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Should You Hire an Attorney for Long Term Disability Benefits?

 

OBL Partner Erik Berger manages our Long Term disability division and is ready to help you with your claim!

If you have long-term disability insurance and have suffered an injury or illness, you may expect that your company will approve your claim for benefits.    Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to deny claims in order to minimize their losses. If your claim is denied, it can be financially devastating. There is an appeals process that you can follow if your claim is denied so that you can try to recover the benefits that you rightfully deserve to replace a portion of your former income while you are unable to return to your job. However, this process can be lengthy and complicated. Our team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law has the experience you need when selecting a long term disability attorney to fight for your benefits.

If your claim for long term disability benefits has been denied, you will likely need to get the help of an experienced long term disability attorney in order to recover the benefits that you should receive. We can advocate for you throughout the appeals process to help you win approval of your claim. Some of the tactics insurance companies engage in to avoid paying out long term disability claims are unfair. For example, a company may hire an investigator to surveil you and videotape you engaging in different activities. It is common for an insurance company to only show clips from the videos that portray the individual as being more physically capable than he or she is. We may be able to get copies of all of the video footage or seek to suppress it in its entirety.

It may be a good idea to secure representation before filing your benefits claim with your long term disability insurance company. Many companies request information from disability claimants at the outset of their claims that the companies may turn around later to use against them. We can advise you on what information to provide in order to better protect your interests and your claim. It is especially important for you to secure legal representation if a hearing is scheduled for your claim. We can make certain that the record contains all of the medical evidence that is needed in order to support the grounds for your claim.

Read more HERE

 

 

Aetna Reverses its Decision to Terminate Long Term Disability benefits after Osterhout Berger file its Appeal

Aetna terminated the benefits of our client, an Executive Administrative Assistant, after she had been receiving disability benefits for only eleven months.  Our client suffered from significant limitations in the use of her arms and hands as a result of medical conditions to include neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome.

After the client retained us, Attorney Berger obtained updated medical treatment notes and medical opinions from our client’s treating physicians and a detailed vocational report.  Attorney Berger also filed an extensive brief arguing why Aetna was unreasonable in terminating benefits and after a review of all of our submissions, Aetna reversed its previous decision and reinstated benefits, resulting in our client receiving almost one year of past due benefits and ongoing benefits.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office to speak with Attorney Berger if you need assistance with your claim for Long Term disability benefits.

Appeal Deadlines for LTD Claims Extended Due to COVID-19

We have received very good news! People who need to appeal their LTD claims have had their appeal deadline extended because of COVID-19. This means that if you think you may have lost the opportunity to appeal because you were unable to do so during the lockdown, you may still have the rights to appeal!

President Trump issued the Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and by a separate letter made a determination that a national emergency exists nationwide beginning March 1, 2020.

As a result of the National Emergency, participants and beneficiaries covered by group disability plans may encounter problems in filing or perfecting their benefit claims.  In order to address this issue the Employee Benefits Security Administration, Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service and Department of Treasury (the Agencies) have taken steps to minimize the possibility of individuals losing benefits because of a failure to comply with certain pre-established timeframes.

Typically, group disability plans must provide claimants at least 180 days following receipt of an adverse benefit determination to appeal.  Now, all group disability plans subject to ERISA must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the National Emergency or such other date announced by the Agencies in a further notice.

An example of this rule in action is as follows:

Individual E received a notification of an adverse benefit determination from Individual E’s disability plan on January 28, 2020. The notification advised Individual E that there are 180 days within which to file an appeal. What is Individual E’s appeal deadline?

Answer. When determining the 180-day period within which Individual E’s appeal must be filed, the Outbreak Period is disregarded. Therefore, Individual E’s last day to submit an appeal is 148 days (180 – 32 days following January 28 to March 1) after June 29, 2020, which is November 24, 2020.

If you need assistance filing an LTD claim or appealing an LTD denial, contact us today!

Long Term Disability Helps Social Security Disability Claimants

Linda worked for many years as a dentist before degenerative disc disease in her back prevented her from carrying out her normal job functions. She applied for Social Security Disability, but because she was highly skilled and under 50, she was denied at the initial level and was told that she may have to wait a year or longer before actually receiving benefits. She didn’t actually remember her Long Term Disability (LTD) policy until her Social Security disability representative asked if she had purchased a disability policy of any kind that may provide benefits while she waits for the Social Security case to be approved. Her Social Security disability representative immediately put her in touch with Osterhout Berger Disability Law and Erik Berger was able to assist her with her LTD application. Linda’s LTD benefits were approved and provided her with significant monthly payments. The successful LTD claim allowed her to maintain her lifestyle and afford needed medical care which in turn, provided needed medical evidence for her Social Security claim.

