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Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers disability benefits under two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, for people who are "insured" (you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes), and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on financial need. Both programs require medical and other information in order to decide if you meet the SSA's definition of disability. The SSA approved a Social Security Ruling (SSR) on CRPS (click here to read the ruling).

CRPS, when documented by appropriate medical signs, is a medically determinable impairment that can last for 12 or more months and be the basis for finding of "disability." Disability may not be established on the basis of an individual’s statement of symptoms alone.

Requirements for a Medically Determinable Impairment

The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or has lasted or can be expected to last for a period of not less than 12 months

The impairment must result from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that can be shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques

An impairment must be established by medical evidence that consists of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings

CRPS can be established in the presence of chronic complaints of severe pain disproportionate to the degree of documented soft tissue injury and one or more of the following signs in the affected region:

  • Swelling
  • Autonomic instability (In the affected regions there may be color, temperature or trophic changes in skin as well as changes in sweating or in the amount of goose flesh, also called increased pilomotor erection)
  • Abnormal hair or nail growth
  • Dystrophic nails
  • Osteoporosis
  • Abnormal movement

The documentation of objective medical findings is critical in establishing the presence of CRPS as a medically determinable impairment. Your clinical records reflecting ongoing medical assessment and treatment from your physician and other healthcare professionals are extremely helpful in documenting the clinical findings. Make every reasonable effort to secure all relevant evidence to ensure appropriate and thorough disability evaluation.

Generally, you must have the evidence for the 12-month period before you apply.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

For any of the federal programs, a lawyer isn’t necessary, but can do the following:

  • Know what medical proof is necessary and how to get it
  • Counsel you before the hearing
  • Explain the government’s decisions and how to appeal

Most lawyers work on a contingency fee, meaning they will take a certain percentage (25% is common) of any back pay the government owes you by the time you finally win the case.

If your claim is approved, your benefits cannot begin before the sixth full month of disability. Your social security benefit may be reduced if you receive worker’s compensation or other public disability payments or a pension from a job where you did not have to pay Social Security taxes. Some benefits are taxable. This health insurance program serves everyone over 65 years of age and people with disabilities under 65 years of age who: have been entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits for a total of 24 months, or need dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant because of permanent kidney failure. The program is available regardless of financial need.

To find out more visit http://www.ssa.gov/disability/

Work - Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA)

Many have the idea once you’re pursuing a claim or even on social security disability you’re not allowed to work.   The truth is that you are allowed to work while receiving social security disability or SSI, and you are allowed to work while having initiated the application for benefits.

In the case of a pending claim, i.e. you have filed a disability application, you can do this as long as your earnings do not exceed the earnings threshold for the SGA limit. SGA stands for substantial gainful activity and it corresponds to a specific dollar amount that you cannot exceed (currently the amount is $1130.00 for 2016). If your gross monthly earnings (before taxes) exceed this amount, you claim will be denied for SGA because it is the social security administration's position that if you can make this amount you are not functionally limited enough to be considered disabled.

If you are already receiving title 2 social security disability benefits, SGA-level earnings are still an issue; however, SSA (the social security administration) does offer benefit recipients the opportunity to try working without necessarily giving up their benefits altogether via a nine-month trial work system.

The trial work system works by a person who is receiving social security disability going back to work and earning as much as they like, even going over the SGA limit that is in effect for the given year, for nine full months. For those nine trial work months, there is no limit to how much the recipient can earn. However, if the individual is exceeding the earnings limit (SGA) in the tenth month of their work, their benefits will be stopped.

The nine months of trial work do not have to be consecutive as well. The total number of trial work months that are accumulated can occur anytime in a rolling 36 month period. All of this means that benefit recipients have a fair amount of flexibility to try various attempts at returning to work.

If you are already receiving title 16 SSI disability benefits, there is no trial work period. Your eligibility for SSI will ultimately be subject to the SGA limit on how much you earn; however, what you receive in SSI monthly benefits may also be reduced by a certain amount based on how much you are earning. Above a certain amount of earnings (which may change from year to year), SSA may deduct one dollar of SSI monthly benefits for every two dollars that are earned.

To find out more about working – SGA click here

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA)

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) provides cash assistance to help adults who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pay for their basic needs. Some people who are blind, have a disability or are older than 65 but do not get SSI because their other income is too high may also be eligible for MSA if they meet the income limit.

To qualify, you must be:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Getting SSI, or eligible to get it except that your income is too high.

