long term disability lawyer

As you prepare your application for long-term disability (LTD) benefits, you’ll quickly realize how important your doctors’ opinions are to your claim. Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable discussing their disability with their doctors and avoid these crucial conversations.

In this article, Bryant Legal Group suggests some ways you can broach the topics of your disability and functional capacity with your doctor. Keep reading to learn more.

Your Doctors’ Opinions Carry Significant Weight in a Long-Term Disability Claim

When you apply for long-term or short-term disability, you will have to outline your limitations and why they prevent you from working full time. However, you’ll need more than your word to convince an insurance adjuster that you’re eligible for LTD. You will also need to provide strong evidence that supports your claims. Your physicians’ medical records and statements are essential to your claim.

For example, these reports can:

  • Track your medical conditions’ progression over time
  • Identify when your conditions became disabling
  • Document your reported symptoms and their severity
  • Substantiate your limitations with objective test results — such as MRIs, CT scans, EMGs, and bloodwork
  • Outline your restrictions and functional capacity

This is especially true if you have been seeing your doctor for a long time or if they’re a respected specialist.

However, many of us find discussions about disability, limitations, and our symptoms incredibly difficult. Too often, we resort to telling our doctors that our conditions are “the same as ever” or that “we’re doing just fine.” Rather than sugar coat your symptoms or provide evasive answers, it’s always best to be candid with your medical providers.

4 Ways You Can Bring Up Disability With Your Doctors

Before you apply for long-term disability, you and your lawyer should understand the strength of your medical records and overall claim. At some point, you’ll probably need to discuss your future and ability to work with your doctor.

It’s worth noting that staying positive can help your case. Doctors are always concerned about malingering or when a patient exaggerates their symptoms for financial gain. If you start your discussion with “I need you to say I’m disabled” rather than “Should I file for disability?”  or “Do you think I can work safely?” you might trigger red flags with your physicians.

Here are some simple ways you can start a conversation about disability with your doctors.

1. Show Them Your Disability Journal

We encourage our clients to keep a disability journal that tracks their symptoms and limitations. This information can give your doctor deep insight into your daily struggle and help refine their opinions.

Before you apply for disability, you may want to sit down with your doctor and show them your journal. Then, you can ask them if they think that your reported symptoms would allow you to work full time.

2. Ask for Work Restrictions

Sometimes, a doctor will be uncomfortable completing a disability form but may be willing to outline precautions or limitations that you’d need at work. These restrictions could still help you document your disability.

For example, suppose your doctor notes that you’ll need to take unscheduled rest breaks as needed throughout the day. Most employers cannot accommodate this type of restriction.

Or suppose your orthopedic specialist notes that you cannot lift more than a file folder and need to sit and stand as needed. At the same time, your psychologist indicates that your depression and anxiety prevent you from doing more than simple tasks, and that you may be off-task for significant periods of the workday. When put together, these restrictions may be disabling.

3. Explain Your Plan’s Definition of Disability

Not every insurance plan defines “disability” in the same way. Typically, there are two forms:

    • Any occupation: you cannot perform any work
    • Own occupation: you cannot perform your job

You may have an easier time talking to your doctor about your ability to do your occupation rather than any occupation.

However, even an “any occupation” plan may include additional limitations. For example, many policies state that you are eligible for benefits if you are unable to perform “gainful employment.” In the disability insurance world, “gainful employment” is typically tied to your past earnings.

If you need help understanding your insurance plan’s definition of disability, refer to your Summary Plan Description (SPD) or consult with an experienced disability insurance lawyer.

 4. Ask Your Disability Insurance Lawyer for Help

If you’re not comfortable initiating a conversation about disability with your doctor, you should ask your lawyer for help. At Bryant Legal Group, we understand these conversations can be difficult, so we’re happy to help our clients sort through their complex medical and legal issues.

RELATED ARTICLE: Own Occupation vs. Any Occupation Definitions of Disability

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What Happens If My Doctor Refuses to Support My Disability Claim?

