AccessABLE Travel And Doing Your Homework

A recent vacation taught me some valuable lessons about accessible travel I would like to share with you. My own temporary disability lasting only a few months presented me with valuable first hand experiences that will benefit our readers.

My several decade career, specializing as a Disability Insurance Advisor, gave me a unique perspective being actively involved with employees of client companies filing long term disability (LTD) claims. We essentially “counseled” disabled employees that were filing LTD claims who didn’t understand the claims process.

“Hitting the Wall”… At the point of becoming disabled, there’s the “shock” of we “cross the line” in a single moment. One minute we’re healthy, the next we’re disabled. It happens in the time it took you to read this paragraph.

The most obvious impact on their “psyche” began with the psychological impact of no longer being in excellent health without any limitations. When added to the instantaneous negative impact on their medical condition, its’ been likened to “walking into a wall”. In addition to the physical and emotional trauma of becoming disabled, then added impact of an immediate change in lifestyle can be overwhelming to the hardiest of souls.

How do we get to the bedroom on the second floor in a wheelchair? How will you get into the shower? Where do we buy grab rails for the bathroom? And who is going to install them? For seniors with arthritic hands, where do we find dress or shoes with velcro enclosures. They are most welcome benefits for seniors with arthritic fingers.

At the worst imaginable time, decisions on adapting to a completely new, very different lifestyle needs to be made.

As I was a month away from rotator cuff surgery, I couldn’t use one arm in a normal manner. Taking public transportation from de Gaulle Airport in Paris led us to the “tube” (the rapid transit system under the streets of London). Arriving at our stop downstairs from our hotel, we discovered there was no “lift” (an elevator to street level). After dragging two heavy suitcases with one arm, up very steep stairs, I was grateful for my “good” arm.

Upon returning home to the U.S., I went on-line and did my very first accessible travel search. My first task was to pull up a map of the London rapid transit system and a whole new world of opportunity appeared on my computer screen. There was a map of the entire London rapid transit system where I could see all the transit stations that had “lifts” (elevators).

I then might have searched for hotels and bed & breakfasts that were close to the stations with lifts. Were I disabled the next time around, I would simply do some accessible travel planning to enjoy a trip to London.

The key message here is to “do your homework” before embarking on your vacation travels. My guess is that future vacations will bring you more enjoyment then you might have imagined.

The next part of my accessible travel journey was an invitation to speak to a Parkinson’s support group. As I had created a handbook on accessible travel opportunities, a young lady had discovered my publication and bio on-line. She asked if I would be willing to speak on accessible travel to a group of 40 to 50 people that consisted of Parkinson patients and their caregivers.

What I learned next is probably the most valuable lesson I can offer anyone with any form of impairment or disability that used to travel but has stopped completely. My epiphany occurred when I simply asked if the members of the support group were having any difficulties with their travels. What I heard next was “yes”, it seems that everyone in the group had basically stopped traveling completely!

Since my work life involved helping people file disability claims, I discovered there were a multitude of variations in the severity of Parkinson’s. I learned there were folks with the symptom’s that initially lead to a specific (Parkinson’s) diagnosis all the way to those who were seriously impaired and totally disabled. It seems that with the initial diagnosis, that was a primary factor in stopping their travel. Possibly an assumption was made that continuing to travel would be too much to deal with.

In wondering what had transpired, there was no way to know whether a conscious or subconscious decision had been made. I wondered whether it was fear of the unknown, or possibly assuming “it” (travel) would be too much to handle. Was there possibly an apprehension about being away from their doctors or treatment facilities? Or was it just fearing the unknown?

Another option I pondered had to do with how many of us feel more comfortable with familiar surroundings. We’ve all heard the expression “creatures of habit”. For most people, we know that “home is where the heart is”. More than being heartfelt, our homes are where we’re most comfortable. Familiar surroundings bring us a sense of comfort.

Don’t we all have our favorite restaurants? I know for me that there’s at least three different routes I can take to drive to my office, all about the same distance yet I have to make a conscious effort to change my route.

Returning to my Parkinson’s support group experience, each member came with a spouse, parent or friend who were caregivers. I asked the audience for a show of hands of those who had Parkinson’s. I then asked if it was upsetting that the vacation trips had stopped. There was universal acknowledgement.

I fully understand it can be most upsetting watching a loved one facing a downturn health wise. There’s no way a healthy caregiver can fully appreciate the impact of diminishing health. The most relevant point I want to make is that you’re the one who is becoming more frail due to a compromised medical condition, please note the impact on your life partner who’s no longer joining you on vacations and acknowledge your awareness of their care and changes in lifestyle.

Copyright 2016

Allan Checkoway, RHU

Disability Insurance Claims Law – How to Handle the Details

If you are filing a long term disability claim when you have been injured or become ill and cannot work, it is helpful to know that disability insurance is more complicated than most insurance. There are very strict rules that must be followed.

