Las Vegas, Nevada – For more than 20 years, Joy Benton worked hard at and enjoyed customer service. She received awards for her excellent performance.
However, in her mid-40s, she developed a reaction to stress. She contracted shingles, which led to postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the most common complication of herpes zoster, or shingles. PHN pain remains up to three months after shingle rashes heal.
One occurrence of shingles and PHN is bad enough, but Mrs. Benton repeatedly went back to work, encountered more stress, and the shingles and PHN reappeared. Instead of steady employment, she went through four jobs in two and a half years.
“If I’d start a high-pressure job, I’d get an anxiety attack that led to shingles,” the Las Vegas resident said. “I had to take time off from work. The sickness led to disciplinary actions, and I’d be dismissed.”
One employer gave her short-term disability to help her resolve her problems.
“Then I got back to work doing technical support calls,” she said. “I was excellent at troubleshooting, but we were required to get problems solved and get off the phone in nine and a half minutes. That gave me anxiety. I’d break out into shingles again, and out the door I went.”
Her last employer in June 2006 was a legal consulting firm. When she left there, Mrs. Benton sought psychiatric help to deal with her depression “because I was such a failure,” she said. Her psychiatrist suggested Mrs. Benton apply for Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
“She told me I had proved myself by trying and trying and trying,” Mrs. Benton said, “but no matter when I’d work, I’d get anxiety attacks and shingles. She said I was basically disabled.”
At first, Mrs. Benton disagreed.
“I was crushed,” she said. “I said I was not disabled. I was perfectly fine. Then I finally realized that I did have mental issues because of the anxiety-caused depression. So many things circulated through me constantly. I was in denial for a while. You never want to think you’re broken.”
When she decided to apply for Nevada Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, she had a ready resource. Her husband had worked for 28 years at the power company when he suffered a sudden respiratory attack. After almost dying from congestive heart failure and no longer able to work, his employer told him to work with Allsup, which helped him get approved soon afterward.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and workers’ compensation services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2009, Allsup employs more than 600 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. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis.
“Allsup was just so incredible with my husband,” Mrs. Benton said. “They made it so easy for us that when I decided to get disability for myself, I just called Allsup right away.”
Unlike her husband’s case, however, Mrs. Benton’s path to approval was neither short nor swift. Her spouse’s case was an exception. Most SSDI claimants are denied up to two times, as was Mrs. Benton. At least, she said, Allsup had prepared her for setbacks.
“They were really good about telling me I’d get denied at least once,” she said. “The first time I took it really well. The second time I felt like I was falling into a black hole.
“I sat down and cried over the phone for 20 to 30 minutes with one of the Allsup people,” she said. “She was so understanding and let me pour my heart out. She told me we weren’t done fighting. She really made me feel like I had someone in my corner. I had been in customer service for 20 years, and I know good customer service. They were absolutely incredible.”
After Mrs. Benton’s second denial, her cased moved to a hearing before an administrative law judge for which Allsup senior representative Paula Morgan took charge. She compiled Ms. Benton’s medical records and other supporting documents into a brief to submit to the court.
“Paula was very professional and made me feel confident,” Ms. Benton said. “She said if we had a snowball’s chance, she was going to build the snowball.”
The submission was so persuasive that, rather than hold a hearing, the judge awarded an on-the-record fully favorable decision for Mrs. Benton’s disability. Without knowing the outcome, she received a large envelope from Social Security in January 2009.
“The letter was so thick that I was afraid it was more forms to fill out,” she said. “I read it and called Allsup. They said, ‘Yes, you’ve been approved.’ That was one of the best days I’ve had in the last four years. I felt like the skies opened up and the sun was shining on me.
“Allsup had stuck by my side and fought for me,” said Mrs. Benton, now 52. “I wasn’t rushed and got to know so many people that it felt like they were my friends.”