 

Erik Berger, OBL Partner, Long Term Disability Division

Erik Berger adds, “LTD claims are very different from Social Security disability cases. While both involve evaluation of complex medical and vocational issues, the huge difference is that in LTD claims the insurance company is not obligated to help the claimant with their case like Social Security personnel are. Therefore, something as innocent-sounding as a mistake or omission in the application itself, or failure to understand what the definition of “disability” is under the LTD policy (it is frequently different than Social Security’s definition), can continue to haunt the case, because the insurance company’s lawyers’ job is to fight the award of disability benefits every step of the way. It is our job from the beginning of the case to make sure these mistakes don’t happen, which gives our clients the best chance of winning their claim as quickly as possible, like Linda.”

 

If you have filed a Social Security Disability claim, and have a Long Term disability policy through an employer or one that you have purchased yourself, take advantage of those benefits! Many times, benefits can be paid out faster through these policies than with Social Security disability. We can work with your Social Security disability representative to provide the evidence needed to secure LTD benefits which can help your Social Security claim by providing an income while you wait and allowing you to continue treatment.

 

If you are a Social Security disability representative, you should be asking every single one of your clients if they have a disability policy through an employer or one that they purchased themselves. Not only can it help them, but it can help you win the case! We will help your client with the LTD application and will share any records or evidence we obtain in order to help you with the disability case. It really is a win-win!

The Hartford Reconsiders its Termination of Benefits

Our client was a College Registrar when she became unable to work due to physical impairments to include fibromyalgia, vertigo, lumbar spondylosis, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depressive Disorder and Panic Disorder.  She received benefits from The Hartford for approximately 14 months before it was determined that she could return to her own occupation. Attorney Berger obtained medical evidence from eight different physicians along with medical opinions from four different physicians.  He also obtained a detailed vocational report and, following a review of all of this evidence and Attorney Berger’s argument, The Hartford reversed its previous decision and reinstated our client’s benefits.

If your Short Term or Long Term benefits have been denied or terminated, please contact Attorney Berger for a free consultation.

Before You Get Furloughed, Consider Your Company Disability Policy!

Many employees continue to work even though they experience limitations from physical or mental limitations.  With the onset of COVID-19, employers are experiencing significant financial burdens and terminating or furloughing workers.  If you are still employed but may be subject to being let go, you need to be aware that if you are let go you most likely will no longer be covered under your Short Term and/or Long Term disability policies.

Most employer-provided policies require an employee to be “actively at work” when their disability begins.  While the term “actively at work” is defined differently depending on the policy, basically it means that an employee must be performing the material duties of his job in the place and manner in which the job is normally performed.  Most importantly, numerous policies exclude eligibility for an employee who has stopped working due to furlough or layoffs.

In these difficult times, employees who are working with limitations need to be aware of their employment status and the possibility that they may be at the top of the list when it comes to furloughs or layoffs.  If you are one of these employees you should consider all of your options and consider whether it is in your best interest to file a claim for disability benefits before it is too late.  Do not hesitate to contact Osterhout Berger Disability Law for a free consultation to discuss any questions you may have.

Receiving Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income? Here’s What You Need to Know About Covid-19

 

Loss of Normal Income

If you receive SSI and either you or your spouse has lost income due to Covid-19, you need to report the loss of income to Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213. By reporting a loss of income, your SSI monthly payment may increase.

 

Stimulus Checks for Disability Recipients

Information about stimulus checks is changing rapidly and it can be especially confusing for individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSD). The most recent advice from SSA helps to clarify:

 

Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients who do not have qualifying children under age 17:

You do not need to take any action with the IRS. You will automatically receive your $1,200 economic impact payment directly from the IRS. You should receive the automatic payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as you would normally receive your Social Security benefits.

