Articles Posted in Short Term Disability

Navigating through the process of obtaining or keeping your short-term or long-term disability includes obtaining supportive statements from your treating physicians.  Not only is it important to collect medical records for your claim but also it is imperative that you garner an attending physician statement that will support your disability.

Prior to filing for short-term or long-term insurance benefits, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your decision to leave work. Once you arrive at your appointment, be sure to take the time to explain why you need their help in the claims process.  If you need a form or letter written, make sure that the doctor explains in as much detail as possible the severity of the symptoms you experience and how they impact your ability to work.

One of the most common reasons for a disability claim denial by an insurance company is due to lack of proof of disability.  Starting the process with your physician should happen prior to submitting a disability claim.  Waiting to file a disability claim until after confirming first that your physician will be willing to provide support will help ensure a positive outcome.

Michael P is a Gulf War veteran who served in special forces with the US Marines during Operation Desert Storm. During his time in combat, Michael was exposed to hazardous chemicals from burning oil wells and experienced firsthand the horrors of war.

After returning home and receiving an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, Michael went to work as an electrician in a heavy industrial manufacturing facility in northwest Indiana. As part of his role, Michael was frequently required to work on cranes and other heavy industrial equipment high above a foundry floor in a facility in which molten steel was transported and poured. According to his job description, he was required to keep electrical equipment such as wiring motors, switches, and electrical mechanisms in good repair and operating condition; install a variety of complicated electrical and some mechanical equipment; and diagnose and remedy trouble quickly to avoid shutdowns.

In June of 2017, Michael was diagnosed with very severe post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) as a result of his combat experience. He also suffered from severe headaches, frequently lasting hours at a time. When he presented for an MRI to evaluate the cause of his headaches, his doctors noted atrophy in the cerebral cortex, a common feature of many brain diseases that is frequently associated with dementia, seizures, and impaired comprehension, often resulting from underlying traumatic brain injury.

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder affecting the brain’s ability to direct sleep/wake cycles and if left undiagnosed, may interfere with psychological, social and cognitive function inhibiting academics, social interaction and work.  People with narcolepsy may experience broken sleep patterns throughout the night or an inability to sleep.  They may awaken in the morning refreshed only to experience extreme sleepiness during the day.

Nearly all individuals with narcolepsy with cataplexy have extremely low levels of naturally occurring chemical hypocretin.  Hypocretin regulates your REM sleep and wakefulness.  While the causes of narcolepsy are not totally understood, much of the research shows that it may result from a combination of factors such as autoimmune disorders, family history and brain injuries

Narcolepsy is diagnosed by clinical examination as well as a detailed medical history.  A physical exam is important to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms but there are two specialized tests, Polysomnogram and Multiple Sleep Latency Test, performed to diagnose Narcolepsy.  Although there is no cure for narcolepsy, some of the symptoms can be treated with medications such as Modafinil, antidepressants, sodium oxybate, and life style changes.  Taking short naps, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine or alcohol prior to bedtime, avoiding smoking and exercising daily are just some of the things you can do to reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy.

Christine W. is 54 years old and worked in marketing for a large network of hospitals and healthcare facilities until she was forced to stop working in early 2018 due to severe back and leg pain resulting from severe scoliosis and flat back syndrome subsequent to Harrington rod surgery. Since that time, she has also undergone major spinal reconstructive surgery and is currently in the process of recovering from that surgery.

When Christine was forced to stop working, she applied for short term disability (STD) benefits through her employer’s disability plan, which was insured by The Hartford. Under the terms of the Hartford policy, Christine was entitled to receive STD benefits for up to 6 months if she was unable to perform the material duties of her own occupation. Because Christine’s medical conditions prevented her from working in her own occupation, The Hartford awarded her STD benefits, which it paid until March of 2018.

In March of 2018, Christine received an epidural steroid injection to treat her back pain, and it provided her with limited relief for 1-2 weeks. Unfortunately, because her treating physician’s records noted that her back pain had improved as of mid-March, The Hartford latched onto this statement and used it to terminate her STD benefits, claiming that she was able to return to work as a result of her improved condition.

A former employee of Mid America Clinical Laboratories hired O’Ryan Law Firm after Lincoln National wrongfully terminated her short term disability benefits and then refused to pay any long term disability benefits.  The client initially applied for short term disability benefits that were offered through her employee benefit plan, although the employee paid all of the premiums herself for the disability coverage.  Lincoln National was the disability insurance company who accepted all of her premiums and agreed to pay her monthly disability benefits in the event she became unable to work due to a serious illness or injury.

The employee suffered from the severe symptoms of Lyme disease including muscle and joint pain, headaches, and disabling fatigue.  The employee treated with one of the best Lyme disease specialists in Indiana, Dr. Kimberly Lentz, whose office is located in Zionsville.  Dr. Lentz reported to Lincoln that the employee had the classic symptoms of Lyme disease and was unable to continue working because of the debilitating consequences of contracting Lyme disease.  Lincoln paid her short term disability benefits for a month but then terminated the claim after they hired a record reviewing doctor to review the records.  After the short term disability was terminated, the employee hired O’Ryan Law Firm to appeal the premature termination of her short term benefits and to assist her with applying for long term disability benefits.

Prior to her serious medical conditions, the employee worked as a medical technician with Mid America Clinical Laboratories for two years.  Her job required her to analyze blood and body fluids, operate sophisticated laboratory equipment and computerized instruments, log data from medical tests, discuss lab findings with physicians, and supervise and train other medical lab technicians.  An extensive amount of concentration and focus was necessary to perform the duties of her position and any mistakes could lead to serious consequences. Mid America is the largest clinical laboratory in Indiana. They complete over 4.5 million tests per year. Mid America is not only located in Indianapolis, but also has over 30 Patient Service Centers throughout central Indiana.