If your income is too high for SSI, you may qualify for MSA if you meet one of these criteria:

  • Are age 65 or older
  • Are blind
  • Have a disability under SSI criteria.

You must also meet the asset limit of:

  • $2,000 for an individual
  • $3,000 for a couple.

To find out more click here

ABLE Act Savings Account

(Achieving a Better Life Experience)

The ABLE Act allows people with disabilities and their families to set up a special savings account for disability-related expenses;  education; housing; transportation; employment training and support; assistive technology and personal support services; health, prevention, and wellness; financial management and administrative services; legal fees; expenses for oversight and monitoring; funeral and burial expenses; and any other expenses approved under regulations.

Earnings on an ABLE account would not be taxed, and account funds would generally not be considered for the supplemental security income (SSI) program, Medicaid, and other federal means-tested benefits.   Only if the ABLE account exceeds $100,000. SSI benefits would be suspended but not terminated. In other words, the beneficiary of the account would not receive a check but would retain eligibility for the SSI program.

An eligible individual is someone who becomes disabled before age 26 and (1) receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or SSI; or (2) files a disability certification under rules that the IRS will write.

Before accounts can be set up, regulations will have to be written and ABLE programs established in states. Hopefully this will be done by mid to late 2015.  Although federal law applies uniformly to all states, individual states may regulate ABLE accounts differently.  Under current law, states provide different tax benefits for college savings accounts, which are similar to ABLE accounts.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a joint federal/state program to provide physical and related healthcare services to persons with low incomes. People with disabilities may be eligible for Medicaid on the basis of their income. Medicaid services are available in all states. However, each state establishes its own eligibility requirements for Medicaid based on federal guidelines.

That means that there are geographic differences between eligibility requirements and types of services covered. In general, persons may be eligible for Medicaid if they are receiving public assistance benefits or Supplemental Security Income, or are blind or disabled. Individuals with higher incomes may be eligible for Medicaid, Supplemental Medical Care Assistance, or their children may be eligible if medical expenses exceed a given percentage of their annual income.

Medicare Part D Appeals: An advocate's manual to navigating the Medicare private drug plan appeals process (PDF)
From the Medicare Rights Center

Housing

As disabled Americans, we all want our independence.  One step to achieve this is having a place of our own.  However, achieving this can be difficult and financially draining.  It doesn't have to be this way though.  There are many options available to help achieve this independence goal of housing.

Class 1b Homestead

(Property Tax Reclassification for the Disabled)

Class 1b provides a reduced class rate for homestead property of any person who qualifies as blind or as permanently and totally disabled. The Class 1b blind/disabled home stead is different than other homesteads because the qualification is specific to a person (and the disabling condition), rather than being predicated on the use of the property. As a result, 1b homestead classification follows the blind/disabled individual from one property to another. Class 1b is not an exemption from property taxes; it is a reduction in taxes.

How to Apply

To apply for class 1b blind/disabled homestead, you must complete the appropriate application with your county assessor by October 1st for taxes payable the next year. The onset of your disability or blindness must have occurred on or before June 30 of the year you are filing for the special homestead classification. You must attach the appropriate documentation proving that you are blind/ disabled.

  • Disabled: Provide proof of disability payments from a qualifying agency. Provide a letter from a qualifying agency certifying that you are totally and permanently disabled (usually this is a copy of an initial disability award letter from the agency).

There are no annual applications for class 1b. If you qualify for class 1b it is permanent as long as occupy the homestead. However, if you move to a new location, you must notify the county assessor within 30 days of the change and the class 1b status will move with you.

Changes

The county assessor must be notified within 30 days if your property qualifying for class 1b is sold, there is a change in occupancy, or there is a change in your status or condition that would no longer warrant the special homestead. If a you fail to notify the assessor of such a change within 30 days you will be subject to the penalties provided in Minnesota Statutes 273.124, subdivision 13 (fraudulent homestead penalties). The property will also lose its current classification as class 1b.

The 1b class expires with the death of the blind/disabled property owner. It does not extend to a spouse after death; the classification would be removed for the following assessment.

For more information visit the Minnesota Revenue or the MN Revisor of Statutes

HUD Rental Assistance

Low income families may be eligible for housing assistance payments from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD payments are made directly to landlords to make up the difference between a HUD-approved rental amount and what the tenant is required to pay.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Minnesota Supplemental Aid - Housing Assistance

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) Housing Assistance helps people with disabilities who pay more than 40 percent of their income toward housing costs so that they have a choice about where they live.

