My injury consisted of pulling a heavy bag over a scanner. I got to the point that I could not move without pain from this; and, like most, I thought it would go away. It didn’t. Then I reported it to my supervisor and was sent to the emergency room. The doctor only said pulled muscles and I was kept off work for a few days. Then I went back to work with light duty only. I tried this, but I could not even do the light duty work. I was back to where I started—I could not move without pain. I was then sent to a Neurosurgeon and then to an Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. J. C. Serrato. Dr. Serrato examined me and diagnosed me with myofacial syndrome, fibromialgia, and chronic pain. He knew what I was going through and he treated me with Nerve Facet Blocks. These helped, but this could not take away all of the pain. Dr. Serratos diagnosis was that I would never be able to work again. When my husband and I filled out all the paperwork along with the doctor visits, my case was approved for upper back sprain under the U. S. Department of Labor Federal Workmen’s Comp.
With my husband in the military, we moved several times since my injury happened and I was treated by doctors at every move. I was disabled and on Workmen’s Comp.; and, during this time, I was sent before a hearing for Social Security Entitlements. After they made several attempts to dismiss the case, my Social Security attorney, Ed Tante, appeared before an Adjudicator with me and won my case for Social Security. Although I am approved by social Security as 100% disabled, the Federal Workmen’s Comp. continues to send me for second opinions to try to remove me from their rolls. Upon my husband’s retirement from the military, we moved back to Georgia and my battle with Federal Workmen’s Comp. continued. I was sent for one of many second opinions and I guess I could say the Federal Workmen’s Comp. hit the jackpot this time. Two of the three second opinion doctors stated that I was 100% disabled, but the 3rd doctor stated that there was nothing wrong with me and that I was in good shape for a woman my age. After that, the two doctors in my favor were sent letters to clarify their reports and they changed their reports to some degree. In their reports, I was still disabled, but they could not say it was job related although all of my medical records led right back to my on-the-job injury. This was all that the Federal Workmen’s Comp. needed to terminate my pay and medical benefits.
Ed Tante referred me to Paul Felser-one of the very few lawyers that will take a Federal Workmen’s Comp. case. Mr. Felser, of Savannah, Georgia, told me that he would represent me but I had to have money up front. I was hesitant at first. I knew that it was going to be a long and hard battle and I did not want to go it alone so I put down the required retainer fee. My case went before an appeals board and a hearing review board for an oral hearing which was held in Atlanta by a representative from Washington, D. C. Mr. Felser traveled to Atlanta to appear before the board and represent me. The person in charge of the oral hearing for my appeal agreed with Mr. Felser but would not make a decision. He sent my case back to Workmen’s Comp. in Jacksonville, Florida and advised them to send me to a referee doctor to help with the decision. I prepared myself with a notebook of all my medical records for the past ten years. Dr. Stappenbeck, the referee doctor, examined me and my medical records thoroughly. He recognized one of my past doctors that treated me while I was in Colorado and he approved of his work. After weeks of waiting and calling the Department of Labor and Dr. Stappenbeck’s nurse, his report was reviewed by Workmen’s Comp. It was not what they wanted to see so they sent it back to Dr. Stappenbeck with instructions for him to clarify his report. This was not good enough so they sent it back to Dr. Stappenbeck for further clarification. I am sure they were hoping that he would change his report. During all this time, I was seeing my doctors. Dr. Serrato wrote to Workmen’s Comp. on my behalf while all of this was going on. Finally, a decision was made. When I was trying to read the decision, I could not control my emotions. Yes, I broke down and cried. Yes, the decision was in my favor. Based on the well-reasoned opinions of Doctor Stappenbeck and Doctor Serrato, my work related back strain was resolved and my current diagnosis of traumatic myofacial syndrome is a residual of the 1990 work related injury.
In a small statement, I could not have done all of this alone. Mr. Felser was the biggest asset in getting my case resolved. I can’t leave out all the other people that have been there for me. Dr. Serrato has fought this battle with me for the past 10 years. I want to thank the most important person in my life and that is my husband. He has been with me day and night doing everything that he could to help me. I also want to thank God-he has made me go each day and believe me it has been nearly impossible to awake each morning with the pain. I think sometimes to myself, why me, why is my body like this? Without faith and hope, I probably would not have made it this far. Mr. Felser, I am so thankful for your help with this bitter fight with Workmen’s Comp. When I would say, I do not know if I can keep going, Mr. Felser would say, Wilma you have gone this far, keep it up. Without you pushing me on, I sure do not know where I would be today.
To anyone that can relate to my case, I would definitely recommend Mr. Paul Felser to help you. He encouraged me to fight and not give up. He represented me legally in the most outstanding manner that I have ever seen. I’m sure glad he was in my corner speaking on my behalf.