If you have a long-term disability (LTD) policy through your employer, the federally enacted Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) governs your LTD policy. Pursuant to ERISA, your disability application is reviewed and decided by claim administers, usually employed by the insurance company. And in an inherent conflict of interest, it is no wonder denied ERISA claims include even legitimate claims.
There are many reasons claims administrators deny claims. Understanding denied ERISA claims and why they happen could help you present the best application package possible at both the administrative and, if necessary, federal levels. At Uscher, Quiat, Uscher & Russo, P.C., we can help.
Insufficient Medical Evidence
One of the most common reasons for denied ERISA claims is because of insufficient medical evidence.
- Regular medical treatment. It is almost impossible to obtain benefits for a long-term disability claim if you are not receiving regular medical treatment. You are expected to visit you treating physicians on regular intervals, without a break in treatment or frequent cancellations and missed appointments. If so, it would appear to the insurer that your condition is not as serious as you claim it to be.
- Incomplete medical records. Sometimes, denied ERISA claims occur because the claims administrator failed to obtain your complete medical records. Claims administrators have no incentive to ensure they have your complete records. To best way to ensure the administrator has all of your medical records is by providing them yourself.
- Doctor’s statement. A crucial factor in proving your disability is your treating physician’s opinion. The opinion should include your treatment history, diagnosis, supporting evidence of your diagnosis, prognosis, and, importantly, your limitations and restrictions on your work abilities (and daily life).
Not Meeting Your Policy’s “Disability” Definition
Another common reason for denied ERISA claims is because you do not meet the policy’s “disability” definition, which you can find in your policy’s summary plan description (SPD). There are generally two definitions:
- “Own occupation” – you have a disability if you are medically unable to perform the duties of your particular occupation.
- “Any occupation” – more narrowly defined, you have a disability if you are unable to perform the duties of any occupation.
There are LTD policies that transition from “own occupation” to “any occupation” after a period of time, usually 24 months.
Your policy’s SPD also provides excluded conditions. Typically, coverage excludes conditions related to substance abuse or pre-existing conditions. Conditions diagnosed based on your subjective complaints, rather than objective evidence, may be limited to 24 months. These conditions include depression, anxiety, chronic headaches, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Images Inconsistent With Your Claim
Whether you are applying for benefits or already receiving benefits, your insurer may ask investigators to take video surveillance of you. If you are performing activities inconsistent with your claim — e.g., carrying a gallon of milk (about 8 lbs) even though your physician states you cannot carry more than 5 lbs — the insurer can use the images to support a denial. This is true even if it does not prove you’re disabled.
For example, people diagnosed with fibromyalgia report having “good and bad days.” If you they have you on video on your “good day,” it is enough proof to support a denial or termination of your benefits.
ERISA claims are denied also because of images found in your social media. This may include pictures of you skiing even though you claim your chronic back pain restricts your ability to work.
Note the deadlines for filing and appealing your claim. For instance, ERISA gives you 180-days to appeal your initial denial. Failure to do so could waive your right to appeal even in federal court.
Contact a New Jersey ERISA Attorney If You Have a Denied ERISA Claim
For more information about why ERISA claims are denied, or if your claim has been denied, contact our seasoned ERISA attorney with Uscher, Quiat, Uscher & Russo, P.C. at 1-800-797-5575.