Eligibility

To qualify, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be eligible for Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA)
  • Be under age 65
  • Have total housing costs that are more than 40 percent of your total income
  • Apply for rental assistance, if eligible.

You must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be moving to the community from an institution or an intensive residential treatment services for persons with serious mental health problems.
  • Be eligible for Medical Assistance (MA) personal care assistance (PCA) services and be able to hire, fire, supervise and manage the PCA (or have a parent or legal guardian with authority to do so)
  • Be living in your own home or apartment and getting services through a home and community-based waiver.

To find out more click here

Group Residential Housing

The Group Residential Housing (GRH) program pays for room and board for seniors and adults with disabilities who have low incomes. The program aims to reduce and prevent people from living in institutions or becoming homeless.

There are more than 5,765 licensed or registered settings that qualify as group residential housing. About 4,260 of those are adult foster care homes. Others include board and lodging facilities, supervised living facilities, noncertified boarding care homes, housing with additional services establishments and other assisted living settings. 

Information for providers about rates for these programs is available on the Group Residential Housing Payment Rates page.

Information on recent updates to Group Residential Housing is available on the GRH and MSA Updates page.

You must meet a combination of eligibility requirements set by the Supplemental Security Income program or General Assistance program to qualify for assistance. There are also income and asset limits.

Generally, the program serves:

  • People 65 or older
  • People younger than 65 who have a condition that limits their self-sufficiency. For example, it may be a physical or mental health disability, visual impairment or chemical dependency.

For more details, contact your county or tribal office (PDF).

To find out more click here

Phone

If you are unable to pay your phone bill, your physician must call the service representative and follow up with written verification of your illness within seven days. Phone companies will extend your service for 30 days. If the illness continues, you must repeat this process. Check the phone book for the number of your local representative. Note: You will be responsible for all overdue charges once you are no longer ill.

Minnesota Free Government Phones

 You are eligible if you receive benefits from any of these programs in Minnesota:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Food Stamps
  • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Medicaid (not Medicare)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • National School Lunch Program’s free lunch program
  • Income at or below 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines (see chart below)

Income Based Eligibility for Minnesota (Total Household Income)

Members in Household

Annual income

Monthly Income

 1 member

 $15,890

 $1,324

 2 members

 $21,506

 $1,792

 3 members

 $27,122

 $2,260

 4 members

 $32,738

 $2,728

 5 members

 $38,354

 $3,196

 6 members

 $43,970

 $3,664

 7 members

 $48,586

 $4,049

 8 members

 $55,202

 $4,600

 For each additional member add $5,516 annual or $460 monthly

   

Free Cell Phone Providers in Minnesota:

Here’s a list of all the Lifeline Assistance free government cell phones in Minnesota. They all offer different plans with different numbers of minutes, different refill options, and serve different geographic areas. So click through them all and find the plan that’s best for you.

 

 Lifeline Discount Companies in Minnesota:

If you qualify for Lifeline Assistance, but you find that none of the companies offer free government cell phones where you live, you have another option. The companies below, while not offering free cell phone plans, do offer substantial Lifeline discounts off their regular mobile phone plans in Minnesota:

For more information visit Free Government Cell Phones

Phone Apps

There are many apps available to improve our quality of life and make our lives easier.  Here are just a few Apps to look at to achieve this.

 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Reference by Connecting People Software

Every disabled American should know their rights.  Here is an easy to use and understand version of the ADA.

Cost: $0.99               Click here to go to the app (iPhone/iPad)

My Medical by Hyrax Inc.

My Medical is a comprehensive record-keeping app for your personal medical information. It's the perfect replacement for unreliable paper records or various electronic systems that hold bits and pieces of your medical history. With My Medical, any and all information that is important to you is kept together in one place.

Cost: $4.99               Click here to go to the app (iPhone/iPad)  also available on android

Pill Reminder - All in One by Sergio Licea

Pill Reminder is an easy-to-use and reliable app that helps you remember to take your medications at the right time. It allows you to create any type of recurring reminders (every X hours, specific times, daily, weekly, monthly, every X days, etc). It tracks the remaining quantity of each medication and shows a refill alert when running low.

Cost: Free                Click here to go to the app (iPhone/iPad)

(Full Version $1.99)

Pain Tracker & Diary by Nanolume

With Nanolume, the interactive pain-tracking diary, it is easy for you to track, analyze, and map up to twelve individually distinct types of pain every day. By more completely knowing what types of pain a person is suffering with, such knowledge can be used to improve the basis upon which a more accurate diagnosis and/or treatment plan can be developed and/or adjusted.

