Columbia, South Carolina – For years, Patricia Foster had cared for patients in the state nursing home’s Alzheimer’s unit in Columbia, S.C. The nurse manager worked easily with those afflicted with the disease, knowing that Alzheimer’s patients need open spaces around them.
However, Ms. Foster’s work life changed when the state Department of Mental Health transferred psychiatric patients to the Alzheimer’s unit to fill empty beds.
“This was a danger to all of us,” Ms. Foster recalled. Psychiatric patients, she explained, have to be cared for in larger spaces, and they can be volatile, as the nurse discovered Nov. 28, 2005, when one of her patients attacked her.
“She decided she was going to kill me that day,” Ms. Foster said. “She beat me up pretty bad.”
The nurse suffered injuries to her head, neck and shoulder. Eventually she also developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She received short-term disability benefits, but had to battle for worker’s compensation. Her employer said the threat from psychiatric patients was just a normal occupational hazard. A year passed before Ms. Foster received a neurologist examination, which revealed a cervical disc displacement. A plate had to be implanted in her neck.
Despite her injuries and trauma, the nurse hoped to return to work. “I planned to work part time until I got to age 66,” Ms. Foster said. “Then I could qualify for full Social Security.”
She was somewhat knowledgeable about Social Security, having written a college paper about the system and how hard it is for women to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. She also knew how hard it is for people to accept that a non-veteran-and a woman-could have PTSD.
However, her injuries extracted a toll. “The injury to my head and the post-traumatic stress disorder affected my organizational skills,” Ms. Foster said, “and that had always been my pride and joy. I was really messed up.”
As her disability coverage drew to a close, she was told it might be wise to apply for South Carolina Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. She dreaded the prospect. Not only was she familiar with the system through her college research, but her husband had become critically ill, and it still took three tries for him to receive SSDI approval.
Ms. Foster accepted the prospect that she could never work again, full or part time. She also accepted the suggestion that, rather than apply for SSDI on her own, she should contact Allsup for help.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers.
Founded in 1984, Allsup employs nearly 700 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible.
Ms. Foster called Allsup in July 2008. “Allsup helped so much,” she said. “They took me under their wing. I did nothing. Allsup just kept working hard for me.”
Even with Allsup’s help, Ms. Foster’s application was turned down twice, which is normal during the process no matter who is assisting. Nevertheless, she was still taken aback.
“I was surprised,” she said. “But Allsup put together a whole list of my physical problems that showed more than the post-traumatic stress disorder. I knew I was disabled. I never know when the stress disorder will fly in my face. I couldn’t handle any stress in a job.”
Ms. Foster and Allsup moved toward the next step in the SSDI appeal process, a hearing before an administrative law judge. That in-person appearance never occurred because Allsup senior representative Terry Geist persuaded the court to award a fully favorable decision in April 2009 based on the brief and records Allsup had compiled.
“I was very happy when I got approved,” said Ms. Foster, now 63. “That made a significant difference. I didn’t even know about the Medicare [which she will also receive]. It was such a relief for me and my family, too.”In fact, the favorable decision came at a critical time for her spouse.
“Allsup helped my husband to be able to die,” she said. “It eased his mind to know I was going to be financially OK. I’m not wealthy but OK.”
Her husband died in July 2009. Her sadness lingers, but Ms. Foster also looks forward. “I’ve got an 18-year-old who’s fixin’ to graduate from high school,” she said. She also has recovered some of her mental abilities.
“I cannot speak highly enough about the Allsup people who helped me,” she said. “I’ve got a big file on them, and I’m finally organized enough to be able to do that-keep it all together in one place.”