We are proud of the research being performed at the John Ritter Research Program. Check out the research group’s 21 publications for 2014 and acknowledgement of your support here.

Your philanthropic contributions and participation make a difference. When everyone gets involved, we can do more.

To learn more about getting involved by participating in research, visit the Resources page or visit www.JohnRitterResearchProgram.org.

Download a copy of the research study brochure here.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers two different disability programs to those who suffer from long-term or permanent disabilities, such as aortic disease. These programs include the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Each program has its own technical requirements in order to be eligible, but for either program you must meet the medical requirements that have been set forth by the SSA.
Meeting the SSA’s Medical Requirements
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA compares your condition to a listing of conditions known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book contains all of the conditions that may qualify an individual for benefits from the SSA, along with the criteria that must be met under each condition.
Within the Blue Book, each condition is given its own section. When applying for disability benefits due to aortic disease, your condition will be compared to the criteria set forth in Section 4.10 of the Blue Book, which covers aneurysm and/or dissection of an aorta or major branches, due to any cause.
To qualify for benefits under this section of the Blue Book, you must have a diagnosis of the condition that has been demonstrated by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, with dissection not controlled by prescribed treatment. Learn more here.
The Technical Requirements of the Disability Programs
If you meet the medical eligibility requirements of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, you must then also meet the criteria of the different Social Security Disability programs. As mentioned above, the SSA disability programs each have their own criteria. To qualify for one or both programs, you must be able to prove that you meet the program’s criteria.
SSDI Benefits Eligibility
To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have earned a certain number of work credits prior to becoming disabled. As a general rule, you must have earned a total of 40 work credits through prior work activity with 20 of those credits being earned within the last 10 years. The exact number of credits needed depends on your age, and younger applicants need fewer credits to qualify for SSDI benefits.
SSI Benefits Eligibility
Unlike SSDI benefits, you don’t need any work history to qualify for SSI benefits. The SSI program is a needs-based program. To qualify for this program you must meet the SSA’s financial requirements. As of 2014, this means that you cannot have a household income that exceeds $721 per month as an individual or $1,082 as a couple. Your household assets must also not exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple, excluding your home and one vehicle. Learn more about social security programs here.
The Social Security Disability Application Process
When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits, it’s your job to prove to the SSA that you are completely unable to maintain gainful employment due to your disability. That means gathering the medical evidence to prove that your condition meets the Blue Book criteria and submitting that evidence along with the forms that the SSA requires you to fill out. When filling out these forms, make sure you leave no sections blank and answer each question with as much detail as possible to help the SSA understand how you qualify for benefits.
After the SSA receives your application, they may ask you to go for a consultative exam. The purpose of this exam is to determine the extent of your disability. It’s important to remember that your own medical records and written statements from your treating physicians are likely to weigh more heavily in a decision than the determination of this exam.
About two to four months after the date of your application, you can expect to receive a decision from the Social Security Administration. If you are awarded benefits, you will be notified as to when benefits will begin, what benefits you are entitled to and how much you will be receiving each month. If you are denied benefits, you have 60 days from the date of the denial notice to appeal the SSA’s decision.
Appealing a Denial of Benefits
If you need to appeal a denial, you may want to consider retaining the services of a disability attorney. Oftentimes applications are denied due to a lack of medical evidence or mistakes made on the claim forms. A disability attorney can help you determine the weak areas of your claim and begin to gather the evidence necessary to strengthen your appeal. He or she can also represent you before an administrative law judge at your disability hearing, which is when you have the greatest chance of overturning the SSA’s decision to deny benefits.
It’s important to note that you should never be discouraged if your initial application for benefits is initially denied. Many current Social Security Disability recipients who receive benefits obtained those benefits through the process of a disability appeal. With the right planning and the help of a disability attorney, you can increase your chances of receiving the benefits you deserve.

Author: Lisa Giorgetti, Community Liaison, Social Security Disability Help

It can be difficult to find others to talk to who understand what an aortic dissection survivor has been through.  The John Ritter Foundation is pleased to pass along information about future group meetings that a Nurse Practitioner has organized in New Jersey.  Read more

A multi-institutional team led by Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has found a recurrent genetic mutation that has been linked to deadly thoracic aortic dissections in family members as young as 17 years of age.  The gene known as PRKG1 makes a protein called cGMP-dependent kinase, type I.  The PRKG1 mutation alters the function of the protein and causes the muscle cells in the wall of the aorta to respond incorrectly to pulsatile blood flow from the heart, and the change in this one protein ultimately causes thoracic aortic aneurysm and acute aortic dissection.  The mutation was identified in four families, including three in the United States.  The majority of the affected family members suffered acute aortic dissections at young ages (17 to 51 years).

Milewicz is professor and director of the Division of Genetics at the UTHealth Medical School and holds the President George H.W. Bush Chair in Cardiovascular Research.  She is also on the faculty of The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and director of the The John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases.  Co-authors and investigators included teams from University of California at San Diego, Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicále of France, University of Washington, Baylor College of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and the GenTAC Registry Consortium.  Read more here:  http://www.johnritterresearchprogram.org/?p=1046

Dianna M. Milewicz, MD, PhD, Director of the John Ritter Research Program in Aortic and Vascular Diseases and holder of the President George H.W. Bush Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, will be honored on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 by BioHouston at its Fourth Annual Lunch Celebrating Women in Science.

To be held at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, TX, the luncheon also will honor Dr. Lydia Kavraki, Rice University; Dr. Renu Khator, University of Houston; and Sara Ortwein, ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company.

The four will be celebrated for demonstrating “extraordinary leadership in science and technology.”

The mission of BioHouston is to “create an environment that will stimulate technology transfer and research commercialization, thereby generating economic wealth for the Houston region and making it a global competitor in life science commercialization.”

Registration deadline is Friday, November 9 at 3:00 p.m. Central time.

Congratulations, Dr. Milewicz!