New Department of Labor Regulations for ERISA Disability Claims

Over the past few months we have been seeing an increase in denial letters from various insurance companies that contain information not previously seen. This information includes a notice of claimant rights written in multiple languages, and in the case of final denials of benefits the notification to claimants of the exact date the Statute of Limitations to bring a lawsuit under ERISA to seek one’s benefits will expire. The inclusion of these items was an early rollout by various insurance companies in advance of the Department of Labor’s new disability claim regulations set to take effect on April 1, 2018.

From the perspective of a plaintiff’s attorney representing people trying to secure disability insurance benefits, there are two key regulation changes that we believe are most beneficial to the claimant/insured: the “Right to Review and Respond to New Information Before Final Decision” and “Deemed Exhaustion of Claims and Appeal Processes.” These changes are a direct result of the efforts by plaintiffs’ attorneys to convince Courts for the need of such changes.

First, and the most important as it relates to the administrative appeal process is the right of the insured while their claim is under an administrative appeal review by the insurance carrier to review any new evidence created by the insurance carrier during the appeal review process and respond to same. The Department of Labor states:

Right to Review and Respond to New Information Before Final Decision. The final rule prohibits plans from denying benefits on appeal based on new or additional evidence or rationales that were not included when the benefit was denied at the claims stage, unless the claimant is given notice and a fair opportunity to respond.

The “new evidence” addressed is assuredly meant to target at any medical reviews conducted at the request of the insurance company in response to the insured’s administrative appeal. Prior to this formal change in regulation an insurance company did not have to provide the insured with a copy of any new information and/or medical review reports created during the appeal review. This in turn prevented an insured from being able to respond to the opinion(s) of the insurance company’s doctor(s). Although some insurance companies have commonly provided medical review reports to an insured with a request that the insured’s doctors respond to same before a final decision is rendered, it is now a requirement. It appears that gone are the days when an insurance company can deny an administrative appeal without affording a claimant the right to respond to the very medical opinions that the company is relying on to deny their appeal.

The second regulation change that greatly expands the rights of the insured is a requirement by the insurance company to strictly adhere to claims procedures. Per the Department of Labor:

Deemed Exhaustion of Claims and Appeal Processes. If plans do not adhere to all claims processing rules, the claimant is deemed to have exhausted the administrative remedies available under the plan, unless the violation was the result of a minor error and other specified conditions are met. If the claimant is deemed to have exhausted the administrative remedies available under the plan, the claim or appeal is deemed denied on review without the exercise of discretion by a fiduciary and the claimant may immediately pursue his or her claim in court. The final rule also provides that the plan must treat a claim as re-filed on appeal upon the plan’s receipt of a court’s decision rejecting the claimant’s request for review.

This change is intended to overturn years of case law, which had determined that only “substantial compliance” with the regulations was required. This requirement to strictly adhere to claims procedures could open the door to claimants being able to terminate the claims process and file a lawsuit to determine if an error occurred and whether the error on the part of the insurance company was more than minor. According to the Department of Labor, if the error is deemed to be more than minor then the deference a Court may normally provide to the insurance carrier will no longer be in place and the insured’s claim would be entitled to a “de novo” review. In ERISA litigation a de novo review is the best standard of review an insured can obtain. However, it will remain to be seen how Courts address this regulation change as it conflicts with case law in many jurisdictions as well as case law set forth by the Supreme Court. Regardless, this regulation change will help guarantee that insurance companies will comply with claims procedures and hopefully end the seemingly endless delay tactics many companies employ when rendering a decision on a claim.

It remains to be seen if the Department of Labor’s regulation changes will make a noticeable impact to the benefits of insureds and claimants, but the fact that changes are being made is a step in the right direction to protect insured’s rights under ERISA governed disability insurance policies. For more information about the regulation changes, please feel free to review the Department of Labor’s fact sheet regarding same.

