This Veterans Day, we honor one of our own: Mike Bales, ATP, CRTS.
Between 1984 and 1988, Mike served as a U.S. Marine in Field Artillery, completing several tours of duty in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and the Far East. A month after his honorable discharge, he entered the medical equipment field and moved into rehabilitation in 1998.
Now with ATF Medical, Mike works directly and indirectly with injured workers, mostly in the Appalachian coal mining regions of Virginia, near West Virginia. He provides invaluable mobility solutions for older coal miners and other workers.
Mike, we deeply appreciate your service, both as a Marine and as a Rehab Specialist. Thank you for your unwavering commitment and contributions.
As ATF Medical grows, we have strengthened our executive team, most recently with the addition of Jim Rogalsky as Vice President of Client Services.
Jim is a 35+ year veteran of workers’ compensation, mostly with ancillary services companies. (Ancillary care services include physical therapy networks, pharmacy benefit managers, transportation and translation companies, home healthcare companies, along with providers of complex rehab technology, DME and home modifications.) CompDME, PhysNet, CypressCare/Healthcare Solutions, and TechHealth are among his past employers.
In addition, Jim was an owner of Priority Care Solutions, a specialty managed care network based in Tampa, Florida. He and his partners ran PCS for over a decade before it was acquired by Genex, which was in turn, part of a merger of companies that ultimately became Apricus.
Jim and his wife Carole live in Lithia, Florida and enjoy traveling and spending time at the beach. They have four grown children and eight grandchildren. One son and one son-in-law also have careers in the workers’ comp industry.
Here’s a Q&A with Jim:
You’ve been involved in workers’ compensation for most of your career. What do you like about comp?
Workers’ compensation is complicated and intriguing. You need to balance the needs of payers to contain costs and for injured workers to receive high-quality care. Obviously, facilitating recovery as quickly as medically appropriate and returning the employee to work is a huge part of reducing claims cost. Plus, it’s a relationship-oriented industry. People tend to know each other, form friendships, and want to work with each other.
How did your interest in catastrophic claims come about?
Priority Care Solutions served several municipalities and water and power agencies, so we saw several gunshot wounds, falls, burns, and electrocutions. Providing complex rehab technology, home modifications and vehicle mods to people with catastrophic injuries like these is immensely fulfilling. You can actually see how you are helping people and changing their lives.
How did you learn about ATF Medical?
I’ve known about the company for years and tapped ATF Medical’s services for all my previous companies.
What does “VP of Client Services” mean in our company?
Essentially, a client services department creates and strengthens bonds between a company and its clients. Client services departments look for ways to improve and enhance relationships and generate more referrals from existing clients. The lessons learned are applied to new business development as well.
We want to be sure that clients are satisfied with all ATF Medical services. Did they receive immediate responses to their questions or referrals? Were there unnecessary delays in delivering equipment? Are repairs made as quickly as possible? Do reports and updates come in formats that clients can easily use?
I also follow up with referral sources to determine the reason for order cancellations. Sometimes it’s because the proposal is higher than another company’s and we can look for ways to shave some costs or more thoroughly explain the recommendations, service levels, and pricing.
Doing this can salvage a proposal and build rapport with claims representatives. It gives us an opportunity to tell them about our all-encompassing, patient-centric approach and how we take work off their desks.
We also want to get involved earlier in complex claims. By reaching out to hospital case managers and nurses, we can monitor a claim’s progress, help with discharge planning, and make sure everything is in place when the worker comes home from the hospital or rehab center.
What do you think about the way the industry is today? What are some of the challenges we face?
The industry is in flux. There has been so much consolidation in recent years with boutique (ancillary provider) companies being purchased by larger conglomerates that there aren’t many players left. In addition, Baby Boomers are retiring so you’re losing adjusters with 20 to 30 years of experience.
The way we market has changed. Fee schedules have been beaten down to practically nothing, and networks can’t afford to offer 20-30% discounts like they did in the past.
As far as challenges go, COVID-19 radically changed how we work. With the move to remote and hybrid workplaces, we don’t have the face-to-face access to prospects and clients that we did. Zoom and Teams are a way of life, and not the best methods of communication. I think that negatively impacts relationships, making it harder to form bonds and renew friendships. LinkedIn can help, but it doesn’t replace face-to-face, in-person meetings. Conferences and webinars are becoming more important.
