Can a disability insurance company claim an overpayment for social security disability benefits payable to a child as result of the parent’s disability?
Our disability lawyers are contacted on a weekly basis with this exact question. The short answer is that most disability insurance policies contain language that allows a disability company to setoff your monthly disability insurance check by the amount both you and your children receive from Social Security as a result of your disability. Most disability insurance companies have drafted policy language in a manner that makes it very difficult to exclude child disability benefits from your monthly disability benefit check. There have been a few cases around the country in which courts have found that a disability carrier could not seek an overpayment for child social security disability benefits. In these rare cases, the policy language giving the disability company the right to seek an overpayment was not drafted clearly.
For example, you may want to review a Court Order in the case of Carstens v. United States Shoe Corporation’s Long-Term Benefits Disability Plan, (N.D. Calif., Oct. 31). While this case did not allow the disability company to offset child benefits, the policy language was different than the majority of group disability insurance policies. The Cartsens case also discusses many of the other disability cases around the country that dealt with the same issue.
In addition to Carstens, a similar ruling was issued by the Illinois Appellate Court. In Meeks v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., 70 Ill.App.3d 800, 802, 388 N.E.2d 1362, 1363 (3d Dist. 1979), the court disallowed an insurer’s deduction of benefits awarded to the dependent of a Social Security disability benefits recipient.
There are unfortunately numerous cases which establish that a disability carrier can seek overpayment for all social security disability benefits payable. Two of the most quoted United States Federal Court Of Appeals cases are Anweiler v. Aetna and Godwin v. Sunlife. Neither of these cases specifically discussed child disability benefits.
In any disability claim, a disability claimant should retain a disability insurance lawyer to specifically review the applicable policy language regarding an offset for child social security dependent benefits.