If you are currently on disability or thinking about filing a disability claim and wanted to know how these regulation changes affect you, please do not hesitate to reach out to speak to one of our disability insurance attorneys.


Did you find this helpful?
Unhelpful (0)

Resources to Help You Win Disability Benefits

Disability Benefit Denial Options
Submit a Strong Appeal Package

We work with you, your doctors, and other experts to submit a very strong appeal.

Learn more

Sue Your Disability Insurance Company

We have filed thousands of disability denial lawsuits in federal Courts nationwide.

Learn more

Protect Your Benefits
Get Your Disability Application Approved
We help claimants throughout the entire application process.

Learn more

Prevent a Disability Benefit Denial
We manage every aspect of your disability claim following claim approval.

Learn more

Negotiate a Lump-Sum Settlement

Our goal is to negotiate the highest possible buyout of your long-term disability policy.

Learn more

Disability Company Reviews
(642)
Showing 8 of 642 Reviews
Sedgwick

AT&T Was Great and Sedgwick Horrible

Reviewed by From a great job to a complete nightmare on March 20th 2024   Verified Policyholder | March 2024 date of disability
My Physician recommended that I take some time from a toxic environment after several deaths in my family coupled with AT&T trying to run tenured employees out of the door... read more >
New York Life

Keeps claiming they will not approve claim for pre existing conditions but my illness is not preexisting

Reviewed by M.T. on February 15th 2024   Verified Policyholder | May 2023 date of disability
I have been appealing a claim for LTD for 8 months! New York Life keeps claiming they will not approve claim for pre existing conditions but my illness is not preexisting ... read more >
Reliance Standard

Staff Lie

Reviewed by Tanya on February 12th 2024   Verified Policyholder | August 2021 date of disability
I had my disability cut off the day I was scheduled to find out whether I should have surgery. The claims examiner was aware that I had an appointment on that date and sai... read more >
Reply
Sent on February 12th 2024 by Attorney Gregory Dell

I am sorry to hear about your experience. It’s crazy that Reliance Standard would deny your disability benefits when you are suffering so badly that you need surgery.... read more >

Hartford

Former Hartford employee has had life insurance and accidental death policy's revoked for one late premium payment

Reviewed by Becky H. THOMAS on February 12th 2024   Verified Policyholder | February 2024 date of disability
Dislike how they are constantly interrupting the lives of their disabled EE's whom are entitled to benefit which they paid into out of there pay check every pay period onl... read more >
Reply
Sent on February 12th 2024 by Attorney Gregory Dell

Thank you for your review of Hartford and we appreciate you sharing.  It’s sad they don’t take care of their own employees.

Lincoln Financial

Never received benefits my entire leave - or help with them

Reviewed by Anna on December 19th 2023   Verified Policyholder | November 2023 date of disability
I used my short term disability insurance for maternity leave and started the process beforehand knowing when I would be out (scheduled induction.) It took a little over a... read more >
Sun Life

Unscrupulous Tactics

Reviewed by Misseekayy on December 19th 2023   Verified Policyholder | May 2023 date of disability
Sunlife uses unscrupulous tactics in order to prevent payment of claims. They wait until it is close to the 30 day mark and then they ask for another form of information o... read more >
Sedgwick

Lame

Reviewed by Dennis T. on December 11th 2023   Verified Policyholder | March 2022 date of disability
My experience with Sedgwick and personell is as follows: Unhelpful, unprofessional and an overall unpleasant experience.
Unum

Low payments

Reviewed by Dorothy on November 30th 2023   Verified Policyholder | November 2023 date of disability
I was injured at work. I did house keeping in a hospital. I tore just about everything imaginable in my knee. I was let go from my job, because I was no longer able to do ... read more >
Answered Questions by Our Lawyers
(0)
Helpful Videos
(896)
Showing 12 of 896 Videos
Disability Benefit Tips
(331)
Showing 8 of 331 Benefit Tips

Why Must Your Disability Insurance Lawyer Understand Your Disabling Condition?

