be reached at cords@sanfordhealth.org or 1 (877) 658-9192.

 

What is a Registry? A patient registry is a collection that is established to collect standardized information about a group of patients who share a common condition or experience. In the case of the Hypersomnia Foundation Registry at CoRDS, the people who participate have one of the central disorders of hypersomnolence: idiopathic hypersomnia, Kleine-Levin syndrome, or narcolepsy (type 1 or 2).

What is a Registry?
A patient registry is a collection that is established to collect standardized information about a group of patients who share a common condition or experience. In the case of the Hypersomnia Foundation Registry at CoRDS, the people who participate have one of the central disorders of hypersomnolence: idiopathic hypersomnia, Kleine-Levin syndrome, or narcolepsy (type 1 or 2).

cords process

CoRDS Registration Process

 

Posted in: Action, Awareness, BeyondSleepy, CoRDS Registry, Education, Hypersomnia, idiopathic hypersomna, Kleine-Levin syndrome, narcolepsy, SomnusNooze

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Act Today and Let Your Voice Be Heard

Very recently, the Hypersomnia Foundation became aware of an opportunity to help shape the future of sleep research. The National Institutes of Health, the primary source of funding for medical research in the United States, has issued a Request for Information, which you can view at: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-HL-16-312.html.

The final date to submit your comments has been extended to today, May 16, 2016.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 12.41.44 PM

Last week, we sent an email to everyone in our database to encourage you to make your voices heard. We are urging you again to act today. Please share your hypersomnia story with the people who determine medical research priorities and allocate funds.

  • Tell them why the currently available diagnostic tools and lack of awareness about hypersomnia led to a lengthy delay in your diagnosis.
  • Tell them why research into the cause of and effective treatments for hypersomnia are so desperately needed.
  • Tell them why we need a cure as soon as possible because hypersomnia is limiting your ability to achieve your dreams, complete your education, or even provide financially for your family.

Please join your voice with ours as we fight to secure the place of hypersomnia at the top of the nation’s sleep research agenda. The Hypersomnia Foundation Board of Directors has submitted the following response, and we encourage you to send your comments and suggestions to the NIH, as you deem appropriate, at rfi-sleepplan2016@collaboration.nhlbi.nih.gov.


 

Hypersomnia Foundation Response
to the National Institutes of Health’s Request for Information:

For nearly a century, the study of sleep and its function(s) in health and disease has been principally focused within approaches that center on not enough sleep. Although excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), cognitive dissonance, and other symptoms not surprisingly result from sleep deprivation, central disorders of hypersomnolence (CDH; e.g., idiopathic hypersomnia, Kleine-Levin syndrome,
narcolepsy type 1 [NT1], and narcolepsy type 2 [NT2]) in humans (in which EDS is often accompanied by extremes of sleep length) emerge spontaneously. Studying patients with CDH has already proven to be fertile ground for investigation, as evidenced by the discovery that loss of brain hypocretin causes narcolepsy with
cataplexy (i.e., NT1). Yet, for the other CDH, there remains a large unmet clinical need, with further research and development prime for discovery and the potential for extraordinary translational opportunities.

Symptoms of CDH can be disabling, and because, for example in NT1, they also begin in adolescence or young adulthood, are chronic, sometimes progressive, go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for decades, and respond variably to medications.
Despite advances around NT1, the knowledge gained has not translated smoothly to
the clinical realm. Diagnoses of CDH inclusive of NT1 since 1975 have relied upon a
forty-year-old test (viz., the Multiple Sleep Latency Test [MSLT]) that is cost, time,
and labor intensive and that was born of practical necessity and subsequently
tweaked to specifically identify NT1. In 2006, two preeminent sleep researchers concluded that the MSLT yields “a large number of false-positives” and that an increased daytime propensity to REM-sleep—traditionally accepted to be the sole domain of NT1—does “not appear to have any specific pathognomonic significance.” Yet, in 2016, the MSLT remains the gold standard that drives diagnoses and all that it implies. For clinician scientists, this means, for example, how clinical trials are designed and studies of heritability are conducted. Even more so, for patients, this has enormous implications for prognosis, treatment choice, access to medication(s), and accommodations/disability status.

