Illinois Grandmother Cares for Others Despite Pain
Obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a difficult and complex process. Two out of every three applicants initially are denied. Carol Morris was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis when she experienced initial denial. She shares her story here.
This is a true story as told to Allsup.
Grandmother used to caring for others is thankful people were caring for her…
Grateful grandmother copes with arthritis
Richton Park, Illinois - The first affects of rheumatoid arthritis struck Carol Morris a few years ago. She worked her way through them but, by mid 2006, the pain had worsened.
"I was working temporarily as a health insurance claims processor-a lot of heavy typing and data entry," said Mrs. Morris, 51. She started feeling sharp, shooting pains in her right arm and at night her hands, back and shoulders would stiffen. Her fingers and elbows began popping out of joint. "One day I was sitting at my desk typing and my fingers were just flying all away from me."
Her family doctor referred Mrs. Morris to a hand specialist, and then to a podiatrist as the pain descended to her feet. She began to fret about her work for a temporary agency, fearful her increasing lack of mobility would make her late for assignments. Some days, she could barely make it.
"Everything was going on at once"-joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fatigue and deepening sensitivities to environmental factors-she recalled. Anytime she tried to take on too much at a time, she would feel like a wreck the next day. And it wasn't only her work that was affected.
Mrs. Morris and her husband, Michael, who works for the state highway department, had guardianship of two grandchildren and custody of another. Active and nurturing by nature, she fretted about not being able to properly take care of her young charges.
"Once, I sat down to teach my granddaughter how to play jacks and I couldn't get up off the floor," she said. "I had to get the two oldest children to help me up." She also was losing the ability to grip things and, as the carpal tunnel pain worsened, she developed a trigger thumb as well. Surgery would be required and she reluctantly quit working to take care of her health.
She had the first of two surgeries in April 2007, returning in June for an operation on the damaged thumb. She did not regain any flexibility in the thumb as a result, and has since developed similar problems with her other thumb. Meanwhile, she struggled to cope with the fatigue, later diagnosed as fibromyalgia, and the pain of rheumatoid arthritis that wracked her entire body. She found it difficult to care for her grandchildren and husband. To his credit, Mr. Morris did all he could to assist his wife with household chores and caring for the children. What was missing was her previous income.
In May 2007, realizing the family would struggle financially without her income, Mrs. Morris applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.
"We needed that second income," she said. "I help my youngest daughter a little bit"-a lot if you consider she's raising her daughter's two children, 8-year-old Jatrele and Gia, who's three. "They know I experience some difficulties and you can't believe how caring they are."
But Social Security sent her to its own physician and subsequently denied her application for SSDI benefits. She worried deeply about her family's future. One day when she was out, however, she encountered a friend who told her a company named Allsup had helped her sister get SSDI benefits.
Founded in 1984 by a former SSA employee, Allsup was the first private company to offer nationwide assistance in filing for SSDI benefits. Since then, the company has helped more than 100,000 applicants receive the disability benefits they paid for throughout their working lives. Allsup is headquartered in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis.
Mrs. Morris contacted Allsup, who took her case in August 2007.
Allsup representatives prepared an appeal for reconsideration but Mrs. Morris was again denied. An administrative law judge would hear a second appeal, and Allsup assigned senior representative Brenda Steck to the case. The court would eventually find in Mrs. Morris's favor on the record, meaning she didn't have to attend a hearing before an administrative law judge.
"Allsup strives to prevent all clients from having to attend a hearing," Ms. Steck explained. "If their records are complete and her medical history well documented, that's usually the way it works out." On-the-record decisions are made prior to a hearing. These decisions allow claimants to avoid the stress and travel involved when they must appear before a judge.
But why couldn't Mrs. Morris accomplish this without Allsup's help? Much of it has to do with the company's strong track record of helping its clients through the maze of rules and regulations that can make it difficult for an individual claimant to be awarded SSDI benefits. The company's team of SSDI specialists begins with president and CEO Jim Allsup, who knows from experience how best to achieve success.
"Companies like Allsup contribute by providing solutions in the marketplace-helping people with disabilities navigate and reduce the time spent in the SSDI process" Mr. Allsup said. "It is important they know there are options available to assist them when they most need help."
Allsup professionals also realize complete records and medical history are critical to the success of any SSDI claim. Mrs. Morris and her physicians were able to provide Allsup with everything the company needed to press her case. But it would take time, during which Mrs. Morris received frequent updates and "reassurance" calls from Allsup even when there was no news to report.
"I felt like it was a very competent experience," Mrs. Morris said. "Especially knowing that someone else was handling everything for me was great. They do it all for you. You're kind of worry-free."
Just the same, she kept Allsup on speed-dial so when the waiting became too much, she could press a button and talk to someone.
Rheumatoid arthritis by itself isn't necessarily a qualifying factor for SSDI, Ms. Steck said. Before taking her case to court, Allsup had to make sure all her maladies were well documented and taken into consideration.
"Mrs. Morris's decision was based on a medical vocational allowance, because she had the capacity for only sedentary work, with the additional limitation of using her hands," Ms. Steck said. "There were positive clinical findings for the arthritis and joint pain. Social Security factored in the fibromyalgia and considered those symptoms along with the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which are similar and treated with the same kinds of medications."
The on-the-record decision produced the results Mrs. Morris and Allsup had sought. On June 4, 2008-just 10 months after she first contacted Allsup-the court decided in Mrs. Morris's favor. She could breathe easier knowing they would have enough money to get by.
Gone are the days when the Morris's can take long walks together along a nearby trail. She no longer attends the aerobics classes she enjoyed. She can't do much sewing or knitting.
"I have a hard time threading the needles," she said, but there was humor in the comment. She doesn't have what she used to have, for sure. But she has her family and the financial support of SSDI benefits to help her enjoy life as much as possible. She credits Allsup.
"Just knowing I didn't have to try to type up all the paperwork, do everything on my own was such a relief," she said. "I am really grateful for what Allsup could do for me and I have referred several friends.
"I don't know if my friends can or will use Allsup services right away," she said. "But I am glad I could at least point them toward the people who really helped me."