O’Ryan Law firm has extensive experience representing clients in appeals and litigation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which governs most claims for benefits under employer-sponsored insurance plans. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor amended its regulations under ERISA, providing claimants with some additional rights during the process of appealing denials of benefits under plans governed by ERISA.

One important additional right granted under the new ERISA regulation is the opportunity to review and respond to any additional evidence considered by an insurance company during an appeal of a benefits claim denial. This means that if a claimant appeals a denial or termination of benefits and the insurance company sends the file to a reviewing physician, the claimant has a right to read and respond to the report of that reviewing physician before the insurance company can make its final decision on the appeal. O’Ryan Law firm recently took advantage of this new protection to obtain short term disability (STD) benefits for a client who had previously had her STD benefits terminated.

Kim M was a Repair Service Attendant at a large telecom company and was forced to stop working in early 2017[1] as a result of failed back syndrome, multilevel degenerative disc disease, lumbar facet arthritis, and spondylopathy. After she was unable to return to work, she was awarded STD benefits under her employer’s disability plan, which was administered by Sedgwick. However, Sedgwick terminated Kim’s STD benefits several months later, claiming there was no longer sufficient medical evidence to support her claim. In the letter explaining its termination of Kim’s benefits, Sedgwick relied on the opinions of two reviewing physicians who asserted that Kim was not disabled.

The O’Ryan Law Firm has sued Cigna on behalf of a Subaru employee who became disabled, was paid short term disability benefits but then Cigna denied his long term disability benefits.  The client was a Warehouse Associate with Subaru of America for several years.  His job at Subaru as a Warehouse Associate included the following responsibilities:

  • Reading production schedules, customer orders, work orders, shipping orders and requisitions to determine items to be moved, gathered or distributed.
  • Conveying materials and items from receiving or production areas to storage or to other designated areas by hand, hand-truck, or electric hand-truck.

Psoriatic arthritis is a painful and often debilitating form of arthritis that affects some people who suffer from psoriasis, a common autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells and tissue in the body’s skin and joints.[1] This abnormal immune response causes inflammation in the joints and overproduction of skin cells, often causing the skin to form red, scaly patches that may be itchy and painful.[2] Both psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis are chronic diseases that get worse over time, but the symptoms of the diseases often fluctuate, with many patients experiencing periods of unbearably intense symptoms alternating with periods of remission in which the symptoms largely disappear.

Although there is no known cure for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, both conditions can be effectively managed with a range of treatments including medications and lifestyle measures such as moisturizing, quitting smoking, and managing stress. Most people experience significant relief when their psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are properly treated. For example, since announcing that he was being treated for a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis in late 2010, professional golfer Phil Mickelson has gone on to win five tournaments, including the 2013 British Open.[3] However, in some cases the disabling symptoms of psoriatic arthritis may persist despite treatment.

Because the persistent inflammation associated with psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage over time, early detection is essential to an effective treatment regimen. When the disease is not diagnosed promptly, it is much more likely to lead to severe and permanent symptoms that may be permanently disabling. To diagnose psoriatic arthritis, rheumatologists look for swollen and painful joints, certain patterns of arthritis, and skin and nail changes typical of psoriasis. X-rays often are taken to look for joint damage. MRI, ultrasound or CT scans can be used to look at the joints in more detail. Blood tests may be done to rule out other types of arthritis that have similar signs and symptoms, including gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In patients with psoriatic arthritis, blood tests may reveal high levels of inflammation and mild anemia but labs may also be normal. Anemia is a condition that occurs when the body lacks red blood cells or has dysfunctional red blood cells. Occasionally skin biopsies (small samples of skin removed for analysis) are needed to confirm the psoriasis.

Human immunodeficiency virus, commonly known as HIV, is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These special cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS.[1]

Over the past three decades, revolutionary advances in treatment have dramatically improved the prognosis of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Although no known cure for HIV/AIDS exists, modern treatments have rendered the disease highly manageable. However, while an HIV/AIDS diagnosis is no longer an almost certain death sentence, it still carries the risk of a number of severe, often disabling symptoms.

HIV/AIDS is most frequently treated with antiretroviral medications, which slow the growth of the virus in the patient’s bloodstream, allowing the patient’s immune system to recover and fight off the virus until it is undetectable in blood samples.[2] These medications are typically administered in the form of a single pill that contains a “cocktail” of multiple different antiretroviral drugs. Although these drug cocktails are highly effective in fighting HIV and can essentially eliminate it from a patient’s bloodstream, “reservoirs” of the virus remain in the patient’s body and allow the virus to return to dangerous levels if the patient ceases properly adhering to an antiretroviral treatment regimen.[3] This means that even after patients’ viral loads become undetectable in blood tests, they must continue to adhere to their antiretroviral treatment regimen for the rest of their lives. It is also common for HIV/AIDS patients to have to switch from one antiretroviral drug cocktail from another after the HIV virus in their bodies develop an immunity to one or more of the antiretroviral drugs in the cocktail, so HIV/AIDS patients are always at risk of contracting serious illnesses when their immune systems become compromised due to newly-developed resistances.[4]

Urinary incontinence is a surprisingly common problem that affects millions of Americans, and is described by the Mayo Clinic [1] as follows:

Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease discomfort or stop urinary incontinence.