Dell & Schaefer gets Cigna to Reinstate Long Term Disability Benefits for Former Maryland Teacher Suffering from Crohn’s Disease

Our eventual client began working as a 3rd Grade Teacher in the State of Maryland in August of 2010. Due to her employment with the Board of Education of Washington County, she was covered under a long term disability insurance policy that was administered and underwritten by the Life Insurance Company of North America (“Cigna”). This long term policy was to provide her with a percentage of her prior monthly earnings should she be “unable to perform the material duties of her regular occupation” as a teacher.

Because our client suffered from a host of sicknesses, she was forced to stop working and make such a claim in May of 2013. Her sicknesses included: Crohn’s Disease, Idiopathic Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Abdominal Pain, Diarrhea, Nausea and Vomiting, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Arthralgias and Myalgias, Extreme Fatigue, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Mixed Connective Disorder, Hepatitis, Major Depression, Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood and Anxiety.

Within days of stopping work, she applied for and was initially approved for Long Term Disability (“LTD”) benefits by Cigna. In almost record time, Cigna agreed on June 12, 2013 that benefits should be approved and informed her that benefits would commence on August 7, 2013 after the expiration of the elimination period.

Benefits were paid from August 7, 2013 through September 24, 2014. Unfortunately for our eventual client, she received a letter dated September 25, 2014 which informed her that Cigna had made a determination that it was “unable to continue paying benefits beyond September 25, 2014.” Cigna based its decision on “paper” reviews that were conducted by its own employees such as the Claim Manager, Senior Claim Manager, Nurse Case Manager and Medical Director.

“Paper” reviews mean that these people never met with, evaluated or even laid eyes on our eventual client. These individuals merely reviewed the medical records of our client and made a determination as to whether she continued to satisfy the definition of disability. As one might expect, when all the “paper” reviewers work for the insurance company, a certain level of bias is present in the decision making process. And as one may expect, these employees for Cigna all determined that the 3rd Grade Teacher should no longer qualify for disability benefits.

The Hiring of Dell & Schaefer

After waiting for over 3 months, our eventual client contacted Attorneys Dell & Schaefer and spoke with Attorney Alexander Palamara on January 7, 2015. Attorney Palamara requested that she immediately send him the September 25, 2014 denial letter as time was of the essence to challenge Cigna’s decision to deny.

A quick look at the denial letter easily revealed the inconsistencies and ineptness of Cigna’s reviews and decision. After speaking with our eventual client, there was no question that due to her various disabling conditions she should continue to satisfy the definition of disability under the Policy governing her claim. Within hours of the initial consultation, Dell & Schaefer agreed to take on her case and to fight to get her back on claim.

Review of the Claim and the Filing of the Administrative Appeal

Immediately upon taking on the case, Attorney Palamara ordered a complete copy of Cigna’s file so that he could analyze the reviews conducted by Cigna and so that he could assess the proof of loss our client previously provided to Cigna. Our review of these records showed that Cigna’s reviews were weak and that the medical records and support of her treating physicians were quite strong.

After the review of the pertinent material was completed and updated medical records received, a timely administrative appeal was filed for the purpose of overturning Cigna’s previous decision. This appeal focused on the objective evidence found in the medical records that overwhelmingly supported that our client continued to be “unable to perform the material duties of her regular occupation” as a teacher. Our appeal also noted errors in the paper reviews of Cigna’s employees.

By way of a letter dated May 21, 2015, we received word that Cigna had made a determination that “the prior decision should be overturned.” As such, our client’s claim was being reinstated and all past benefits were to be paid immediately. Our client and our firm were very pleased that Cigna had decided to correct its previous error. Although we are happy, we are not content as the fight will continue. Our client knows that after 24 months of benefits are paid, what it means to be disabled changes under her policy. At that point we will have to prove to Cigna that she is “unable to perform the material duties of any occupation for which… she may reasonably become qualified based on education, training or experience.” At that time, because it becomes more difficult to qualify for benefits, an additional fight may begin. However, our client knows that we will do whatever it takes to see that she remains on claim until she is ready and able to return to work or until her policy expires at age 65. If you have been denied disability benefits by Cigna or any other disability insurance company, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Alexander Palamara at Dell & Schafer for a free consultation.

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Do you help Cigna claimants nationwide?

We represent Cigna clients nationwide and we encourage you to contact us for a FREE immediate phone consultation with one of our experienced disability insurance attorneys.

Can you help with a Cigna disability insurance policy?

Our disability insurance lawyers help policy holders seeking short or long term disability insurance benefits from Cigna. We have helped thousands of disability insurance claimants nationwide with monthly disability benefits. With more than 40 years of disability insurance experience we have helped individuals in almost every occupation and we are familiar with the disability income policies offered by Cigna.

How do you help Cigna claimants?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a Cigna long term disability insurance policy from an insurance company or obtained short or long term disability insurance coverage as a benefit from their employer.

Our experienced lawyers can assist with Cigna:

  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Appeals of Disability Benefit Denials
  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Disability Benefit Lawsuits
  • Applying For Short or Long Term Disability Benefits
  • Daily Handling & Management of Your Disability Claim
  • Disability Insurance Lump-Sum Buyout or Settlement Negotiations

Do you work in my state?