Sometimes, a doctor’s refusal to support a disability claim can feel like a violation of trust. You’ve been vulnerable and asked for help only to be turned away. We understand how that can be hurtful. However, you cannot force your doctor into supporting your LTD claim.

While it’s difficult, try to understand the doctor’s perspective. Some physicians simply don’t want to get involved in disability claims. Others feel like it’s outside their area of expertise and want to focus on the healing arts rather than insurance forms.

If this happens to you, don’t panic. Instead, talk to an experienced disability insurance lawyer. Your attorney might suggest ways to supplement your medical records by using medical experts, functional capacity examinations, and other tools.

You also shouldn’t start doctor shopping — at least until your lawyer suggests you get a second opinion. If your records show a pattern of switching doctors in search of the “right” evidence, it will likely damage your credibility with the insurance company and the courts.

Bryant Legal Group: Respected Chicago Disability Lawyers

Bryant Legal Group’s disability insurance lawyers have decades of cumulative experience handling short-term and long-term disability claims. If you’re considering an LTD claim, it’s time to schedule an appointment with one of our respected attorneys. Please call 312-561-3010 or complete this brief online form.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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long term disability lawyer

Chronic pain is a frustrating and widely misunderstood condition that disables roughly 100 million Americans. A variety of circumstances can cause it — including trauma, surgery, cancer, and nerve damage. Unfortunately, this pain can persist even after the underlying condition resolves.

If you’re struggling with chronic pain, you may be eligible for long-term disability benefits — but don’t be surprised if the insurance company puts up a fight and denies your claim.

In this article, the disability insurance lawyers at Bryant Legal Group explain the essentials of a chronic pain syndrome claim.

What Causes Chronic Pain?

If you’ve suffered from consistent pain for at least three months, you might have chronic pain. Our bodies send pain responses to notify us about injuries and health issues. We have specialized nerve fibers called nociceptors that identify potential injuries. For example, when you cut yourself, your nociceptors respond to the stimulus and send messages through your spinal cord to the brain. Your brain translates these messages into feelings of physical pain.

However, pain sometimes continues even after your wounds have healed and your condition resolves. Doctors believe this type of chronic pain occurs when your nerves are damaged or become overactive, causing them to send false pain messages to the brain.

Physicians define chronic pain as pain that lasts for at least 12 weeks, and it can occur in any part of your body. Common forms of chronic pain include:

  • Arthritic pain related to degenerative joint disease
  • Back pain due to degenerative disc disease and other conditions
  • Cancer-related pain
  • Headache and migraine
  • Nerve pain due to neuropathy and other issues
  • Postsurgical pain
  • Post-traumatic pain, such as after a catastrophic car accident
  • Psychogenic pain linked to mental trauma or psychological conditions

Sometimes, there is a clear cause for your chronic pain; other times, it is multifactorial or idiopathic (without an identifiable cause).

Your doctors’ treatment recommendations will depend on the severity of your pain, your other diagnoses, and how well you respond to conservative treatment. They may prescribe medications and order physical therapy, mental health treatment, nerve block procedures, acupuncture, and even surgery.

Many pain management medications and treatment options carry significant side effects, which can limit your ability to work. Even worse, some people develop intractable pain that is resistant to treatment and medications.

Why Do Disability Insurance Companies Struggle With Chronic Pain Issues?

When you file a long-term disability claim for chronic pain, you may encounter significant skepticism. Disability insurance companies tend to approve cases where there is a clear diagnosis that is substantiated by diagnostic studies like MRIs, CT scans, and nerve conduction studies. However, almost every pain-related claim involves a level of subjectivity, and your pain might persist even after your underlying conditions have stabilized or resolved.

For these reasons, insurance adjusters regularly deny chronic pain — alleging that there is insufficient evidence, that your symptoms are inconsistent with objective data, or that you do not meet the policy’s definition of disability.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Substance Use and Addiction Can Complicate Your Disability Claim

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3 Ways You Can Strengthen Your Chronic Pain Disability Claim

To combat the challenges associated with a chronic pain syndrome claim, you’ll need a well-prepared application for benefits, compelling evidence, and an aggressive legal strategy.

