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Liberty Mutual denies disability benefits for depression despite two hospitalizations by claimant

Mary Denny and her disability attorney recently filed a civil complaint in United States District Court in the Eastern Division of the District of Massachusetts against Liberty Life Assurance Company of Boston (Liberty) for Liberty’s refusal to pay Ms. Denny long-term disability benefits.

Up until the time she became disabled, Ms. Denney worked at North Carolina Baptist Hospital. Her duties at the hospital put her in a role of support for senior management as she served as a resource to executive management for the hospital to reach its financial and strategic goals while maintaining a high level of confidentiality and discretion.

Over the course of time, Ms. Denny developed major depressive disorder. She presented symptoms of depression, anger, irritability, panic, and anxiety to her treating physician, Dr. Heath Thornton on November 11, 2008. Dr. Thornton recommended that Ms. Denny seek counseling and also stay home from work.

Ms. Denny followed up with Dr. Thornton on November 17, 2008. At that time, he adjusted Ms. Denny’s medications and recommended once again that she stay out of work due to her major depressive disorder.

Unfortunately, Ms. Denny’s condition seemed to worsen over time until she was admitted to Moses Cone Health System for thoughts of suicide, anxiety, and depression. Upon being discharged, Ms. Denny was to see therapist Shana McCain and Natalie Errante to help her manage her depression.

In April of 2009, Ms. Denny applied for long-term disability benefits regarding her major depressive disorder. However, Liberty denied Ms. Denny’s claim in a letter dated May 8, 2009 stating, “the medical data on file does not indicate any acute deterioration or decompensation in your functioning at this time; therefore, functional impairment from psychiatric standpoint is not supported.” The decision made on Liberty’s part is completely at odds with Dr. Thornton’s recommendation that Ms. Denny not return to work.

Ms. Denny immediately appealed Liberty’s decision, reiterating the debilitating conditions from which she continued to suffer that severely hampered her ability to perform her job.

In the meantime, Ms. Denny continued to see Ms. McCain and Ms. Errante once every 3 to 4 weeks until she was admitted to Rowan Regional Medical Center on June 26, 2009. Again, Ms. Denny was having thoughts of suicide, depression, and anxiety.

After Ms. Denny’s second hospital stay, Ms. Errante sent a letter to liberty on Ms. Denny’s behalf outlining the ongoing symptoms Ms. Denny presents and Ms. Denny’s “very obvious need to not return to employment and receive her disability insurance until she is able to return to employment.”

Liberty didn’t see it that way. They denied Ms. Denny’s claim once again and informed Ms. Denny that she has exhausted all of her ERISA administrative remedies regarding her claim to receive disability insurance benefits from them regarding her major depressive disorder.

That left Ms. Denny no other course of action but to file a civil complaint against Liberty in order to receive disability insurance benefits. Ms. Denny and her disability attorney allege that liberty acted in unreasonably by denying Ms. Denny her disability claim because they rebuffed and ignored Ms. Denny’s treating physician’s recommendation that Ms. Denny stay out of work.

Ms. Denny and her attorney also allege that liberty’s denial of benefits to Ms. Denny is an abuse of discretion based on the long-term disability plan Ms. Denny had with Liberty.

Therefore, Ms. Denny is seeking disability insurance payments from the time she was disabled on November 7, 2008 through the present time along with any attorney fees and court costs incurred as a result of filing the civil complaint.

Comments (4)

  • Melissa,

    How long ago did you file your appeal? Who is your carrier? Although we may not be able to assist you at this time depending on the status of the review process, please feel free to contact our office to discuss your claim further.

    Stephen Jessup Dec 30, 2015  #4

  • I am in an extremely similar situation. Was hospitalized for my mental health symptoms and have been under going weekly treatments and various medication adjustments. My healthcare team is adamant that I not return to work, as I am not ready yet. The stress of fighting for benefits that I have paid into is exhausting and draining what little bit of energy I feel as though I have left and is exacerbating my symptoms severely.I meet their own criteria for defining a disability. This has been stressed to the company, by the medical professionals treating me. I was granted short term disability in the very beginning, and it was terminated within weeks of beginning long term benefits. My physician has been clear that this would be a long term case and I have begged to return to work because the mental strain of not being able to financially meet the daily needs of my children is causing my symptoms to noticeably worsen. I have not been on disability for anything like this before and have been a hardworking employee for over 20 years for various companies. I have never had a gap in employment and usually was working more than one job at a time. I don’t abuse the system and this is more than humiliating to both myself and my children. I am compliant with all treatments and medical appointments, I want to get better. My case is currently being reviewed after I filed an appeal. Unfortunately, I have not received income in months and I understand the appeal process can be lengthy. I am progressively getting worse and trying not to go back into the hospital. I am unable to afford pertinent medications and the snowball effect that this has caused is more than I can write here, but it is large enough that it is and will affect my future as well as my children’s future. Any guidance or direction as far as what can be done would be greatly appreciated.

    Melissa E. Dec 28, 2015  #3

  • Mnewyork,

    Please feel free to contact our Office to discuss how we may be able to assist you.

    Stephen Jessup Oct 14, 2013  #2

  • What happened with this?
    I am appealing this – a very similar situation? I am looking for support while seeking treatment and being in an outpatient program. was covered for STD and looking for coverage for 3-5 additional months.
    Thank you for your feedback.

    Mnewyork Oct 11, 2013  #1

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