A lot of new technology has entered the market. New power chairs and cushions and new features come to market all the time. The good news for us is that it takes credentialed and experienced specialists to determine which will work better for a particular injured worker in a particular home or work environment.
If you haven’t had a chance to meet Jim yet, email him and introduce yourself.
Kayla Gast joined the ATF Medical team as Rehab Coordinator II in Rehab Technology in May. She is in Shawano, Wisconsin and has lived in that area her whole life. She enjoys having her whole family nearby.
After earning her Associate of Science degree in nursing, she became a Care Manager Support Assistant for Humana and later moved to Healthy Transitional Living, where she worked with foster children.
She went on into the fast-paced world of a 911 operator in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area. The job demanded effective communication skills, including active listening, empathy and attention to detail. She had to multi-task and stay calm under pressure. Perhaps the most important thing she learned from the position, though, was how to manage stress.
Kayla entered the workers’ comp industry as a Work Comp Specialist when she joined CorLife, a division of NuMotion, in 2022. She must have done very well because she received the CorLife Associate of the Year Award that year and was promoted to Senior Work Comp Claims Specialist. In that role, Kayla communicated consistently and in detail with carriers, injured workers, vendors and others. She also reviewed new claims and created a plan of action to achieve favorable outcomes. And she honed her stress management skills.
What does she like about workers’ compensation?
Kayla says the difficulty of it all appeals to her—the challenge of completing a solution for an injured worker.
“You have to be careful about what you say, and how you say it,” she noted. “And you need a lot of empathy for the injured worker. They didn’t go to work expecting to get hurt. We can help them adapt to all changes they are experiencing and make their new life a little easier.”
Kayla’s dog, Maverick
How is working at ATF Medical?
She likes the openness of ATF Medical and getting to know everyone. “The culture here is very welcoming and not only focuses on you as an employee but also as a person,” Kayla said.
Working remotely for the first time is an adjustment, but being home with her cat and dog is a nice change of pace and she doesn’t miss driving 45 minutes each way to work.
How does she spend her leisure time?
When not on the job, Kayla hangs out with her family and friends, enjoys boating and swimming at the lake. She also likes to travel and wants to do more of it.
Please welcome Kayla to the team or say hello if you’re already connected. Welcome Kayla to the team. Maybe you can share some tips on how you manage the remote work lifestyle and get some stress management techniques from her. Email her firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cassie Kratz recently joined ATF Medical, bringing eight years of claims management and direct patient care to her Rehab Coordinator II/Rehab Technology position at ATF Medical.
Most recently as a Senior Claims Specialist for CorLife, the workers’ comp division of NuMotion, she managed day-to-day claims operations and supported a team of Claims Specialists. Cassie is accustomed to coordinating durable medical equipment and complex rehab technology along with vehicle modifications for injured workers.
How did her career progress?
While attending the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point, Cassie worked as a Direct Support Professional Caregiver at Innovative Services. She served a wide range of people with severe disabilities, including non-verbal quadriplegics, and assisted clients with activities of daily living. This included helping them use Hoyer Lifts and other DME.
“That job showed me the importance of locating the correct equipment and supplies based on an individual’s physical capabilities,” Cassie said.
After graduating with a degree in Health Science, she became an Adult Instructor with the CP Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She assessed client performance in specific skill areas and followed physical and occupational therapists’ plans to promote range of motion and independence. And she planned the curriculum for patient educational programs and taught some of them.
Intrigued with complex rehab technology, Cassie moved to CorLife in 2020, where she was introduced to workers’ comp. And she likes it.
“There’s a slight difference in someone who had a disability their whole life, and someone who wants to regain the independence they had prior to the injury,” she said. “Also, the workers’ comp CRT is more sophisticated. It’s never stagnant, there are always newer models and features that can help someone become independent. I’m always learning.”
Speaking of learning, Cassie appreciates how helpful ATF Medical’s technicians are. “They have super busy schedules and caseloads, but they still make time to explain something to me or get on a call with a client to talk through options. I am not alone when trying to solve a problem.”
Cassie, who lives just outside of Green Bay in the village of Luxemburg, has two sassy corgis that keep her busy. She also likes to bake and go boating. And she used to play in a volleyball league, but recently had to slow down because Cassie and her fiancé are expecting a baby! Hopefully, the corgis will approve of the new addition to the family.
Congratulate Cassie on the new position and the baby! Her email is email@example.com.
