Reliance Standard Reinstates Disability Benefits to Project Manager

Our client, a former Senior Project Manager for a national corporation, was receiving long term disability benefits from Reliance Standard due to debilitating chronic pain stemming from a multitude of lumbar and cervical spine disorders. Reliance Standard initially approved his claim for short term disability benefits and without issue approved his claim for long term disability benefits once the period of short term disability had expired. Our client had very little difficulty dealing with Reliance Standard and expected that his claim would continue to be paid. However, as is too often the case, our client was unfortunately mistaken.

As his claim transitioned from the “own occupation” to “any occupation” period of disability he began to experience problems with Reliance Standard. Nearly eight months prior to the transition date from the own to any occupation disability period, Reliance Standard advised our client in March of 2017 that it had determined he would no longer be disabled from performing sedentary and/or light duty work as of ?November 2017, and in turn his claim was being terminated. It was then that he contacted Attorneys Dell & Schaefer and spoke with Attorney Stephen Jessup.

The Administrative Appeal

In reviewing Reliance Standard’s denial letter and our client’s claim file it became very clear to Attorney Jessup that Reliance Standard’s logic in terminating our client’s claim was wrong on two accounts. First, how could Reliance Standard render any opinion as to the status of our client’s medical condition eight months into the future, and second, given that his occupation was sedentary in nature and that there had been no substantive change in his medical condition it made no logical sense that he would all of a sudden be able to return to the workforce in a similar physical capacity. To drive home the fact our client would not physically be able to work, during the course of drafting the appeal, Attorney Jessup had our client undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to verify his physical ability for work as set forth by the Department of Labor. The FCE confirmed that our client would not have the physical ability to sustain light or sedentary work demands on a full time basis.

Creating an additional layer of difficulty in re-securing our client’s disability benefit was the fact that Reliance Standard was not only arguing a lack of medical evidence to support ongoing physical restrictions and limitations, but they were also posturing to assert plan language, which despite our client’s physical disabling conditions, could limit payment on his claim to two years. Specifically, in our client’s policy there was language very common to Reliance Standard disability insurance policies relating to mental health conditions:

Mental or Nervous Disorders: Monthly Benefits for Total Disability caused by or contributed by mental or nervous disorders will not be payable beyond an aggregate lifetime maximum of twenty-four (24) months…

Like many people suffering from chronic pain conditions there is an element of depression and anxiety that arises secondary to the physical medical conditions. As Reliance Standard’s policy had a discretionary clause, which allows the company to interpret its policy terms as it sees fit, Reliance Standard was poised to make an argument that despite our client’s physical conditions that his secondary depression/anxiety “contributed” to his disability and thus his claim could be limited to 24 months.

Although Attorney Jessup had no choice but to acknowledge the mental health diagnoses in our clients claim, he argued and proved, that the secondary mental health conditions did not contribute to our client’s disability and that but for his multiple back and neck conditions he would be able to work.

The Decision

During the course of the appeal, faced with strong evidence in support of disability, Reliance Standard made one final attempt to uphold its denial of our client’s claim and sent him for an Independent Medical Examination (IME) with a doctor specializing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. In advance of the IME, Attorney Jessup researched the doctor hired to perform the exam and consulted with our client as to what he could expect during the course of the exam. Based on all the information collected to date, Attorney Jessup was confident that the IME doctor would confirm our client’s verifiable physical restrictions and limitations that were preventing him from working on a full time basis.

Following the IME, as requested by Attorney Jessup, Reliance Standard provided a copy of the IME report for review and requested that any comment regarding same be made prior to Reliance Standard completing its review of the appeal. Attorney Jessup noted that the IME report strongly supported disability and wrote Reliance Standard a detailed letter highlighting the portions of the IME report that made it clear our client should continue to receive benefits.

Within a week of being provided the IME report Attorney Jessup received notice from Reliance Standard that it was reinstating our client’s claim and issuing all past due benefits. Best of all for our client, due to the advanced denial of benefits and the fact Attorney Jessup was able to prepare and submit the appeal well in advance of the 180 day deadline, our client never missed a benefit check period while waiting for Reliance Standard’s decision on his appeal.

Attorney Jessup continues to represent our client to best ensure that Reliance Standard continues to honor its duty to issue disability benefits to our client. Feel free to contact our office to speak with one of our disability attorneys regarding any questions you may have related to a disability insurance matter.

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Do you help Reliance Standard claimants nationwide?

We represent Reliance Standard 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 Reliance Standard disability insurance policy?

Our disability insurance lawyers help policy holders seeking short or long term disability insurance benefits from Reliance Standard. 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 Reliance Standard.

How do you help Reliance Standard claimants?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a Reliance Standard 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 Reliance Standard:

  • 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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