Receiving your ERISA long-term disability benefits can sometimes turn into an uphill battle. The insurance company will give you a laundry list of things to do just to apply for the claim. However, it's important that you do a little legwork on your own to make the best of your claim.
Start Doing Your Own Research
Your employer and your employer's human resources department will likely have many things for you to do, but keep in mind that the insurance company has the final word of whether you receive your benefits or not.
When you get right down to it, there's very little your employer can really help you with. You should immediately start doing your own research on the issue.
Gather Your Own Evidence
You should have as much documented evidence in your claims file that you possibly can. The insurance company will likely give you paperwork to have your physicians fill out, but don't leave it at that. You can receive a denial for lack of evidence, even if you submit exactly what you thought you were supposed to.
Instead, request reports and opinions from every physician you see. Gather every shred of documentation you can, including test results from CT scans and MRIs. You can, and should, document your own battles with your disability. This works as evidence too. Keep a journal, take pictures, or have someone film you. Documentation of your struggle works in your favor.
Sometimes, new evidence becomes irrelevant after the fact. If something's missing, you have to go through the appeals process to add in new evidence. Get as much of it as you can the first time around.
Seek Independent Help
Your employer may offer to help, and the insurance company itself may offer assistance. Yes, you should see what they offer, but you should definitely seek out your own independent counsel on your claim. In fact, if you do nothing else, you should at least speak to a disability lawyer like Iler and Iler who is versed in ERISA long-term disability claims.
Having someone represent you can increase your likelihood of having your claim accepted the first time around. Your lawyer will know
- the right questions to ask doctors,
- what evidence will work best for your claim,
- and how you should handle the process from start to finish.
Even if you don't hire a lawyer for the full process, you should at least consult one about which steps you should take. You should still do as much of your own legwork as you can, but having someone with intimate knowledge of the process can only help.