WorkCompWire just published an insightful article on bariatric equipment by our Kevin Wallace, ATP, CRTS, Rehab Technology Specialist.
Not only does Kevin bring over 30 years of knowledge and patient care experience to the topic, but he brings a deep level of sensitivity and compassion.
The topic is a tricky one – equipping a claim for an obese injured worker. When Kevin started working with obese patients, bariatric beds, wheelchairs, and other equipment were so heavy and unsightly that injured workers refused to use chairs outside their homes or have people over to visit.
Fortunately, the industry gave bariatric equipment a makeover and the newer, cooler wheelchairs, beds and equipment help overcome embarrassment and isolation. The concept of inclusivity has finally reached this segment of the market.
Although she oversees all our rehabilitation services, our Executive Director of Rehab Technology Erin Zablocki has a special love for adaptive housing solutions for injured workers. So it comes as no surprise that she recently became licensed as a Minnesota Certified Accessibility Specialist.
Erin took a day-long class on the scoping and technical criteria of the Minnesota Accessibility Code and commercial building plan review and then sat for the exam. She has added AS to the long list of initials after her name. Erin was already a Certified Environmental Access Consultant (C.E.A.C.) and was one of the first five people in the country to earn the Master C.E.A.C. certification. Since she also holds the Executive Certificate in Home Modification (ECHM) and Certified DME Specialist (CDME) certifications, you can address her as Erin Zablocki, CDME, Master C.E.A.C., ECHM, AS.
ATF Medical strongly supports the professional development of our team members. Making the effort to earn certifications and licenses shows dedication to grow in their fields, and expand their expertise. And staying on top of the new products, technologies, and techniques empowers our specialists to provide the most appropriate mobility, accessibility, and rehab solutions to workers’ comp patients.
Give Erin a shout-out! Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advances in complex rehab technology continue to redefine accessibility and independence for injured workers. And manufacturers continue to refine their offerings.
ATF Medical stays up to date on the latest, always monitoring new products, features and benefits so we can recommend the best fit for an injured worker. Our Manager of Complex Rehab David Bedard, ATP, C.H.A.M.P. recently checked out Permobil’s new M Corpus VS Power Chair and shared some thoughts.
This remarkable chair combines the maneuverability of mid-wheel drive with an anterior tilt feature, delivering new accessibility and functionality for injured workers.
“A lot of standing chairs have front-wheel drive and can’t turn in tight spaces,” Bedard said. “This new model features a mid-wheel drive, which cuts down on the chair’s footprint when turning.”
Even more innovative is its anterior tilt feature, which enables the seating system to move into a 45-degree anterior tilt. Typically, power wheelchairs come with a posterior tilt function.
“The forward tilt is fairly new,” Bedard explained. “Permobil calls this ActiveReachTM because it allows patients to tilt forward and reach in front of themselves. “This way they can do more activities of daily living, help their kids get ready for school, or use a keyboard. This feature will enable some people to return to work.”
In previous blogs and Linked In posts, we have discussed the many ways standing chairs increase functionality and accessibility. Using one, an injured worker can stand at a stove of standard height, cook their own meals and reach for something from a top shelf.
Healthwise, the standing position empowers the body to work as designed. Standing is good for circulation, bone density, muscle strength, and it helps reduce atrophy. Standing chairs also improve bladder and bowel management because they put people in position to allow gravity to void fluids from the body. This helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). In addition, standing chairs provide one of the best pressure release techniques, helping patients avoid painful pressure injuries (wounds.)
“In fact, standing chairs help people live longer and healthier,” Bedard said.
They also provide all kinds of mental health benefits. Being more productive, being able to look people in the eyes during conversations, and being able to work again are huge. Standing chairs make it easier for injured workers to get out into the world and interact with people. They can stand at a counter to pay for something and more easily reach items on grocery store shelves. or at work and engage with friends. In short, they facilitate confidence and independence.
ATF Medical analyzes the complex rehab technology and adaptive housing options when recommending and developing a cost-effective solution for an injured worker. Standing chairs, for example, can avoid the need for extensive home modifications. There’s no need to lower kitchen cabinets, build pull-out drawers, and install special stoves and other appliances. The new M Corpus VS with its smaller turning radius opens access to tight spaces without major remodels and increases functionality.