1. Seek Treatment With the Right Doctors and Specialists

When you’re dealing with a complicated diagnosis like chronic pain, it’s best to treat with respected pain management specialists and other highly trained practitioners. Both insurance adjusters and judges give more weight to medical opinions from doctors who specialize in chronic pain than to primary care providers and general practitioners.

For example, if you’re dealing with chronic back pain, your medical team may include orthopedic doctors, neurosurgeons, neurologists, and certified pain management specialists.

2. Don’t Overuse Your Pain Medications

Your credibility is essential in a chronic pain disability claim, since tests and scans may not explain all of your symptoms. If you have a pattern of overusing your medications, going to the emergency department for early refills, or exaggerating your symptoms to get additional medications, you’re more likely to run into problems in your LTD claim.

Furthermore, some long-term disability plans exclude or limit claims that are related to substance use.

Consult With a Disability Insurance Lawyer

When chronic pain is your primary disabling condition, you’ll need to have a well-built claim for long-term disability benefits. Depending on your unique circumstances, this may include statements and opinions from your physicians, evaluations by vocational experts, and a comprehensive review of your medical records.

When you’re dealing with chronic pain, it can be difficult to handle all of these tasks on your own — especially if your pain levels and medications impact your ability to concentrate or finish tasks. Rather than struggling through the process alone, consider hiring a qualified disability insurance lawyer.

Bryant Legal Group: We Fight for People With Chronic Pain

Are you juggling chronic pain and a long-term disability claim? At Bryant Legal Group, we assist individuals in Chicago and throughout the country with their complex disability claims. We have extensive experience handling matters involving chronic and intractable pain and are ready to put that experience to work for you.

If you would like a complimentary consultation, please call us at 312-561-3010 or complete this brief online form.

References
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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long term disability lawyer

Dealing with autoimmune disease can feel like you’re fighting a battle no one can see. Conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and others can silently cause life-changing symptoms that go unnoticed by the people around you. At Bryant Legal Group, we help clients get short-term and long-term disability benefits for these misunderstood conditions.To learn more about autoimmune disease and disability insurance, keep reading.

Autoimmune Disease Is More Common Than You Think

More than 23.5 million people have autoimmune disease diagnoses. An autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and structures in your body. This can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to life-threatening.

RELATED ARTICLE: Multiple Sclerosis and Disability Insurance: A Claimant’s Guide

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disease. While some are very rare, others are incredibly common, like the following:

Lupus

A systemic autoimmune disease, lupus causes your antibodies to harm multiple tissues and body systems. While the most common symptom of lupus is a facial rash, it also causes fatigue, fever, joint pain, organ damage, skin lesions, and chest pain.        

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) covers a series of conditions where your autoimmune system attacks your gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation and other symptoms. Common IBD-related diagnoses include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Multiple Sclerosis

If you have multiple sclerosis, your immune system damages your nerves’ myelin, the protective coating that helps them transmit messages. MS can cause numbness, weakness, motor dysfunction, blurred vision, and other issues.

Type 1 Diabetes

Sometimes called juvenile diabetes, this disease causes your immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Uncontrolled type 1 diabetes can cause damage to your blood vessels, organs, and nerves.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

When you have rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system damages your joints, causing swelling, pain, redness, stiffness, and contractures.

Sjögren’s Syndrome

With Sjögren’s syndrome, your immune system attacks moisture-producing glands in your eyes, mouth, and other body parts. While dry eyes and dry mouth are the most common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome, it can also damage your joints, nerves, and skin.

Many autoimmune diseases involve periods of remission or stability followed by symptom flare-ups. While some people can control or manage their autoimmune disease with medications, diet, and lifestyle changes, other people’s symptoms are so severe that a stable work life becomes impossible.

