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Sunday, June 24, 2018 1:00 am

Liaison ensures workers' comp running smoothly

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Profile

Name: Allasyn Benjamin

Age: 24

Job title: Workers' compensation liaison for Fort Wayne Orthopedics

Background: Plymouth native earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana State University, where she majored in athletic training, and joined Fort Wayne Orthopedics in 2015 as a clinical assistant.

As Allasyn Benjamin describes her job duties, it is suggested that she is responsible for making the trains run on time. But instead of railroad schedules, she must juggle the recovery routes of people hurt at their workplaces. She is the workers' compensation liaison for Fort Wayne Orthopedics.

Benjamin coordinates and communicates a patient's evaluation or treatment at FWO and its OrthoStat clinics with that person's employer, its compensation insurance provider and those companies' nurse case manager.

“I basically track them for the entire visit. I have a chart system in my office so that I never lose them,” she said at FWO's offices along West Jefferson Boulevard.

“She treats the patient like they're her family member. She is kind, compassionate,” said Geralyn Hagenbush, clinical manager for FWO and a registered nurse and certified orthopedic nurse.

“As far as communicating with the case manager, she's on top of it,” Hagenbush said. “She calls them that day or within 24 hours (of a patient visit) and makes sure the company knows what the treatment plan is. And that is crucial ... because you want consistency and continuity of care.”

Many of the workers' compensation patients are production employees at manufacturing plants, Benjamin said. Others have included police officers, firefighters, teachers and nurses.

“We see anything from simple ankle sprains or repetitive-use injuries to a patient who had a crush injury or a finger amputation,” she said.

Benjamin acknowledged that her job has “a negative connotation to it.” Workers' compensation systems – the employee benefits for medical costs and lost wages, the insurance rates charged to employers and the question of whether compensation systems should tilt in favor of employers or employees – have been fought over since state compensation laws emerged in the early 1900s.

In 2015, the investigative news organization ProPublica compared benefits state by state. The average minimum compensation for the loss of a worker's index finger was more than $95,700 in Oregon, about $24,300 in Indiana and roughly $6,700 in Maryland.

Benjamin said one of her goals “is to help make everyone feel a little more comfortable with work comp in general – just letting them know it really isn't as scary as it seems.”

Hagenbush said: “You have to be really detail-oriented with this job, and Allasyn does an awesome job with that. She makes sure that all her t's are crossed and her i's are dotted.”

Benjamin sometimes has to tell an employer that a patient should not resume the type of work that caused or aggravated an injury or ailment. “It's a difficult conversation, but it does happen,” she said.

bfrancisco@jg.net