The Hartford Denies, Delays, and Terminates Disability Claims
The Hartford insurance company provides insurance coverage to millions of people across the United States, including both Short-Term Disability (STD) policies and Long-Term Disability (LTD) policies. Each is intended to replace part of an employee’s income in the event that the employee is unable to work because of a disabling injury or illness.
While the Hartford collects premiums for Short-Term and Long-Term Disability coverage, unfortunately, the insurance company does not always honor its end of the bargain and pay benefits when it should do so. All too often, both short-term and long-term disability claims are denied, delayed or terminated.
In fact, ABC’s Good Morning America has aired news reports on the Hartford insurance’s treatment of disabled individuals. As you can see in the clip below, Chris Cuomo reports on how the Hartford wrongfully terminated a disability claim by Jack “Rocky” Whitten (you may have to watch a brief commercial in order to view the video):
The above “GMA” story on insurance company surveillance led to other mistreated disability policyholders contacting Good Morning America to share more allegations of abuse and stories of having their disability benefits terminated. In 2010, Good Morning America aired a follow-up segment titled: ‘GMA Gets Answers’: Disabled Claimants Fight Back.
In certain other situations, the Hartford may pay some benefits but does not pay the full amount it should and instead offers reduced payments. This is when it is important to hire a disability attorney who has experience in dealing with the Hartford to assist you in collecting the benefits you deserve.
Who We Represent and How We Can Help with Your Hartford Disability Appeal
At the Ortiz Law Firm, we believe that insurance companies should honor the disability insurance contract you purchased when you’ve upheld your end of the bargain by paying your premiums.
You may be able to file your initial claim for long term benefits alone. However, even “strong” claims that seem to have plenty of evidence to document the disability and qualify for benefits may be denied. A claim denial is not the end of the claim process, however.
Many Hartford disability insurance policyholders have contacted us regarding Hartford’s challenges to their claims for benefits. We represent claimants whose applications for LTD benefits were denied. But we also represent claimants who were being paid benefits that were suddenly terminated. Having our assistance can dramatically improve your chances of having your appeal approved if your application is denied. We work closely with our clients and offer legal advice at each in the claims process. We assist our clients in:
- Helping you understand the reason for your denial;
- Gathering necessary evidence for the appeal, including medical records, medical bills, job descriptions, bank statements and pay stubs;
- Obtaining doctors’ opinions as to your limitations due to your medical condition(s);
- Understanding the requirements of your long term disability policy, and helping you gather the documents necessary to satisfy your “proof of loss”;
- Documenting your claim file in the manner that offers the best chance of approval;
- Completing the appeals paperwork; and
- Filing your appeal within the allotted time frame.
With over a decade of experience in handling insurance claims, our LTD claims attorney has the knowledge and skill needed to help you obtain or hold onto the benefits you deserve under your long term disability plan with the Hartford.
The Hartford Disability Appeal Process
Understand Your Denial Letter
You should receive a denial letter from the Hartford shortly after your claim is closed. Your denial letter should specify why your claim was denied and how to file an appeal. Pay close attention to the reasons given for the denial so you can determine how you proceed with your appeal. For example, if you were denied because the insurance company stated your claim file lacks “objective documentation”, you would want to submit additional CT-Scans, x-rays or MRIs.
Another example is if you were denied because “the medical records received from all providers noted above does not support that your physical and/or psychiatric conditions prevented you from performing your occupation”, you would want to submit any new records detailing why you are unable to work, a written statement from your physician, or even a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form (RFC forms are available for both physical impairments and mental impairments).
If you still aren’t sure why your claim was denied an experienced Hartford disability appeal attorney can help you interpret and understand the denial letter.
Request Your Claim File
One of the first things you should do after you receive a disability denial letter from the insurance company is to request a copy of your claim file in writing from your LTD insurance company. In accordance with federal law, the insurance company is required to provide you with a free copy of your entire claim file if your claim has been denied or terminated.
You’ll need to review your claim file to see if all your medical evidence has been added to the file, and if not, you have an opportunity to submit additional evidence with your appeal. If you file a lawsuit against the insurance company in federal court, the judge will be limited to considering only the evidence that was in your claim file at the time the claims handler issued his or her final decision. That means you should “pack” or “stack” the record with favorable evidence during the administrative appeals process.