Disability Insurance Companies Don’t Understand Autoimmune Diseases

Most insurance adjusters are relatively unfamiliar with autoimmune diseases. They may encounter many claims focusing on cancer, degenerative disc disease, and heart disease, but autoimmune disease claims are less frequent. To make matters worse, autoimmune disease symptoms can vary dramatically from patient to patient. Many symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, are subjective and don’t show up on an x-ray or CT scan. When faced with these “invisible” conditions, many insurance adjusters are skeptical. 

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3 Ways You Can Strengthen Your Autoimmune Disease Disability Claim

To combat this skepticism, it’s in your best interest to submit a well-prepared disability claim with help from an experienced long-term disability (LTD) lawyer. There also are some simple ways you can bolster your autoimmune disease claim. For example:

1. See Your Doctor When You Experience a Flare-Up

If you experience frequent autoimmune disease flares, it’s sometimes tempting to keep your struggle to yourself. Many people decide to self-treat in an attempt to reduce their medical bills—or because they feel embarrassed. However, it’s important that you report your flare-ups and their severity to your doctors.

Insurance adjusters rely heavily on medical records when they process and evaluate disability claims. When you see your doctor, they document your symptoms and their duration. The doctor also reports on your need for medical care. This information can help your physicians create the best possible treatment plan—and their notes can become part of your disability claim’s evidence record.

RELATED ARTICLE: Disability Claimants Must Seek Timely and Adequate Care to Secure Full Benefits

2. Consider Your Medication Side Effects

In a disability claim, the insurance company typically must consider how your treatment plan impacts your ability to work, and this includes medication side effects. This is particularly important in autoimmune disease claims, since many immune-suppressing medications carry serious side effects, like fatigue, nausea, and a decreased ability to fight off infection.

3. Start Journaling Your Symptoms

You probably don’t realize how much your autoimmune disease impacts your daily activities. You’ve become accustomed to the daily fatigue and the unwanted flare-ups, which means you’ve probably adjusted your routine. As you prepare your disability claim, it’s a good idea to start a journal where you record your daily symptoms and activities. For example, you may want to tally up your naps, rest periods, and other adjustments you make to cope with your symptoms.

This information can help you understand the extent of your limitations and provide you with a greater level of specificity when you’re talking with your doctors or the disability insurance company.

RELATED ARTICLE: When Should I Speak With a Disability Insurance Lawyer?

Bryant Legal Group: We Bring a Sophisticated Approach to Autoimmune Disease Disability Claims

When we assist clients with autoimmune disability claims, our attorneys apply decades of knowledge on their behalf. We take a sophisticated, data-driven approach to autoimmune disability claims by carefully reviewing medical records, consulting with experts, and building compelling claims for benefits.

If you’d like to learn more about our innovative tactics, contact Bryant Legal Group online or at 312-561-3010. We’ll discuss your situation and connect you with one of our experienced attorneys.

References
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

Request Your Free Consultation

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

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long term disability lawyer

Do You Know the Deadline for Filing Your ERISA Claim? Even if You Think You Do, You May Be Wrong

While ERISA claims come with many obstacles, one of the most challenging is a disability insurance company’s right to shorten their plans’ appeal deadlines. Unfortunately, courts won’t give disabled workers and professionals who miss these deadlines much (if any) leeway.

Unfortunately, once a deadline expires, it’s usually too late, and you’ll lose your right to benefits. The team at Bryant Legal Group is happy to meet with people who have missed their appeal deadline and will be there to guide them as they take the next steps.

Below, our experienced ERISA lawyers discuss the essentials of plan limitation periods and explain how you can protect your legal rights.

The Essential Steps of an ERISA Appeal

ERISA appeals follow a different process than most insurance-related claims. With ERISA, you can’t just file a lawsuit if your employer-funded plan denies a benefit claim. Instead, you must:

  • File an administrative, or internal, appeal with the insurance company (usually within 180 days of your denial)
  • Participate in the insurance company’s review process and submit additional evidence
  • Wait for the insurance company’s final decision, typically within 45 to 90 days
  • If denied again, file a lawsuit in federal court

In general, the law says you must “exhaust your administrative remedies” before you file an ERISA lawsuit, and the steps above meet the court’s definition for exhausting available remedies. If you submit a claim before you complete the above process, the courts will most likely reject your case.