Yes. We are a national disability insurance law firm that is available to represent you regardless of where you live in the United States. We have partner lawyers in every state and we have filed lawsuits in most federal courts nationwide. Our disability lawyers represent disability claimants at all stages of a claim for disability insurance benefits. There is nothing that our lawyers have not seen in the disability insurance world.

What are your fees?

Since we represent disability insurance claimants at different stages of a disability insurance claim we offer a variety of different fee options. We understand that claimants living on disability insurance benefits have a limited source of income; therefore we always try to work with the claimant to make our attorney fees as affordable as possible.

The three available fee options are a contingency fee agreement (no attorney fee or cost unless we make a recovery), hourly fee or fixed flat rate.

In every case we provide each client with a written fee agreement detailing the terms and conditions. We always offer a free initial phone consultation and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you in obtaining payment of your disability insurance benefits.

Do I have to come to your office to work with your law firm?

No. For purposes of efficiency and to reduce expenses for our clients we have found that 99% of our clients prefer to communicate via telephone, e-mail, fax, sessions, or Skype. If you prefer an initial in-person meeting please let us know. A disability company will never require you to come to their office and similarly we are set up so that we handle your entire claim without the need for you to come to our office.

How can I contact you?

When you call us during normal business hours you will immediately speak with a disability attorney. We can be reached at 800-682-8331 or by email. Lawyer and staff must return all client calls same day. Client emails are usually replied to within the same business day and seem to be the preferred and most efficient method of communication for most clients.

Dell & Schaefer Client Reviews   *****

Jim F.

My employer offered both Short Term Disability and Long Term Disability insurance as optional benefits among others. The premiums were significant, but since they could be payroll deducted I felt they could be reasonably managed and the security of continued income in the event of a medical disability was well worth the investment. As with the purchase of a first aid kit, most would prefer never having to use it.

I have been very fortunate to have had few illnesses or injuries throughout my life and more specifically my 45 year career as a healthcare professional. It wasn’t until early in 2012 that I was diagnosed with a chronic, progressive disease of the eye. Symptoms were minimal at that time, though regular visits to a retinal specialist, including regular therapy by ocular injection, were necessary to slow its progression, the symptoms did not appreciably interfere with my work. In spite of my treatments the condition continued to progress. In early 2014 the symptoms began to interfere dramatically with my day to day duties. My job required significant computer use and the reading of copious amounts of medical documentation. It became evident to me that I could no longer meet the expectation of my management and clinical position without working frighteningly long hours and enduring the relentless eye strain and other symptoms related to the illness.

Though I had always planned for eventual retirement from my full-time position, like most professionals I had hoped to be able to continue to practice my profession on a part-time basis throughout my retirement as long as I remained competent and able. That was not to be. Thankfully, I had the foresight to elect the disability benefit options offered by my company and have the premiums payroll deducted for many years. I notified my supervisor and HR representative that I had to stop working due to my condition and proceed with the disability application process.

All went very well and after using up my accrued vacation and sick time, my short-term disability benefits commenced. Since my condition is progressive and incurable I felt secure in knowing that once my short-term benefits were exhausted my benefits would continue under the long-term policy. However, much to my surprise, after receiving about a month of benefits I received notification from the insurance company that a decision had been made to terminate my benefits due to lack of objective medical evidence to support my claim, though significant documentation had been provided by my retinal specialist.

I was bewildered and unsure of how to proceed with an appeal of that decision. Since I had 180 days to do so, I decided to research the matter thoroughly. In spite of my being a veteran healthcare professional everything I had been reading on the subject cautioned about attempting to proceed with an appeal on my own. Legal representation was highly recommended.

I then began a review of local attorneys, hoping to find one that provided enough documentation on their website that indicated experience with non-social security disability related cases. I was also interested in seeing evidence of some experience with disability cases related to diseases of the eye and resultant vision impairment. I was unsuccessful.

So I expanded my search to include national law firms. It was then that I discovered Dell & Schaefer. After thoroughly reviewing their website, watching many of the video discussions, noting experience with vision related cases, particular documentation related to the insurance company that handled and then eventually denied my benefits, and reading a significant number of testimonials, I decided to request a free consultation as advertised. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

After that consultation, I was very confident that I was in very skilled hands which alone reduced my anxiety level immensely. Attorney Alexander Palamara and his Legal Assistant, Kathleen Bordes, immediately began managing my case, their professional expertise clearly evident.

They worked closely with my retinal specialist, my optometrist and the insurance company in compiling the medical documentation necessary for a successful appeal in an amazingly short period of time, keeping me fully informed all along the way. Shortly after being notified by the insurance company that my benefits would be reinstated and paid through the full term of my short-term policy I received a lump-sum payment.

Once the short-term disability appeal was successfully completed, Alex and Kathy immediately addressed the long-term policy benefits. Again in a remarkably short period of time I was granted those benefits, receiving a lump-sum payment for benefits to date and will receive a payment monthly going forward per the terms of my LTD policy.

I am extremely pleased with how my case was handled and the very favorable outcome. Alex and Kathy were a delight to work with and extremely professional in every way. Incidentally, the fee I paid to Dell and Schaefer for their incredible representation was very reasonable and very well earned.

I highly recommend the services of Dell & Schaefer to anyone who may find themselves in a similar disability-related situation.

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