ATF Medical focuses on the person’s condition and likely progress when developing a solution for an injured worker. This chair won’t work for everyone, but it will literally change the lives of some.
Why don’t you review your book of claims and let us help you decide which injured workers would benefit from these new features? If you have questions or just want to know more, please contact David Bedard at email@example.com.
ATF Medical is in growth mode! Our newest addition to the team is Abbi Akstulewicz, who has just started as our Director of Payer Partnerships. This is a new position, and she reports to Brendan Swift, working to enhance, grow and establish new relationships with our payer partners, nationally.
Abbi has a strong background in workers’ compensation care coordination, complex care and catastrophic claims management. While studying nursing, she gained hands-on experience with a local home care company where she provided care to adults with special needs and disabilities.
“I have a real passion for helping people that are struggling with paraplegia and tetraplegia,” she said.
Most recently Abbi served CorLife as Supervisor Claims Specialist, Workers’ Compensation, developing and executing strategic plans to achieve favorable carrier and patient outcomes on catastrophic claims.
She graduated from Rasmussen College in Green Bay with a degree in nursing and a goal of going into case management. In 2019, she was hired by CorLife as a Workers’ Comp Claims Specialist.
Abbi lives in Shawano, Wisconsin (about 35 miles from Green Bay) near where she was born and raised.
Her family all live nearby and she cohabits with Finn (the dog pictured with her above) and her cat Boots. She comes from an outdoorsy family and enjoys hiking, fishing and hunting. And she’s also a foodie, who likes to cook and try new food when she’s traveling.
Zorybel Bernabe is the latest member of the ATF Medical family. She recently joined as Rehab Coordinator 1, Rehab Technology
Zorybel works closely with Jaymi Saunders on ATF Medical’s mobility team to ensure workers’ comp patients receive appropriate wheelchairs and other equipment along with equipment repairs. She enjoys communicating with claims representatives of third-party administrators and carriers and is passionate about building relationships with our patients.
“I’m so glad to be in a position where I can work directly with them,” she said. “It’s so rewarding when someone regains mobility after a wheelchair repair. You know you have really helped them.”
Speaking of wheelchair repairs … she has coordinated several in her first weeks with ATF Medical. “It’s given me more knowledge of the equipment, parts, pieces, manufacturers, and product lifespan,” Zorybel said.
Having worked with Orchid Medical, an ancillary medical management company in workers’ compensation, before, during, and after its acquisition by Sedgwick, she brought a good understanding of home health care and workers’ comp to the position. Most recently, she was a Provider Relations Representative. In that role, she built and maintained relationships with healthcare providers, ensuring that they were contracted, credentialed, compliant, and that they provided cost-effective, high-quality care. Earlier she served Orchid as a Senior Complex Care Coordinator, arranging for injured workers to receive appropriate medical services and products.
She honed her care coordination skills in a previous position with Senior Helpers in Orlando, Florida. As Team Scheduler and Coordinator, Zorybel coordinated staff and worked with family members of dementia patients to meet their care needs.
Now she’s working on the solutions provider side, focused on complex rehab technology. And she likes it. “My supervisor Jaymi has given me the best tools and resources and clearly described the different type of referrals and how to do the job,” she said.
Fluent in Spanish as well as English, Zorybel grew up in Orlando, Florida where still lives. She earned her BS in Biomedical Science from Orlando’s Advent Health University.
When not working, she will continue her travels to different Florida cities to sample different types of ethnic food. Asian cuisine is her current favorite.
She has also decided that this is the year to do things that are outside her comfort zone. Any suggestions?
Please welcome Zorybel to the team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re in the Orlando area, think about joining her on one of those food adventures.
ATF Medical is genuinely excited about our new occupational therapist, Melissa M. Smith, OTR/L, ECHM, CHAMP, CAPS.
Melissa has dedicated her OT career to helping injured people obtain home environments that are safe, and accessible, and facilitate mobility. We sat down with her to learn why she became an OT and what led her into an adaptive housing practice.
What can you tell us about occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy takes a unique, holistic approach to working with people. We look at the health conditions—whether they come from an injury or progressive condition—and how their conditions impact them, how it affects their daily lives–what they like to do and what they need to do to take care of themselves. Then we address the deficits they’re experiencing because of the condition. In the case of a back injury, for example, we might modify a job task, so the employee doesn’t repeatedly pick up heavy objects, teach good body mechanics, or recommend a long-handled sponge so the injured worker doesn’t have to bend over to reach their feet. We take a broad view of how the injury affects them.