Cost: Free                  Click here to go to the app (iPhone/iPad) 

(Upgrade Additions: Unlimited diary entries $2.99, Interactive Summary & Animation $4.99, Copy & Edit $1.99, Numbness $2.99, & Custom Pain Types $1.99)

Parking Mobility by Coal Harbour Group

Find handicapped spaces quicker and report those that illegally use the spaces faster with this app.

Cost: Free                 Click here to go to the app (iPhone/iPad)  also available on android

 

BillTracker by SnapTap

Never miss a payment again with BillTracker.  BillTracker tracks information about each bill including due date, amount due, whether or not the bill is automatically paid, confirmation numbers for payments and more.

Cost: $1.99               Click here to go to the app (iPhone/iPad)

Heat and Electricity

Your gas and/or electric company cannot shut off your power if you or a member of your household has a serious illness and financial hardship. Each state has different requirements, but your physician must certify the illness in writing. If the utility company refuses to protect your accounts from shut off, contact your Department of Telecommunications and Energy Consumer Division immediately.

Energy Assistance Program (EAP)

The Energy Assistance Program helps people who have low incomes pay for their heating costs.  To qualify for the Energy Assistance Program (EAP), you must live in Minnesota and your household's income must be below a certain level. If you meet these requirements, the state will help pay for your heating costs.

Income Limits

The annual income limits for the program depend on how many people are in your household.

Energy Assistance Program: Income Limits

If you have this many people in your house…

…the annual income limit is

1

$23,354

2

$30,540

3

$37,726

4

$44,912

5

$52,098

6

$59,284

7

$60,631

 

To apply for Energy Assistance, download an application, fill it out, and submit it to your local Energy Assistance provider. You can also get information on applying by calling 1-800-657-3710 or 651-296-2860 (TTY). You should find out whether or not you qualify within a month of applying.

 

Things you need to do for your Energy Assistance application

Gather proof of income over the past 3 months

Know the name of your heating and electric provider and your account number

Have your most recent energy bills

Things you don’t need to do for your Energy Assistance application

Prove your immigration status

Give your Social Security Number

Go in for an interview

 

To find out more on the MN EAP click here

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Energy and enables income-qualified households to permanently reduce their energy bills by helping to make their homes more energy efficient while protecting the health and safety of family members.

Services may include:

  • Energy audits to evaluate potential weatherization work
  • Exterior wall and attic insulation
  • Air infiltration and bypass sealing
  • Testing, repair, or replacement of homeowner mechanical systems
  • Participant education

How to apply for assistance:

  • Households must apply for Weatherization through a joint Energy Assistance/Weatherization application.
  • View the eligibility guidelines for the weatherization assistance program.
  • The following additional considerations apply to Weatherization Assistance eligibility:
    • Households (homeowners or renters) at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines are income eligible for WAP.
    • Priority is given to households with:
      • elderly or disabled family members
      • children 18 years of age or younger
      • high energy consumption
      • family members receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) within the last 12 months.
  • Access applications in this section and mail to your local weatherization assistance provider. To find your local weatherization assistance provider, select the county or Indian reservation in which you reside from the list below. Minnesota residents also may obtain an application and more information on contacting their local energy assistance provider by calling 1-800-657-3710 (be prepared to enter your zip code when prompted).

To find out more about the Weatherization Assistance Program click here

Emergency Food and Shelter Programs (EFS)

Applicants to Emergency Food and Shelter Programs must show evidence of a precipitating event that caused the emergency. These programs provide assistance to any needy individual who has received a notice of foreclosure, eviction, or termination of utility services if the ability to pay is compromised because of a sudden reduction in income. EFS can provide rent/mortgage assistance and supplemental utility assistance, but this is a one-time-only offer. These programs do not supplement SSI, Aid to Family with Dependent Children (AFDC), or other public assistance programs. Although criteria differ from state to state, some of the common items are:

  • You must provide the basic proof of economic situation and family composition
  • The agency will give you the amount which is required and appropriate to the case
  • You must have had a verifiable economic or personal crisis
  • The agency will not pay if you are paying more than 75% of your income on rent and have no prospects for increased income
  • The agency will not pay rent if you do not have a regular income or prospect for one
  • The agency does not assist people who are in a chronic situation

For more information visit the MN Department of Human Services or EFSP

Home Based Care for the Disabled

Attendant care of home-based care programs have been developed to allow physically disabled people to get the care they need in their own homes, rather than having to become a resident in a nursing home. To quality for this program, a person must need physical assistance to achieve some of their life skills (bathing, cooking, wound care, etc.). Each state has its own program and the client pays a portion of the cost of this care. The federal government has established a Medicaid Waiver program to help all states provide these services to those with a low income.

