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Disability lawyers win ERISA long term disability appeal against Hartford

Attorney Rachel AltersAuthor: Attorney Rachel Alters

Disability Insurance Lawyers Dell & Schaefer prevailed in an ERISA appeal filed on behalf of their client when The Hartford Insurance Company wrongfully terminated her long-term disability benefits. The client was suffering from severe, progressive axial chronic back and leg pain related to degenerative disc disease for several years. She underwent several epidural steroid injections and physical therapy sessions with little or no relief. She then underwent a lumbar fusion from L3-S1. She could not perform the essential duties of her occupation as an Executive Administrator due to the severe pain she was experiencing in her back and lower extremity. The Hartford determined that she was disabled as of February of 2008 and began paying her benefits in July of 2008. In November of 2009, Hartford terminated her benefits claiming she was no longer disabled.

Even though the claimant’s treating physicians clearly stated that she was in severe pain and could not work, was suffering from cognitive impairment due to the side effects of her medication and her nerve conduction studies showed she has S1 radiculopathy, Hartford decided to terminate her benefits. Hartford claimed that they performed video surveillance on four separate occasions and observed her sitting for an extended period of time on one occasion. They also observed her walking without a limp on occasion. Despite a litany of medical evidence that undeniably showed that the claimant was disabled, Hartford claimed that our client was able to work 40 hours a week sitting at a desk 8 hours a day without physical or cognitive limitation.

After her claim was denied, the claimant was in so much pain she consulted with another neurosurgeon to find some answers. He determined that her pain was caused by a previous spinal fusion that had failed. The claimant underwent another surgery, a revision of her previous fusion, in June of 2010 to help alleviate her pain. Attorneys Gregory Dell and Rachel Alters filed an appeal on behalf of our client in July of 2010. In our appeal we were able to show that the claimant was disabled and unable to perform the essential duties of her occupation. This was evidenced by a functional capacity examination which revealed that her work tolerance was below the sedentary physical demand level and that returning to work could not be recommended; a CT scan which showed pseudarthrosis at L5-S1; a nerve conduction study revealed S1 radiculopathy which was consistent with her chronic pain; and the opinions of several of her treating physicians that she was unable to work due to severe pain and cognitive impairment.

In August of 2010, Hartford informed our client that her disability benefits would be reinstated as they determined that she was disabled and unable to perform the essential functions of her occupation. Our law firm continues to handle our client’s disability claim on a monthly basis.