St. Augustine, Florida – “I didn’t choose to be disabled. I just got that way.”
Cary Bush lamented the ordeal he endured for several years. Now 53, he had fought a running battle against his own infirmities and the government agency that continually denied his disability entitlement.
Today, he’s still struggling with his health, but the retired mechanic receives a monthly benefit to help pay his bills, thanks to the expertise of a nationwide company that specializes in getting disability approvals.
Five years ago, Mr. Bush was an automotive mechanic. “That’s all I ever done,” he said.
He also had developed an early acquaintance with high blood pressure. He was diagnosed and took medication for it since age 21. However, by 2003 he started to show different symptoms. “I’d get dizzy when I worked under a car and looked up,” he said. “The doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had a stress test and spent four days in the hospital.”
The doctor recommended that Mr. Bush get a heart catheter, but the patient waited more than six months so that he could have it done locally as an outpatient in January 2004. He was anesthetized for the procedure, but a sobering message waited for him when he woke up: “The doctor told me, ‘You’ve got what they call a widow maker.’ ”
“Widow maker” is all too accurate. The heart valve opening is narrowed or does not form properly, inhibiting the ability of the heart to pump blood to the body. If the left main coronary artery is abruptly and completely blocked, it will cause a massive, likely fatal heart attack.
“The doctor said I needed at least two, maybe more bypasses,” Mr. Bush said. “I wanted to come back and have them done another day, but the doctor couldn’t guarantee I’d live if I walked out the door. So, I told them to carry on. They shaved me up right then. I went in at eight o’clock that morning for an outpatient treatment, and I was done that night with a triple bypass.”
The operation was a success, but Mr. Bush would never return to work. Five months later he woke up one morning and took a shower, but he couldn’t grasp the soap with his left hand. When he went to the store, he had to use his right hand to reach into his left pocket for change. He called his doctor who sent a nurse to drive him to the hospital.
After three days of tests, doctors determined he had suffered a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, also called a “mini stroke.” Rehabilitation for his left arm and hand has still left him weak in those areas.
Then, a year after his bypass he contracted shingles. “It just popped up right out of the blue,” he said. “The rash was on the left side of my chest, and that hurt real bad. The doctor said it was brought on by stress. I wasn’t bringing in any money. I got $2,000 a month out of my sister’s pocket. After four years that gets old.”
Even before the TIA and shingles, Mr. Bush applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. “The Social Security office was just a half mile from my house,” he said. “I thought I could just walk in and apply. I learned better after a few years. I kept on and kept on and kept on, but they still said no.
“I was turned down three times,” he said. “I had my life insurance, and my two cars were worth $2,000 to $3,000. I asked, ‘What am I going to do? I’m not going to give up my life insurance.'”
He then recalled how his sister’s husband had cancer and could not get SSDI. “Allsup had helped him,” he said.
Allsup is the nation’s leading SSDI representation company. CEO and founder Jim Allsup started his company in 1984, after working for the Social Security Administration (SSA), to help people just like Cary Bush collect SSDI benefits that he had paid for with FICA taxes throughout his working life.
After extensive research, Allsup has identified its core values as True Helping, Fairness, Driven and Expert. In varying ways, Allsup professionals apply these values to every claimant who asks for their help.
A nationwide company with headquarters in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis, Allsup’s success rate is a staggering 97 percent. The company, now entering its 25th year in business, is so highly regarded that the Better Business Bureau has presented Allsup its prestigious Torch Award for excellence in customer service.
Since 1984, Allsup has helped more than 110,000 people nationwide obtain more than $10.3 billion in current and future SSDI benefits.
With three failed SSDI applications under his belt, Mr. Bush needed a big assist, so he called Allsup. “They took my case and didn’t let loose,” he said.
The next stage in the SSDI appeals process was a hearing before an administrative law judge in Jacksonville. Allsup representative Mario Cobiella would do the heavy lifting in the courtroom. He represents Allsup clients in 20 or more hearings each month. For Mr. Bush, Mr. Cobiella would need all his expertise to succeed.
He was driven, much like Jim Allsup. Since his first day in business in 1984, Mr. Allsup drove himself and the rest of his company to succeed, innovate and make a difference. Continuing today, the Allsup team goes all out to advocate for its clients, deliver solutions to customers and find a better way to run the business. The Allsup team is driven to be the first and the best in serving others.
Every day, Allsup professionals work with single-minded determination to see such cases through to a favorable outcome. “We believe in our claimants so we keep plugging away,” said Rick Gruchala, senior claimant representative.
This single-minded drive helped Mr. Cobiella bring all the pieces of Mr. Bush’s case together for extended presentations before the administrative law judge.
“At the hearing,” Mr. Bush recalled, “three doctors-one of them from Social Security-said I was disabled. But then the judge called another doctor from Coral Springs who never saw me before, and he said I wasn’t disabled.”
Mr. Cobiella wrote a rebuttal to the SSA doctor’s testimony and sent it to the judge in December 2007. That led to a second hearing in February 2008, during which the judge told Mr. Cobiella to write a brief with arguments as to why his client was disabled.
“Mario said, ‘I guess I’m going to be working this weekend,'” Mr. Bush told me. “Mario was great. He’s good people. He was like a bulldog. He wasn’t going to go down.”
This case, Mr. Cobiella said, “required a little more work than usual. At least we were approved, which is the important thing.”
In April 2008, Mr. Bush received the letter from Social Security stating that he had been approved for SSDI, which also released money owed from the onset of his disability. “They put $30,000 in my bank account right quick,” he said.
The funds have helped, but challenges remain. His prescriptions cost more than $200 per month. He receives $900 from SSDI, but his mortgage is $1,400. He also receives $40 for food stamps each month.
“I’m fixing up the house so I can get someone in to share the mortgage,” he said. “That would almost make me float again.”
Mr. Bush thanked Allsup for helping him win SSDI approval. “I’m real, real satisfied,” he said. “It’s the money, yeah, but it’s the principle of the darned thing. I had Mario with me, and he helped me get what I was entitled to.”