When it comes to securing your long term disability benefits, it's vitally important that you... Read More >

Disability Benefit Denial Reason #5 – Your Medical Evidence is Weak

If you're seeking long term disability benefits from an insurance company, you may be concern... Read More >

Disability Benefit Denial Reason #4 - Your Doctor Is Misled By the Disability Company

When you're seeking disability benefits under a long term disability policy, your medical rec... Read More >

Disability Benefit Denial Reason #3 - Video & Social Media Surveillance

One thing many long term disability claimants don't know about (or expect) from the claims re... Read More >

How Do You Fight a Long-Term Disability Denial?

Getting a denial letter from your disability insurance company is one of the ultimate insults... Read More >

Disability Denial Reason #2 - Change of Disability Definition & Vocational Review

One of the top reasons for terminating a claimant's long term disability benefits involves th... Read More >

Disability Denial Reason #1 – Paper Review & IME

At Dell Disability Lawyers, we've seen insurance companies give countless reasons to deny lon... Read More >

How to Apply for Reliance Standard Disability Benefits & Top 5 Reasons for a Claim Denial

At Dell & Schaefer we’ve handled hundreds of long term disability insurance claims against Reliance Standard, and have learned a few thi... Read More >
Dell Disability Cases
(375)
Showing 8 of 375 Dell Disability Cases

Seven Surgeries and The Standard Still Denies Long Term Disability Benefits

Our client was employed with the State of Oregon as a Technical Support Representative. She s... Read More >

Sun Life Wrongfully Denies Disability After Paying For 23 Months

We represent a 57 year-old claimant who’s occupation was selling commercial vehicles for ma... Read More >

Transportation Manager with Brain Injury Wins Unum Disability Benefit Appeal

Unum unjustly terminated our client’s long term disability claim after it had approved and... Read More >

Engineer With Depression Wins Prudential LTD Appeal

The claimant is a former Senior Technology Services Engineer for Accolade, Inc. who was force... Read More >

New York Life Approves Disability Benefits for School Teacher With Multiple Sclerosis

Our client, a former elementary school teacher suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, contacted our office after New York Life terminated her clai... Read More >
Disability Lawsuit Stories
(765)
Showing 8 of 765 Lawsuit Stories

Reliance Standard Disability Denial Upheld Due to Claimant's Lack of Strong Medical Record Support

In the case of Amy Wright v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company (Reliance), Plaintiff was the vice-president of... Read More >

Unum Wrongfully Terminated Disabled Lawyer’s Disability Claim of Depression and Anxiety Despite Improvement in His Condition

This Unum lawsuit and appeal in federal court is a great victory for all Unum disability claimants. This ca... Read More >

Federal Court Overturns Aetna Denial Of Disability Benefits

In the recent case of Ferrin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co. a federal judge from the Northern District of Illinois determined that Aetna improperly te... Read More >

Court Finds Irregularities in Procter & Gamble Long Term Disability Benefit Denial

In ERISA cases filed in a district court asking for judicial review of a plan administrator's denial of benefits, the court is generally limit... Read More >

Federal Judge Makes Companion Life Insurance Pay Long Term Disability Benefits

Companion Life tried to play games and deny long term disability benefits, but thankfully a New Mexico Federal Judge made them pay disability ... Read More >

NFL Disability Review Board Ignores Evidence of Disability and Appeal Court Reverses Lower Court Decision

In Darren Mickell v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan (Plan), Mickell spent nine years in the NFL as a defensive e... Read More >

Judge Agrees that MetLife's Denial of Long Term Disability Benefits was Reasonable

In Anne Ehlert v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), Ehlert was a consulting pension actuary for pension plans at Towers Watson.... Read More >

Can Standard Insurance Company’s Failure to Raise an Issue be Considered a Waiver?

