Managing Your Disability Benefits

The Commission for Case Manager Certification defines case management as “a means for achieving client wellness and autonomy through advocacy, communication, education, identification of resources, and service facilitation.” From a disability perspective, it is a holistic approach to managing a medical condition or disability in which all facets of someone’s life are taken into consideration. 

A disability effects your medical, emotional, financial, social, and employment well being. All of these areas overlap, and the goal of case management is to assure that they are all taken into consideration so that your recovery can reach its maximum potential.

The following steps will help you take charge and become your own Case Manager:
 

Keep a notebook or folder

Use it to organize all of your correspondence, medical records, I.D. cards, insurance forms, record of phone calls with contacts and phone numbers, etc., related to your disability. This helps to keep a historical perspective on your situation, but is invaluable as a central resource for all of your records when you need them. If you are so inclined, use this notebook as a diary as well! Many people feel it helps them to write down how they are feeling.
 

Learn all that you can about your medical condition

The information is out there, and it will help you. There are advocacy organizations for every known medical condition, and these can provide you with the information you need to begin to increase your understanding. This knowledge will help you to partner with your physician(s) and treatment provider so that you can feel more in control of your treatment situation.
 

Learn about resources that might be available to you

There are many community, government and private resources that can provide services to help you with your activities of daily living as well as your physical, emotional and employment needs.

  • Go through your phone book to find grocery stores and pharmacies that deliver.
  • Contact your local high school and colleges for young people willing to do odd jobs — yard work, driving the kids, moving furniture, etc.
  • Your local municipality often offers services such as Dial a Ride, Meals on Wheels and Libraries on Wheels. Check the local government pages of your phone book for the Social Services Department to inquire.
  • The local Visiting Nurses Associations offers many home and community based services such as Home Health Aid assistance.
     

Learn all that you can about your insurance benefits, as well as governmental health and welfare benefits that might be available to you

  • If you have Aetna Disability insurance, you might be eligible for medical case management and return to work assistance. Most disability carriers offer some form of the above, so be sure to check out their benefits. They will also help you appy for Social Security benefits, if appropriate and necessary.
  • Find out exactly what is covered by your health insurance so you won’t have any financial surprises! If you don’t understand your written plan of benefits, call the company’s toll free number (usually listed on your ID card) and ask specific questions. Take notes!
  • The Social Security Administration provides a variety of income replacement and medical coverage benefits to qualified applicants.
  • Your State government also offers some form of the above through their Health and Welfare or Social Service Departments.
  • Contact your local office of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for a wide range of services to assist people with disabilities in their efforts to return to work. This is a federal and state funded program, and they have an office in every major town in the U.S.

Always remember to take notes — and a contact name and phone number — whenever you speak to someone or e-mail them. You will learn more with each phone call or contact, and you will begin to see the way out of what can often appear to be a very confusing maze.

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