When forced to file an ERISA disability claim, ego can become one of your biggest problems.
It’s not even your ego that gets in the way. It may be the ego of your lawyer or doctor or both. The two professions frequently look down their noses, one at the other, and you may suffer because of it.
ERISA disability insurance cases require the utmost cooperation between the medical and legal professions. Time limits on supplying information are strictly enforced. The connection between the injury or illness and the patient’s ability to perform his or her occupation must be firmly established. All of this must be accomplished without live testimony and strictly within the framework set out by the client’s employer’s administrative plan and the terms of its insurance policy.
There is no room in this equation for “one-upsmanship” between professionals. The strict rules of ERISA demand that the claimant’s professionals act in a cooperative manner to present the best case for you.
Nothing in ERISA is taken for granted. Not only must the medical basis of the disability be clearly established, but how the disability causes the client’s inability to perform an occupation must also be made plain. Every part of the proof required by the plan and the policy terms must be presented clearly in the original claim documents. There are few “do-overs” in ERISA.
The lawyer and the doctor are the final “word” in your case. Unfortunately, neither profession is accustomed to checking with or answering to the other, and neither particularly trusts the other. But, ERISA claims absolutely require such cooperation to give you any chance to succeed.
ERISA is different from any other area of law, even Social Security, with which most people associate ERISA. Attorneys who have spent a large part of their career reading ERISA plans and insurance policies, should be best able to know what is important to include in your claim submission and to “captain” your claim “ship”.
Likewise, physicians are best qualified to make physical and mental findings in medical reports which are essential to any disability claim.
When an ERISA attorney suggests to your doctor that certain details regarding limitations or restrictions be included in the Attending Physician Statement (APS), it is not a reflection on the physician’s ability. It is a suggestion, based on the lawyer’s prior experience, that the document be clarified because it is required by the terms of your ERISA plan or insurance policy.
If your attorney can help your doctor write an honest, truthful report that better fits the requirements of ERISA, the lawyer should do so. Neither professional should take umbrage at such a request.
Each professional should treat the other with respect for their professional standing and their time and defer to the other’s area of expertise. ERISA lawyers may not be doctors, but they tend to know a lot more about ERISA requirements than doctors do. Each professional should keep in mind that their primary obligation is to your needs as a ERISA disability claimant. There is no room for professional prejudices.
Each professional must listen to the suggestions of the other in presenting their area of expertise and must act accordingly when appropriate to do so.
When you are sick or injured, out of work and facing a bleak future, you deserve nothing less.