Sonora, California – Until several years ago, Layne Williams led an amazingly active life. His passions included all kinds of physically challenging sports-kayaking, cycling, skiing, rock climbing. He even had a black belt in martial arts.
“I had always been a big-time outdoors person,” said Mr. Williams, 56.
That all changed in February 2007, when Mr. Williams contracted a respiratory infection. “I thought I would be back to work in three weeks,” he said. “But I never really recovered. Literally, every morning I would have to talk myself out of bed. It was sheer, total exhaustion; like I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.”
Mr. Williams, who had been a financial advisor for 20 years, was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, severe exhaustion not caused by another illness that is not helped by rest.
“I had worked 60 to 80 hour weeks,” he said. “With chronic fatigue syndrome, you can’t do that. If I pushed myself I would pay for days, sometimes weeks.”
Mr. Williams knew his working life was over in May 2007, when he tried to return to work. His focus and concentration were shot. Tasks he used to do easily were nearly impossible. “I used to be able to listen to a client for an hour and a half and repeat back everything they said at the end of the session. Now I couldn’t even remember the names of clients I’d had for 20 years.”
The sudden transition from highly active to inactive was difficult. “It was torturous, absolutely torturous,” he said. “My wife said I needed to reinvent myself, learn to slow down, take more time with family. So there were some positives. I had more time to read, more time to pray.”
Because Mr. Williams had difficulty getting short-term disability benefits, he decided to seek professional help from the beginning of his quest to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
“It was interesting being on the other side of the fence,” Mr. Williams said. It was a shock to be the person seeking advice instead of giving it.
One of his financial advising clients gave him a crucial tip: to call Allsup, a company he was not familiar with. Once he called, he was amazed by the service he received. “Allsup is doing things nobody does anymore,” he said. “They talked to me like I was the only client they talked to all day.”
Mr. Williams was especially impressed because he had experience with some of the nation’s top companies. “It was just over the top,” he said of Allsup’s service. “I have never dealt with a corporation that did as well.”
Allsup has helped more than 170,000 people to receive SSDI benefits. About 98 percent of those who complete the SSDI process with Allsup receive their Social Security disability benefits.
In one way, Mr. Williams was in better shape than many people who apply for California Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. As a financial advisor, he had often told clients to stash money into a cash emergency fund, and he had taken his own advice, so he had a nest egg. He also lived modestly, so when he was out of work for several years, he was not financially devastated.
Allsup guided Mr. Williams every step of the way for three years, through denials and appeals and eventually an appearance before an administrative law judge. Mr. Williams was nervous at his hearing and his memory was foggy, a common problem with chronic fatigue syndrome. His Allsup representative, Daniel Contreras, supported him and reassured him that his case was strong. One of Mr. Williams’ physicians even took a day off work to come and testify at no cost to Mr. Williams.
When Mr. Williams heard the news that he had been awarded Social Security disability benefits, he was overjoyed. “We were elated,” he said. “Finally, this whole big process was over.”
Mr. Williams is relieved that he doesn’t have to deal with the stress of fighting for SSDI any longer. He also is grateful that his illness is stable, though not improved. “I wake up exhausted every day. I’ve tried every treatment, supplements and medication.”
He also has reached some level of acceptance that he is no longer able to do all the adventure sports he loved.
“It’s definitely a grieving process,” he said. “My new motto is: ‘It is what it is.’ That is acceptance.”