The National Association for Home and Hospice (NAHC)

NAHC is the nation's largest trade association representing the interests and concerns of home care agencies, hospices, home care aide organizations, and medical equipment suppliers. NAHC believes that Americans should receive health care and social services in their own homes, so far as this is possible. Senior citizens and other vulnerable groups should be able to live in independence through the assistance of home care services, making institutionalization a last resort. NAHC seeks to reverse the current bias that places hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of fragile children and chronically ill seniors in nursing homes or retained in hospitals when they could receive equal or better care at home.

For a list of NAHC organizations in Minnesota click here.

Student Loans

If you are completely and permanently disabled, you may obtain a conditional discharge by the U.S. Department of Education by filling out the Disability Discharge Form and submitting it to your loan holder. After three years, the Department will review the disability discharge and make a final determination on the discharge status of the applicable conditionally-discharged loans.

If you wish to regain student loan eligibility after having discharged your loans through permanent disability, you will need to fill out the Physician's Certification of Borrower's Ability to Engage in Substantial Activity Form and submit it to the current loan holder. If you’ve had loans discharged through disability previously, you may be required to reinstate previously discharged loans.

To download a Disability Discharge Form click here.

Service Dog

A service dog is a dog that helps a person who has a physical disability that's unrelated to sight or hearing; (Guide dogs for the blind and the visually impaired, and hearing dogs for the deaf and hearing impaired, fall into a different category of assistance dogs).  Service dogs assist individuals with many tasks, enabling them to live more independent lives.  A RSD/CRPS Service Dog (mobility assist dog) is usually trained to act as a buffer between the handler's affected area and a crowd.  They’re also trained to carry objects, retrieve/ pick up items, open/close doors, stabilize one, brace one for when standing up, finding help, reminding one to take medications, plus other assorted tasks depending on what one needs.  Most importantly however, they act as a beacon to an invisible disorder.  

A dog only has to perform 3 tasks to be considered a service dog. 

Providers include:

For a comprehensive list of service dog providers click here.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

JAN’s trusted consultants offer one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities. Assistance is available both over the phone and online. Those who can benefit from JAN’s services include private employers of all sizes, government agencies, employee representatives, and service providers, as well as people with disabilities and their families.

JAN represents the most comprehensive job accommodation resource available. From Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs, JAN has served customers across the United States and around the world for more than 25 years. Its consultants are thought leaders and innovators on disability employment issues, and all have earned at least one Master's degree in their specialized fields, ranging from rehabilitation counseling to education and engineering.

The Job Accommodation Network

For acceptable Job Accommodation Practices for RSD click here

Transportation

Transportation can be difficult for disabled Americans.  Whether it be getting a vehicle, modifying it to suit ones needs (specialty equipment), ADA parking, etc. it can be stressful and sometimes outright frustrating trying to figure out what is available and what one can and cannot do.  Let this section be of some assistance to you.

A FREE Vehicle?

If you have a disability and are unable to work, a vehicle can be hard to come by. However, you might still need one to get to medical appointments, run errands and visit family. Fortunately, there are some ways for you to try to get a free set of wheels. Here's how.

1. Have your information ready. Gather a small packet of proof, paperwork, and reasons why you need a car. If you can clearly outline how having a car will positively impact your life, people might be more likely to give to you. Consider including:

  • Proof of your disability. Medical records, doctor's notes, or Social Security Disability Income check stubs would all be appropriate.
  • Proof of your expenses. Tally up how much housing, utilities, food, and other necessities cost you each month, and compare it against your disability income (if you're on SSDI). This can help you demonstrate that you can't afford a car on your own.
  • A list of reasons why you need a car. Write down the reasons why you need reliable transportation. If public transit is not an option for you, note the reasons why.
  • Brainstorm on how you'll afford insurance, gas, maintenance, and registration expenses. Unfortunately, getting the car itself for free is only half of the expense — the rest will come from daily upkeep. Keep in mind that your car will have to be insured, as well as registered through the state. You'll also need to take it in for servicing every 4 to 6 months, as well as purchasing gas. If you cannot bear these expenses, be sure to note that when you're requesting a free car.

