Articles Posted in Short Term Disability

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.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1], Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is described as follows:

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS, is a devastating and complex disorder. People with CFS have overwhelming fatigue and a host of other symptoms that are not improved by bed rest and that can get worse after physical activity or mental exertion. They often function at a substantially lower level of activity than they were capable of before they became ill.

Besides severe fatigue, other symptoms include muscle pain, impaired memory or mental concentration, insomnia, and post-exertion malaise lasting more than 24 hours. In some cases, CFS can persist for years.

O’Ryan Law Firm, on behalf of Plaintiff, Denise D., recently filed a lawsuit against The Prudential Insurance Company of America (“Prudential”).   Plaintiff was employed by Advance/Newhouse Partnership, which made her eligible for the Advance/Newhouse Partnership Short Term and Long Term Disability Plans, which were administered and insured by Prudential.

Facts of the Case Against Prudential

Plaintiff was employed by Advance/Newhouse Partnership from 2012 until she became disabled in February 2016 and was unable to work due to lupus, fibromyalgia, migraines, spondylosis and radiculopathy. Plaintiff’s treating physicians provided objective medical proof that the Plaintiff was unable to continue working due to these serious illnesses.  Her physicians also confirmed that she was unable to perform the material duties of her job thus meeting the definition of “Disabled” under the Prudential policy.

O’Ryan Law Firm recently settled a lawsuit against American United Life Insurance Company (“AUL”) on behalf of a client whose long term disability benefits were prematurely terminated by AUL.   AUL is headquartered in Indianapolis and has their main office in downtown Indianapolis in the AUL building.  The client, Candace, is actually a New Jersey resident so naturally it would make sense to file the claim in New Jersey.  However, the O’Ryan Law Firm was able to represent Candace in Indiana because of the fact that AUL is incorporated under Indiana law.  As a result, AUL may be sued in Indiana and the lawsuit was therefore filed in the federal district court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Case Against AUL

Candace was employed as an accounts manager for an insurance brokerage company from 2008 until she became disabled in December 2012.  She became unable to work due to lumbar radiculopathy and moderately severe cervical stenosis, both of which resulted in chronic pain and fecal incontinence. Her treating physicians provided objective medical proof that the she was unable to continue working due to these medical impairments.

It’s never too early or too late to hire an attorney to represent you in your disability case. You do not have to wait to be denied by your insurance company before talking to an attorney. We offer several services that can protect your interests. Here are some examples of how we can help:

  • Assist you with your initial application for Long Term or Short Term Disability benefits.
  • Help manage your monthly Long Term Disability benefits.

At the O’Ryan Law Firm, we have represented several clients who have become disabled due to the severe symptoms of Scleroderma.

According to the American College of Rheumatology:

WHAT IS SCLERODERMA?

Digestive disorders can cause a wide range of symptoms including abdominal pain, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and weight loss. Inflammatory bowel disease (“IBD”, not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS) may be responsible for such symptoms. IBD includes, but is not limited to, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. When these conditions are not controlled, symptoms may become so frequent and severe that work is not possible.

Testing and Treatment

To assess IBD, the patient should seek treatment with a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist (GI) is the appropriate specialist to determine which testing is needed, and which treatment options are available. Available tests include endoscopy/colonoscopy, biopsy, blood tests, stool tests, and small intestine imaging. These tests may need to be repeated on occasion to determine how the disease is progressing.

Treatment options for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis vary patient to patient. Some GI specialists may present surgery as an option, although conservative treatment will be attempted first. Typically, adjustments to diet and medications will be offered first. Types of medication options are aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antibiotics, and biologic therapies. A high percentage of Crohn’s disease patients will have surgery, although surgery does not cure Crohn’s – it can only conserve portions of the gastrointestinal tract.

Maintaining Treatment and Recording Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Disabled patients should make sure they maintain treatment with GI specialists, follow their prescribed diet, and follow their doctors’ treatment plans as best as possible. Often, patients will only see their GI specialist on a quarterly basis. Due to the chronic nature of IBD and the possibility that symptoms may wax and wane, it is not possible for patients to see their doctor every time there is a slight change in their condition. Therefore, it is advisable for disabled IBD patients to keep a log of their gastrointestinal symptoms. The log should indicate which days the patient is experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, how long the symptoms last, and which symptoms are occurring. The patient may also want to note any other important data, such as abdominal pain level (rated on a scale of 1-10), what may have caused the symptoms (such as a stressful situation or a change in diet), and medication taken. For computer and smart phone users, there are options to easily record gastrointestinal symptoms such as GI Buddy App (available for iPhone and Android users). IBD patients should provide copies of their GI logs to treating doctors.
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Many Indiana employees receive group disability insurance coverage through Aetna. Headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, Aetna is a large disability insurance company that is currently in the Fortune 100. O’Ryan Law Firm has successfully represented many clients whose disability insurance benefits have been unfairly denied or terminated by Aetna.

Short Term Disability Benefits

Aetna’s short term disability coverage pays benefits after a short elimination period (often a week long). Short term disability benefits usually last three to six months. During Aetna’s investigation of the short term disability claim, it is common for Aetna to gather medical records, gather information about the claimant’s job, require statements from treating providers about the claimant’s ability to work and expected duration of disability, and have internal medical consultants review all medical evidence. If the individual is approved for short term disability benefits through the maximum duration of the policy, then they may apply for long term disability benefits.

Long Term Disability Benefits

After an elimination period that is typically the length of the short term disability period, the claimant may apply to Aetna for long term disability benefits. When a claimant receives long term disability insurance through a private employer, their claim is usually governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”).

In addition to information already gathered during the short term disability claim, Aetna will request updated medical records and statements from treating providers, may perform a vocational analysis, and may have internal medical consultants or external medical consultants review the medical evidence. It is very common for long term disability policies to require that the claimant prove disability from their own occupation for the first 24 months of long term disability benefits and then require that the claimant prove disability from any occupation after 24 months of long term disability benefits.

During the long term disability claim, it is more common for Aetna to utilize claim review tactics such as referring the claimant for an Independent Medical Examination (“IME”), contracting private investigators to perform surveillance of the claimant, contracting peer reviewing physicians to review evidence and call the claimant’s doctors, and perform a Transferable Skills Analysis to see if the claimant can return to work in a different job. If a claimant is approved for long term disability benefits, it is likely that Aetna will urge the claimant to apply for Social Security disability benefits. Aetna may even refer the claimant to one of its vendors to represent them in their Social Security disability claim.
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