You seem to have a strong interest in construction, did you ever work in the construction field?
No! Well, I was always been interested in design and function and how it affects a person’s happiness and independence. I thought about being an interior designer, but my interest in occupational therapy was stronger. Keeping people in their home is very important to me because “home” is so much more than a house.
Where did you go to college?
My occupational therapy degree is from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. I also have a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Iowa. Later I took courses to learn more about building in construction, architecture, and interior design at Portland Community College.
Tell us about your early career.
I worked in acute care hospitals in Denver and Portland for several years. I was also a Traveling OT. Like traveling nurses, we work in one location for three months, then move to another. I worked in nine locations, including two stints in Portland. I worked in inpatient rehab, home health, and nursing facilities. I also worked two summers at a camp in Newport, Rhode Island called Shake-A-Leg. We provided occupational therapy for one group of young campers with developmental disabilities and another group of adults who have spinal cord injuries. In addition to general rehab, we adapted different sports, sailing, swimming, tennis…all kinds of sports and that was a lot of fun.
You traveled so much and saw so many cities; why did you decide to settle in Portland?
My cousin and aunt live here and when I was a Traveling OT, I lived in Portland for two, separate three-month stints and just fell in love with the city and area. There are so many cute neighborhoods, with beautiful landscaping and old homes. It’s just a lush, green and very cozy city and the people are very friendly. Plus, it’s ideally situated, just 1.5 hour’s drive to ski resorts in one direction and 1.5 hours to the ocean on the other side. It’s an unbeatable area.
How did you transition from traditional OT to being a clinical specialist on the home environment side?
I read an article in OT Practice Magazine about OTs working in home modifications and thought, “This is perfect for me!” Being a home mod OT merges my medical and interior design interests. Home Mod OTs help people who have experienced disability function better in their own space by making a personalized fit for them.
To learn more about it, I took some certification programs–ECHM, CAPS, CHAMP—and some architecture, interior design, and construction at Portland Community College. I even got my residential contractor license from the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. And I did a lot of independent reading.
And you started working for Kaiser Permanente Home Care Services in 2012?
Yes, I conducted evaluation and treatment sessions, and generated goals and plans of care. I got into the assessment of home environments and recommended medical equipment to promote independence and better accessibility of the home.
By then, you knew you had found your passion?
I did and I started a company, LiveAble LLC, that assessed and modified homes and recommended medical, rehab and mobility equipment. We consulted on remodeling projects to make sure the accessibility and safety goals were achieved. Our patients ranged from young children to adults who wanted to age in place, and we served quite a few injured workers. LiveAble had a contract with the State of Oregon to provide environmental modification consulting services for Department of Human Services clients, including aging adults and people with developmental disabilities.
You’ve worked with so many different types of payer groups. What do you like about workers’ compensation?
Workers’ comp is generally willing to provide people the things they need—rehab technology, remodels, medical equipment—compared to Medicare which doesn’t usually provide home modifications or complex equipment. Because my recommendations are accepted and the changes get implemented, I can see how they improve workers’ lives. I feel I can make a real difference.
I know you haven’t been here long, but what are your first impressions about ATF Medical?
I got such a warm welcome from everyone – this seems like a company that people end up staying in because the culture is welcoming warm and positive. People celebrate others’ wins. It’s very collaborative – and organized!
Is there anything you’d like to share about your personal life?
I’ve lived in Portland for 15 years and have been married for 10. We like to travel, ski, and cook together. My husband teaches technology to middle school students, and we have a dog, Harriett, who is our baby.
I love to design and decorate. My first project was designing a closet through Ikea in a 483-square-foot studio. It took a lot of thinking and planning. In a home that small the closet needs to be very functional!
But my biggest hobby is tennis and I’m on several Portland teams. I’m very competitive in sports and tennis is great exercise and a lot of fun.
Help us welcome Melissa welcome! Email her at email@example.com.
Contact us today!
Our expert staff is ready to oversee the selection, fit, client education and user satisfaction. We take the long view - responding to inquiries promptly and staying in touch, one-on-one - for the duration of the injured workers’ recovery.
4046 Sharpsburg McCollum Rd. Ste. 208B Newnan, GA 30265
Hours 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM EST • Tel 877-880-4283 • Fax 703-497-0377
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