RELATED ARTICLE: ERISA Appeal Best Practices

However, if you wait too long, you’ll lose your right to benefits. Like all legal actions, there are strict filing deadlines that govern ERISA appeals — but unlike with most contract disputes, the deadline can vary from plan to plan in an ERISA claim. Bryant Legal Group is available to help you pin down your filing deadlines so you can relax and move forward with your life.

ERISA Does Not Have Its Own Statute of Limitations

Unlike most legislation, the ERISA statute does not contain a statute of limitations; in other words, the law for ERISA doesn’t specify exactly how long you have to file a claim. However, this doesn’t mean there is no statute of limitations for ERISA claims. Instead, the time frame for filing an ERISA claim varies from state to state. In Illinois, the courts use a 10-year statute of limitations.

RELATED ARTICLE: What Does It Mean to Exhaust Your ERISA Administrative Remedies?

If that wasn’t complicated enough, insurance companies can also change the deadline for filing claims in their plan documents. So, even if you know the statute of limitations for ERISA claims in your state, you can never assume that it applies. To figure out the true deadline for filing your claim, you’ll need to obtain a copy of your plan document and consult a lawyer as soon as possible.

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U.S. Supreme Court Says Plan Documents Can Shorten Statute of Limitations for ERISA Claims

It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to shorten the state’s default statute of limitations within their plan documents. While many claimants and their attorneys have argued that plan-designated limitation periods go against public policy, the courts have rejected these arguments.

In 2013, The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a plan’s three-year limitation period that began to run before the insurance company issued a final decision approving or denying benefits in Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Acc. Ins. Co. In this case, the plan document clearly stated that disabled workers had to file a federal lawsuit no more than three years after their proof of loss was due. Unfortunately, the claimant, Ms. Heimeshoff, was not aware of this deadline. Instead, she filed her lawsuit based on a deadline of three years from her claim’s final decision, which would have been the correct deadline according to state law.

When Ms. Heimeshoff filed her lawsuit, the insurance company asked the court to dismiss her claim due to the late filing. Both the trial and appellate courts sided with the insurer. 

Eventually, the case made its way to the U.S Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that while ERISA appeal rights do not activate until the insurer makes a final decision, the limitation period can start to run before that date if the time frame is reasonable and does not conflict with a controlling statute.

In Ms. Heimeshoff’s case, she had roughly one year to file her lawsuit after the company made its final decision. The Court found that this was a reasonable amount of time to file a lawsuit and did not identify any state or federal statutes of limitations that conflicted with the shortened limitation period.

The Supreme Court’s decision also emphasized that the plan’s language is at the heart of all ERISA claims and that courts should typically enforce a written contractual limitation period.

RELATED ARTICLE: What Makes ERISA-Covered Plans Unique?

How Can I Protect Myself Against Shortened ERISA Filing Deadlines?

When it comes to ERISA filing deadlines, knowledge is power. Before you apply for benefits, you should:

  • Request copies of your plan document and summary plan description (SPD)
  • Review these documents carefully and note deadlines in your calendar
  • Read any correspondence you get from the insurance company and store the letters in a safe place
  • Consult an experienced ERISA lawyer

Most people can’t interpret an ERISA plan document on their own since these documents contain highly complex structure and language. If you need help understanding your plan’s requirements and your legal rights, contact Bryant Legal Group to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney.

Bryant Legal Group: We Stand Up to Insurance Companies

If you’re unable to work and have questions about a disability insurance claim, Bryant Legal Group would love to hear from you. Our team of experienced ERISA lawyers guides disabled individuals and their loved ones through the ERISA application and appeal processes so they can go forward with confidence.

To schedule your free consultation with an ERISA attorney from the Bryant Legal Group team, contact us at 312-561-3010 or complete our online contact form.

References
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

Contact Bryant Legal Group

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

Request Your Free Consultation

Get the answers and insight you deserve. Our experienced disability insurance lawyers can evaluate your claim and help you understand all your legal options.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.