People who receive Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability insurance benefits, who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, and who have qualifying children under age 17 and those receiving SSI who have qualifying children under age 17:

Go to the IRS’s webpage to enter your information instead of waiting for your automatic $1,200 Economic Impact Payment. By taking proactive steps to enter information on the IRS website about you and your qualifying children, you will also receive the $500 per dependent child payment in addition to your $1,200 individual payment. If Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients in this group do not provide information to the IRS soon, you will have to wait to receive $500 per qualifying child.

 

The IRS page link above has two options; Filer and Non-Filer. if you normally file tax returns every year, you will choose the Filer option to enter your current information and your child’s information so that you receive the $500 per dependent benefit. If you do not normally file tax returns, select the “Non-Filer” option. It should be noted that the economic relief payments will not be counted as income for SSI recipients and will not compromise SSI eligibility.

 

Garnishment

 

Depending on the state and the creditor, the stimulus funds may be subject to garnishment. The National Consumer Law Center recently released an article, Protecting Against Creditor Seizure of Stimulus Checks. In the article, they detail a strategy to protect Social Security recipients from garnishment:

A special strategy for those at risk of garnishment is available for recipients of Social Security, SSI, Veterans, or certain other federal benefits. A U.S. Treasury rule exempts from garnishment an amount in a bank account or Direct Express card equal to two months of federal benefit payments for that individual. See NCLC’s Collection Actions § 14.5.4.

The protected amount in a consumer’s account need not be traced to the federal benefits—that dollar amount is protected no matter its source. If two months of federal benefits for a Social Security recipient is $2000, their account will be fully protected from garnishment if there is only $800 in the bank account before the stimulus payment is deposited. Once the $1200 is deposited, the total amount is less than $2000. Before the next Social Security or other benefit payment is deposited, however, they will need to withdraw additional amounts to keep the new balance under $2000. Fortunately, benefit payments come on a predictable date each month, such as the second Wednesday of the month.

This strategy comes with a cost, as described above, since it may be more convenient and safer to keep all funds in the bank account than to rush to withdraw cash or make payments from the account.

We will continue to post the latest information pertaining to Social Security and Covid-19 here on our blog!

COVID-19: Applying For Short Term or Long Term Disability

As most are aware, COVID-19 is a serious issue disrupting lives and businesses all across the United States.  Employees who become ill as a result of COVID-19 and are unable to work may be eligible for disability benefits pursuant to their Short Term and/or Long Term disability policies.  If you have been forced to stop working due to COVID-19 and need assistance with your claim for disability benefits do not hesitate to call Osterhout Berger Disability Law for a free consultation. 1-866-438-8773 x 604

Short Term and Long Term Insurance companies are actively adjusting their procedures to deal with the issues caused by COVID-19.  Here are some helpful links if you have a Short Term or Long Term disability policy from your employer:

Lincoln Financial Group

The Hartford

Unum

Mutual of Omaha

MetLife

Guardian

MassMutual

Prudential

If you have any questions or need assistance in filing for Short Term and/or Long Term disability benefits, please call Osterhout Berger Disability Law at 1-866-438-8773 x 604 for a free consultation. 

 

When Insurance Companies Don’t Play Fair

One of the ways we at OBL ensure that we are offering excellent representation to folks whose claim for long-term disability benefits has been denied is to continuously watch federal court decisions being issued in appeals of insurance companies’ denials of these cases. This helps in two ways: (1) to guide us in making sure that our clients’ cases are being developed in the best possible way in light of current court decisions, and (2) to give us insight into the kinds of mistakes (and, frankly, bad behavior) committed by certain insurance companies. Sometimes, we see a trend, and unfortunately, we are definitely spotting one with respect to The Hartford and Aetna’s mismanagement of long-term disability cases, resulting in unsupported and unfair denials.

Read the full article HERE.

Osterhout Berger assists Amazon Employee in her Claim for Benefits from The Hartford

The Hartford denied our client’s claim for Long Term disability benefits due to a lack of medical documentation.  Our client suffered from significant mental impairments, to include a persistent mood disorder and anxiety disorder.  After being retained by the client, who worked for Amazon, Attorney Berger obtained all of the medical evidence, along with a detailed statement from our client’s treating physician and a comprehensive vocational report.  This evidence was enough to persuade The Hartford to overturn its previous decision and award our client her much-needed Long Term disability benefits.

If your Short Term or Long Term benefits have been denied or terminated, please contact Attorney Berger for a free consultation.