2. Try Free Charity Cars. Free Charity Cars accepts people's old cars as a charity donation (so they can have the tax write-off) and redistributes them to people in need. Here's how to know if you're eligible. You must be a US citizen living in America. You might qualify for a free charity car if you are in:

  • Medical need
  • Transitioning from public assistance to working
  • Working poor (that is, working and living under the national poverty line, which is $23,050 for a family of four in 2012)

3. Talk to local churches. Most churches are non-profit organizations, meaning that if someone donates a car to the church, that person can claim it as a tax write-off. If the members are made aware of your situation, perhaps one of them will consider donating a car to you through the church.

  • If you already attend a church regularly, start there. Make your case to your ecclesiastical leader using the information you accumulated in Step 1, and ask if he or she can do anything to help you.
  • You shouldn't join a church just to get a free car. A good church won't try to "trade" a car for your beliefs, but if you want to be a good person, it would be honorable to at least consider the merits of an institution that displays such generosity and helpfulness to you.

4. Contact non-profit organizations that focus on your particular disability. If the person you talk to is not aware of any existing programs for free cars, try to speak to a few different people to make sure (without being disrespectful towards the first person you spoke to). You can also check their website. If it's not free, they may have a low-cost program, or a payment program with little or no interest.

5. Talk to auto mechanics. Since they know how to fix vehicles, they might come across a car that can be fixed for a low price and that would fit your needs. Perhaps a church or a generous person will pay for the repairs for you, or they'll give you a loan with little or no interest. Or, someone might have an old car that they don't want to go through the trouble of repairing, but it has sentimental value for them. You could try to convince a mechanic to fix it for you for a discounted price.

To find out more on how to possibly obtain a FREE vehicle click here

Adaptive Equipment

Driving from point A to point B shouldn’t be painful or stressful.  There is adaptive equipment for people with disabilities such as RSDS/CRPS.  One can get a left accelerator, hand controls, valet seating, etc. depending on their needs.  However, one may also need to be certified as able to use the specific adaptive equipment like the left accelerator or hand controls.  There are places that can do this.  One being the Courage Center.  They will road test you with the equipment you are after for your personal vehicle and certify you as able to use if you pass the road test.  Adaptive equipment also doesn’t have to cost one an arm and leg.  There are rebates available and your insurance may even help cover it.  Below you will find links to help you achieve your vehicle freedom:

Adaptive Equipment Installers

Rebate Information

Courage Center

Window Tint

No-one really thinks about window tint as a medical device but it can be.  For suffers of RSDS/CRPS it can make riding in a vehicle much more bearable by reducing the amount of heat gain and harmful UV/IR rays created by the sun.  Those rays and the solar heat can be quite painful when they’re beating on ones affected area(s).  Getting ones windows tinted is not hard but knowing what is legal and illegal for one’s state can be a slippery slope.  For Minnesota the tinting laws are as followed:

To view the explanation of the state law summary chart or entire state law summary chart visit the IWFA

If one needs to exceed these limits set by the law one can.  Unlike states on the East coast that have medical waivers for exceeding the legal tint, the state of MN requires either a prescription or a doctor’s note on their letterhead (click here to view the state law).  Note, you will still more than likely will be pulled over however you should be able to get out of getting a ticket.  It is suggested though that one carry:

  • Your prescription
  • Doctor’s note on official letterhead stating brief description of medical condition and how the sun/tinting can affect your condition
  • Copy of the state law (not all officers know this section of the law)

3M is a recommended tint manufacture. To view their products with simulator as well as dealer locations click here.

Handicapped Placard / Plates

Driving is stressful enough for suffers of RSDS/CRPS why make parking and getting into the actual building/location even more?  Depending on where your RSDS/CRPS is and how badly it affects you, you may qualify for placard and possibly even plates (note to qualify for plates ones placard needs to be of the permanent quality). 

Eligibility

To be eligible for a disability parking certificate one must meet one or more of the definition(s) of a “physically disabled person” which are:

  1. Has a cardiac condition to the extent that functional limitations are classified in severity according to the standards set by the American Heart Association.
  2. Uses portable oxygen.
  3. Is restricted by a respiratory disease.
  4. Has an artificial oxygen tension (PAO2) of less than 60 mm/Hg on room air at rest.
  5. Has lost an arm or a leg and does not have or cannot use an artificial limb.
  6. Cannot walk without the aid of another person or device, e.g., wheelchair or cane.
  7. Walking 200 feet would be life threatening.
  8. Cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest.
  9. Cannot walk without a significant risk of falling.