Obtain and Submit Medical Records
The reason for the denial as stated in your Hartford disability denial will help you determine what specific evidence you need to submit with your appeal, but it is always a good idea to submit any new medical evidence (such as visit notes from recent doctor appointments) that supports your claim. Although the Hartford likely had you sign an Authorization to Obtain Information form, it is still your responsibility to obtain and submit any medical evidence that is relevant to your claim. There is usually a time limit to submit proof of loss or proof of claim, and if Hartford does not receive your medical records within a certain amount of time your appeal will be denied.
It is best to hire an attorney as early in the appeal process as possible, but for those of you who are looking to file your own appeal, we have even more detailed information about how to appeal an LTD denial.
Can I File a Lawsuit Against Hartford Disability?
In most cases, the claimant must exhaust their administrative appeals before they can sue the Hartford. In the event that your appeal is also denied, we also assist clients in:
- Filing a lawsuit under federal ERISA regulations; and
- Preparing your case for review by a federal judge during the ERISA lawsuit.
An experienced long term disability attorney will be able to advise you whether you must appeal the decision through an internal administrative review process with the Hartford or by filing an ERISA lawsuit to have your case reviewed by a federal judge.
Where to Submit Your Appeal Letter
Each disability policy is unique, so it is important that you review your denial letter for the most accurate instructions on how to submit an appeal to the Hartford. The most recent denial letter that we received from the Hartford, dated November 4, 2019, states that the appeal letter must be sent to:
P.O. Box 14087
Lexington, KY 40512-4087
Hartford’s Definition of Disability
Although each disability policy is different, the definition of disability below was sourced directly from the policy of one of our clients.
“Disability or Disabled means You are prevented from performing one or more of the Essential Duties of:
1) Your Occupation during the Elimination Period;
2) Your Occupation, for the 24 month(s) following the Elimination
Period, and as a result Your Current Monthly Earnings are less than
80% of Your Pre-disability Earnings; and
3) after that, Any Occupation.”
The definition of disability for your policy may be different from the definition above, so be sure to request a copy of your policy and review it carefully.
How Long Does Hartford Disability Last?
Both Short-Term Disability benefits and Long-Term Disability benefits replace a percentage of your pay if you are unable to work due to a covered disabling accident or illness. Typically, STD plans provide coverage for about three to six months, while LTD plans provide coverage after the STD period ends and may pay benefits for several more months or years – if you remain disabled, some policies will pay LTD benefits until you reach retirement age.
Hartford Claim Forms
Application for Long Term Disability Income Benefits
Hartford’s LTD application is made up of 5 sections:
- Employer’s Statement: This section must be completed by the employer’s authorized representative;
- Information for Group Life Premium Waiver Benefits: This section must be completed by the employer’s authorized representative if the employer also has a Group Life Insurance premium policy with the Hartford that includes a Premium Waiver benefit;
- Employee’s Statement: This section must be completed by the employee who is applying for Long Term Disability benefits. Be sure to include:
- Your health care provider’s (doctor or hospital) name, specialty, address, telephone number, and fax number;
- Your medications, the date they were prescribed, the condition they were prescribed for, and the name of the prescriber; and
- You should also attach a copy of your driver’s license.
- Authorization to Obtain Information: You obviously have a right to privacy in your medical records. This form allows Hartford permission to access your medical records; and
- Attending Physician’s Statement of Disability: The Hartford will want to obtain an opinion from your doctor that identifies your physical and/or mental limitations. Your doctor should specifically identify your diagnoses, your resulting impairments and how the impairments affect your daily activities. It is useless for your doctor to write a note that makes simple, conclusory statements like, “This patient is disabled. Please give him/her all appropriate accommodations”. It is not necessary for your doctor to state that he or she thinks you’re “disabled.” It is more important for your doctor to identify your level of impairment. If your doctor is not willing to help with your case, you should seriously consider finding a new one who is willing to help.
Although these forms collectively make up the application for long term disability benefits, Hartford may also request an updated authorization and/or an updated Attending Physician’s Statement of Disability during the appeal review process.
Ortiz Law Firm Provides Aggressive Representation to Long Term Disability Claimants
If you are unable to work as a result of connective tissue disorder, you should consult with an experienced long term disability attorney. Unfortunately, long term disability carriers do not make it easy for disabled claimants to receive the benefits that they deserve. If your illness or injury makes it impossible for you to work and you have been denied your long term disability benefits, the legal team at Ortiz Law Firm can help you cut through the red tape and fight for your disability benefits no matter where you live in the United States. Give us a call today to discuss your claim at (888) 321-8131.