ERISA LONG-TERM DISABILITY BASICS: THE CONTINUING PROOF OF LOSS
For those who have successfully fought to have a disability claim approved, they want it to stay that way. When the letter arrives from an insurance company seeking an update in status, most claimants begin to worry – and rightly so. As the Western District of Michigan federal court wisely observed fifteen years ago:
“The plan and insurance language did not say, but the world should take notice, that when you buy insurance like this you are purchasing an invitation to a legal ritual in which you will be perfunctorily examined by expert physicians whose objective it is to find you not disabled, you will be determined not disabled by the insurance company principally because of the opinions of the unfriendly experts, and you will be denied benefits.“
Loucks v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston, 337 F. Supp. 2d 990, 991 (W.D. Mich. 2004) (vacated following settlement).
Under the terms of their contracts, disability insurers are entitled to request continuing proof of loss. So, it is also reasonable to expect that that a disability claimant will be called upon to provide updated medical proof of their condition and disability. This does not mean that an insurer may act unreasonably in requesting continuing proof of disability, only that an insurer may reasonably request updates on a claimant’s medical status. For a disability claimant receiving a monthly payment, it should be acknowledged that once the payments begin the claim is not over. The only way to effectively deal with this climate is to get out in front of it.
Here are our suggestions:
- Go to every doctor’s appointment with a list of continuing physical (or if applicable psychological) limitations. Don’t leave a single thing out.
- Document and report every single side effect of your treatment or medication.
- Document and report every unique episode (a fall, a forgetful spell, or a day spent in bed) and timely make your doctor aware.
- Do not miss doctor’s appointments. If you anticipate a problem, reschedule right away. Under no circumstances should it ever be listed that the claimant was a “no show.”
- Make sure the doctor has documented everything before you leave.
- Routinely request copies of your records and make sure they are complete and correct – before they are requested from an insurance company. Best practice would be to request a report be sent to you after every visit.
Successfully securing a disability claim approval is a victory to be sure – yet take care to follow the steps set forth above, or it can be short-lived.