(Usually the last 4, 6-9, apply to someone affected by RSDS/CRPS)

One who is eligible for a disability parking certificate or license plates can:

  • park in appropriate designated disability parking spaces;
  • park at public parking meters without having to feed the meters;
  • park in non-metered passenger spaces without regard to time limits unless the limits are posted separately on a sign.

Applying

To apply for a Minnesota disability parking placard, you will need:

  • The Application for Disability Parking Certificate (Form PS2005).
    • The medical certification must be completed by a licensed physician.
  • Payment for the fee:
    • Temporary placard: $5.
    • Short-term placard: $5.
    • Long-term and permanent placards: Free (usually what one qualifies for with RSDS/CRPS)

To apply for disability license plates or disabled veteran license plates:

  • Complete the Application for Special Plates (Form PS2010), including medical certification by one of the following:
    • Licensed physician.
    • Physician's assistant.
    • Advanced practice registered nurse.
    • Chiropractor.
  • Include VA certification of your disability, if you're applying for disabled veteran plates.
  • Include any other required documentation for the plate type you have chosen. Requirements are explained on the application form.
  • Pay the required fees:
    • $6 for 2 plates.
    • $4.50 for 1 plate.
    • $10 filing fee.
    • Additional fees for special plates, vehicle registration, or registration renewal, if applicable.

Metro Mobility

Some of us are unable to drive ourselves around due to our CRPS which can make getting to appointments among other outside home tasks very difficult to do.   There is a solution to this problem, Metro Mobility.

Metro Mobility is a shared public transportation service for certified riders who are unable to use regular fixed-route buses due to a disability or health condition. Rides are provided for any purpose.

Eligibility

Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines determine eligibility. People are generally eligible if

  • They are physically unable to get to the regular fixed-route bus,
  • They are unable to navigate regular fixed-route bus systems once they are on board, or
  • They are unable to board and exit the bus at some locations.

Generally people are eligible for up to four years.  Certification dates are set to coincide with the expiration date on the riders Minnesota State ID card or drivers license when possible.  In limited cases where a person is of advanced age or has a deteriorating health condition Metro Mobility may grant ‘permanent’ or life time certification.

Applying for service

A completed ADA Paratransit Application Form is needed to determine eligibility for service. The form has two parts:

  • An application form designed to assess a person's ability to use the regular fixed route bus service
  • A professional verification form completed by a health care provider

Both completed forms must be submitted together to process the application.

The form can be downloaded here: Metro Mobility Application

The service guide can be downloaded here:  Metro Mobility Service Guide

For more information visit Metro Mobility.

Travel

The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees that travelers with disabilities such as CRPS / RSDS receive equal treatment under the law.  While this would be the case in a perfect world, it doesn't always work out that way in real life, especially in foreign countries where accessibility regulations vary widely.

Compounding the problem is the fact each person's needs are a little different, and traveling in cookie-cutter airline seats, hotel rooms and rental car fleets can be very tricky. The following tips should hopefully help you achieve accessible travel:

  1. Call ahead. Service providers are required by law in many cases to accommodate travelers with special needs. However, most need some time to make the necessary arrangements. Mention your needs at the time of reservation, and call the provider 24 to 48 hours before your arrival to confirm that proper accommodations have been made.
  2. Be specific and clear when describing your disability (CRPS / RSDS). Not all service providers know the "lingo" of accessible travel, or the medical terms for certain conditions. Give as many details as you can about what you can and can't do, and don't downplay the severity of the disability. The more information a service provider has, the better they will be able to accommodate you.
  3. Be specific and clear when describing your travel plans to your physician(s). A physician can often prescribe measures for coping with an unusually long flight, limited medical facilities, the unavailability of prescription meds, and other pitfalls of traveling. Be prepared -- in some cases, your doctor may question the advisability of travel.
  4. Take a doctor's note and phone number. Travel with a statement from your doctor, preferably on letterhead, covering your condition, medications, potential complications, special needs and other pertinent information. Be sure you have a number where your doctor (or another medical professional) can be reached in an emergency situation at any hour of the day.
  5. Bring extra medication. Many experts advise that you travel with two complete packages of essential medication in case of emergency. Store all medications and other necessary medical supplies in your carry-on bag.
  6. Carry medical alert information, preferably in a place that a medical professional or anyone who assists you will find it easily (wallet card, necklace, bracelet, phone app, etc).
  7. Bring spare parts and tools for your mobility aid. For example, wheelchairs can take tremendous abuse while traveling; assemble a small kit of spare parts and tools for emergency repairs. You may also be required to dismantle a wheelchair for certain flights or activities; make sure you and your traveling companions know how to do this.
  8. Know your rights as a disabled American.

