Recently our firm has seen a significant upsurge in disability insurance companies including Hartford, Cigna, Aetna and Unum suddenly denying long term disability claims that have been paid for many years. It is the burden of the disabled claimant to remain under medical care for their disabling condition and to periodically provide updates to the insurance company. But often, after years of being on claim, and reaching the point of medical care that is palliative, many people reduce their doctor visits and learn to live with their condition with minor medical care. A recent legal case reminds us that being on claim for a long time does not automatically mean your claim will not be challenged. In Skinder v. Fed. Express Long Term Disability Plan Aetna found Ms. Skinder, a FedEx account executive totally disabled from working in any occupation in 2004 due to a back condition and paid her ever since. Suddenly, Aetna’s medical consultant performed a paper file review and decided that Mr. Skinder was no longer unable to work! The court examined the evidence and determined that the paper reviewer failed to thoroughly review all of the evidence and cherry-picked favorable medical records to support his biased view. Aetna was admonished for failing to advise Skinder of exactly what medical evidence they needed to continue to approve the claim after so many years. The court reasoned, “a denial without new medical information to justify that decision should be treated with significant skepticism.” Aetna’s failure to “get to the truth of the matter undermines its claim that it used a deliberate, principled reasoning process.”
The lesson of this case is, to stay on top of your medical proofs, be sure that you keep up with periodic medical evaluations and provide your doctor with all of your symptoms and continuing medical problems so their records are complete. Do not assume that since you have been on claim for a long time, the insurer will just put your file away and not question your disability in the future.
We at Bonny G. Rafel LLC monitor our clients’ cases to be sure that their medical proofs remain supportive of their disability. We are prepared to update the disability insurers periodically to advocate for our clients, as the Voice of The Disabled.