The case of Jose Chavez v. Standard Insurance Company has quite a history with the United States District Court for the Northern Dis... Read More >

Reviews from Our Clients

Request a Free Consultation

Our Lawyers Respond Same Day

5 Ways We Help Get Your Benefits Paid

Get Your Disability Application Approved

Our goal is to get your application for disability income benefits approved. Applying for disability benefits can be a difficult process and the information you provide is critical. Most disability insurance companies look at your application in hopes of finding a reason to deny your claim. Your disability company will ask you to complete numerous forms, interview you, request lots of information, speak with your doctors and possibly request to have you examined by their "hired gun" doctor.

Through our experience of having helped thousands of disability insurance claimants, our lawyers will guide you through the entire application process and give you the best chance to get your disability claim approved the first time.

Submit A Strong Appeal Package

If your disability insurance benefits have been wrongfully denied, then our lawyers know exactly what it takes to get your disability claim approved. You only get once chance to submit an Appeal, therefore every piece of evidence that will support your disability claim must be included. The goal is to win your disability benefits at the Appeal level, but while preparing your Appeal you must consider how a federal judge will review your disability claim if your benefit denial is upheld.

Preparing a strong disability appeal package is an art that requires you to understand how the courts interpret your disability policy language, ERISA regulations / laws, and how to strategically present evidence in support of your definition of "disability". We encourage you to contact any of our lawyers for a free immediate review of your disability denial.

Sue Your Disability Company

98% of the disability insurance lawsuits filed by our law firm have resulted in either the payment of benefits or a lump-sum settlement agreement. Our disability lawyers have filed ERISA governed and private policy long term disability insurance lawsuits against every major disability insurance company in state and federal courts nationwide and we love fighting for the "little guy" against the multi-billion dollar insurance company giants.

We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients and we would like the opportunity to provide you with a free review of your disability benefit denial. There are many complex factors in a disability benefit lawsuit and the legal battle to win long term disability benefits can be fierce.

Prevent A Disability Benefit Denial

Approval of long-term disability is a continuous process as every disability insurance company will evaluate your eligibility for benefits on a monthly basis. You can never let your guard down and assume that your disability company will continue to pay your benefits for as long as you think you need them.

Our law firm offers a reasonable flat fee monthly claim handling service in which we handle every aspect of your long-term disability claim and do whatever it takes to make sure you are paid every month.

Negotiate a Lump-Sum Settlement

Let's discuss if a lump-sum settlement or buyout of your disability insurance claim is both available and makes financial sense for you. Our lawyers have negotiated more than five-hundred million dollars in disability insurance buyouts and we know how to get you a maximum settlement. A disability insurance company is not required to offer a buyout and not every disability company offers them.

Questions About Hiring Us

Who are Dell Disability Lawyers?

We are disability insurance lawyers that know how to get your short or long term disability benefits paid. As a nationwide law firm we have helped thousands of disability insurance claimants throughout the United States to collect hundreds of millions of dollars of disability insurance benefits from every major disability insurance company.

In more than 98% of our cases, our lawyers have been able to either get our clients paid monthly disability benefits or obtain a one-time lump-sum settlement. Our lawyers have seen it all when it comes to disability insurance claims and we know exactly what it takes for your disability claim to be approved.

We welcome you to contact any of our attorneys for a free immediate review of your disability claim. We also invite you to visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel where we have more than 700 videos and regularly provide tips to help protect your disability benefits.

Who do you help?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a long term disability insurance policy from an insurance company or obtained short or long term disability insurance coverage as a benefit from their employer. We have helped individuals in almost every type of occupation with monthly disability benefit payments ranging from $1,500 to $50,000.

Our clients include all types of employees ranging from retail associates, sales representatives, government employees, police officers, teachers, janitors, nurses, pilots, truck drivers, financial advisors, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, consultants, IT professionals, engineers, professional athletes, business owners, and high level executives.

A strong understanding and presentation of the duties of your occupation is essential for securing disability insurance benefits.

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 phone, email, fax, GoToMeeting 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 800-698-9159 or by email. Lawyers 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.