For a more comprehensive tip list click here

Flying (U.S.)

Flying can be the biggest headache for someone with a disability and especially CRPS / RSDS.  Many questions arise as to ones rights, what all they can bring with them on the flight, and how they even get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.  Well, here are a few answers for you.  All airports and airlines in the U.S. have some form of medical assistance for those with disabilities.

At MSP one can obtain a wheelchair and assistance by being dropped off on the Ticketing Level, Door 5 if you are flying with Delta Air Lines or at Door 2 for all other airlines.  Please note airlines ask that you call at least 48 hours in advance to request a skycap meet you at the curb.

The airlines themselves allow those with disabilities to fly with their medications, medical devices, etc.  Each airline differs slightly with their policies and procedures so it is recommended that you contact the airline you’ll be flying on if you use a medical mobility aid, service animal, or have a medical device implanted in you.

The TSA advises if you have a medical disorder or implant or both to let your security screener know, either in writing or verbally. You can provide the officer with the TSA notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition. You may, however, want to allow extra time for screening, as you may need to undergo a secondary screening process.  You are not required to remove your shoes if you have disabilities and medical conditions. However, your shoes must undergo additional screening including visual/physical inspection as well as explosives trace detection testing of the footwear. You can request to be seated during this portion of the screening.

Medications in pill or other solid form must undergo security screening. It is recommended that medication be clearly labeled to facilitate the screening process.  You are responsible for displaying, handling, and repacking the medication when screening is required. Medication can undergo a visual or X-ray screening and may be tested for traces of explosives.  Inform the TSA officer screening you that you have medically necessary liquids and/or medications and separate them from other belongings before screening begins. Also declare accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps and syringes. Labeling these items can help facilitate the screening process.  You may bring medically necessary liquids, medications and creams in excess of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on bag. Remove them from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You are not required to place your liquid medication in a plastic zip-top bag.

To view or contact MSP’s about medical assistance click here.

To view or contact a specific airliner that flies out of MSP about medical assistance click here.

To view the TSA’s Disabilities and Medical Conditions Procedures click here.

Please note many RSDers advise flying should be ones last means of travel!  Of those that have flown, many report a major flare of their CRPS / RSDS symptoms and some have even reported that their CRPS spread.  It is believed that the change in pressure / altitude and possibly even the plane vibrations are the cause.

Train (within U.S. & Canada)

Travel by train isn’t the most commonly thought of form of getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in the U.S. but is the most recommended means of travel by those that suffer from CRPS / RSDS if travel is a must.

Like all forms of travel, travelling by train has its advantages and disadvantages and it’s the advantages of why many RSDers chose it.

Amtrak, the U.S.’s major rail provider, provides those with disabilities assistive services at stations as well as accessible accommodations on the train one can’t overlook.  They also offer a 15% rail fare discount to adult passengers with a disability as well as up to one accompanying companion (companion must be at least 18yrs of age).  One must provide written documentation of your disability at the ticket counter and when boarding the train to obtain these services and discounts. Acceptable documentation includes:

  • Transit system ID card for persons with a disability
  • Membership card from a disability organization
  • Letter from a physician
  • Medicare card, if under 65
  • Veteran's Administration ID with "Service Connected"
  • Disabled/Accessible parking placard issued by a state Department of Motor Vehicle (photocopy is acceptable).

The few disadvantages of traveling by train include:

  • Duration of trip (it’s about 10 times longer than flying, especially to the coasts from MSP one way, i.e., a trip from Minneapolis, MN to Boston, MA will take roughly 30hrs by train compared to roughly 3hrs by plane).
  • There will more than likely be at least one transfer if not more depending on where you’re traveling to, i.e., a trip from Minneapolis, MN to Boston, MA will have 2 transfers.
  • The vibrations of the train could cause a flair up of ones CRPS / RSDS.

To contact or view Amtrak’s Accessible Travel Services click here

Bus (within U.S.)

Greyhound, the U.S.’s major bus service, provides those with disabilities several different forms of assistance.  One with a disability gets priority seating (1st row of bus) yet can sit anywhere they are most comfortable.  They can also request help getting on / off the bus as well as any reasonable assistance at a stop.

To contact or view Greyhound’s disabilities assistance click here

Cruise

Info coming soon...