There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for the CDH—medication choice being limited to those for narcolepsy. Since the 1930s, conventional
psychostimulants such as ephedrine have been used to treat NT1. The majority of the current pharmacological armamentarium and drug development are similarly designed and focused upon promoting wakefulness by enhancing brain monoamines. Drugs more directly designed to replace hypocretin continue in development 16 years after the discovery of hypocretin. An alternative construct in approaching the biology and treatment of CDH has recently been proposed that appears to hold great promise for many patients. People with CDH without NT1 (i.e., hypocretin being intact) do not appear to suffer from any “loss of function” per se but, rather, a gain of function in sleep-promoting brain circuits. Thus, pharmacologic agents that antagonize the sleep-promoting and consciousness-dampening neurotransmitter gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA), such as flumazenil, clarithromycin, and pentylenetetrazol, have either been demonstrated to be effective or are in clinical trials for CDH patients in whom traditional wake-promoting agents have not been helpful.

We advocate for initiatives to fund discovery research that translates to improve the human condition of people with CDH in whom sleep is prolonged and ostensibly persists into “wake.” Enhanced recognition and improved treatments call for greater understanding of not only the clinical spectrum of CDH and the natural history of these disorders, but also mechanistic understanding of their biological underpinnings. Diagnostic tools that are highly discriminative and designed to capture more than just EDS and an increased daytime propensity to REM sleep are an absolute necessity. CDH remain diagnoses of exclusion such that greater understanding of potential mimics—which themselves would enhance mechanistic understanding of sleep—and biomarker discovery are also high priorities. As there are numerous stakeholders in such endeavors, as evidenced in the summary provided above, the absolute need to encourage greater dialogue and collaboration among patients, patient advocacy groups, professional organizations representing sleep physicians, funding agencies, and industry cannot be understated. With increasing dissemination of knowledge through many means, not the least of which includes social media, patient consumers with CDH-like symptoms have become increasingly knowledgeable. They are acutely aware that CDH outside the realm of NT1 is not well served by current medical knowledge or practice in this realm. Accepting the status quo risks alienating the public and medical consumer.

We would, therefore, propose including a sleep neurobiologist on the NHLBI Sleep
Disorders Research Advisory Board and developing mechanisms for solicitation of
program projects and set-aside funds specifically to research hypersomnia, with requests for proposals to prioritize filling unmet clinical needs in the following areas:

R37 Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award
NIH EUREKA grants
R13 funding to support conferences
T32 grants for postdoctoral study
RFAs and more specifically RFPs
SBRI funding for better diagnostic tools

Because the breadth of scientific inquiry or line of investigation needs incredible resources and sustainability, we would advocate for funding initiatives with set-aside monies at all levels of training, including predoctoral, doctoral, postdoctoral, junior investigator, and senior investigators, and we envision promoting set-aside monies for all the Career Development K Awards for investigators with projects relevant to CDH.


 

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Learn about the latest hypersomnia research on June 12th at the Hypersomnia Foundation’s regional conference, Beyond Sleepy in the Mile High City. Scientists will share findings from their recently completed clinical trials and other ongoing studies, lead us on a journey through the drug discovery and approval process, and help us to cope with the daily struggles of hypersomnia. You will also learn how your future participation in the registry can help to solve the puzzle of hypersomnia.

Tickets are running out so order your $25 ticket online to join us in person in Denver or wait until June 1 to sign up for a live Internet stream of the conference, brought to you free of charge through the generous support of Balance Therapeutics, Inc., and Flamel Technologies, SA.

 

 

 

Posted in: Action, Awareness, Education, Hypersomnia, idiopathic hypersomna, Kleine-Levin syndrome, narcolepsy, News, Research, SomnusNooze

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