Be careful about time limitations and deadlines. In the policy it will say when a claim must be filed. Most policies have a 60 day filing window. Be sure to file paperwork ahead of deadlines, and sending all documents and records by overnight registered mail.

Keep your disability claim information private. Do not post details or comments or complaints on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any disability-related forums, bulletin boards, chat rooms, social networking sites, or other online places. It does not matter if you have just filed a claim or the insurance company has been paying your benefits for ten years – putting this information on the web could lead to your losing the benefits.

Insurance companies monitor social media for their claimants very carefully and more than one person has lost their benefits or had a judge render a different decision based on their online comments. If you are filing for a disability claim and post vacation photos that show you hiking in the mountains, the insurance companies will consider the photos evidence against your claim.

Once a claim is received by the disability insurance company, they will send you forms that are required to process the claim. Among them will be a claimant statement, attending physician statement, and authorization forms permitting access to health, financial and occupational materials from third parties.

Financial records are used to evaluate income, assets and earnings. This feels intrusive and prying but providing the information correctly is important. For salaried employees, tax returns and W2 earnings statements will be simple enough to provide. If you own a business or are a partner in a professional practice or another complex earnings situation, the request for financial records can be overwhelming. It is important to check the specific language of the policy to learn what the disability insurance company is entitled to – and what is none of their business. The policy is the contract that governs the entire process. If you are asked to provide something that is not included in the policy, contact the insurance company to clarify and explain the request. Carefully document questions to minimize non-compliance issues.

Most disability policies require you to undergo an IME – Independent Medical Exam. Keep in mind that the doctor performing the examination is being paid by the insurance company. Disability insurance company doctors are not independent. Be careful! Disability claimants who believe they are speaking with a sympathetic doctor are always shocked when the doctor who seemed so nice reports that they are perfectly able to go to work. Many recent court decisions, including several in our own practice, have found it very clear that the medical exams paid for by the insurance companies are not independent. This inherent conflict of interest is something the courts are watching carefully.

The insurance company may NOT ask that a disability claimant undergo an invasive test or require claimants to travel a far distance to have an examination performed. The insurance company is obligated to schedule an IME within a reasonable distance from your home.

If you are ordered to take a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), be careful. Read your policy closely to determine whether or not it specifically requires you to take this test. If the FCE is not in the policy, the law does not require that you take it. The FCE is used to test maximum effort. If you do go for an FCE and are asked to do anything that you know you cannot do without pain or discomfort, say no and do not perform the action. There is controversy surrounding this test and it can be dangerous. Document how you feel after the test and if you can, go to the doctor to make sure to document what injuries you might have suffered from taking the test.

Common Questions When Considering a Social Security Disability Attorney

For those who have a case involving disability, it may become necessary to hire a Social Security disability attorney. There are a variety of benefits that come with utilizing legal assistance in these cases, and the fees are fairly reasonable. In fact, many lawyers will not charge if a case is lost. Clients and potential clients often have many questions when it comes to hiring a lawyer.

When Is a Social Security Disability Attorney Necessary?

One of the most common reasons for hiring a lawyer for these instances is to improve the likelihood of receiving approval for benefits. While some people are able to have a positive outcome without assistance, those with legal counsel almost always have a better chance of winning a disability case than those who do not.

While these attorneys are most commonly sought out after an initial denial, they can be very helpful at the application stage. In fact, their knowledge and expertise during the application stage may often result in an approval in one application period. On the application, the Social Security disability attorney can help argue that an individual’s condition meets the required list of impairments or provide advice on an alleged onset date of disability. During hearings or appeals, he or she can assist in collecting relevant medical evidence, such as doctor’s opinions, and preparations for any questions that may come from the judge. They can also assist with finding individuals to testify on behalf of the client.

When Should a Lawyer Be Called?

A Social Security disability attorney can be called at any point during the process, but it is best to call one as early on as possible. For those who may be on the fence on whether or not legal counsel is necessary, it is often beneficial to call, as many will provide a free consultation. He or she will be able to examine a case to determine the strength of the case and provide assistance with the application.

Another consideration to think about is final attorney fees. Those who are approved for benefits at the first try will owe smaller fees since there will be no back benefits owed to the client once the benefits are finally approved.

Hiring an attorney after an initial denial can greatly increase the chance of a positive outcome on the second application, and it is also possible to have the case moved through the process more quickly. This is often the case for terminal medical conditions or for extremely dire financial circumstances. However, this tends to be rare, as many must wait for several months before a case is resolved.

For those who are still on the fence about hiring a Social Security disability attorney, there is an instance in which it may not be helpful. For those who have submitted an initial application and are awaiting word, there is no need to get a lawyer yet as there is no point in paying a commission of past-due benefits unless there is a denial in coverage. However, in many other situations, having representation can be incredibly helpful.

How a Denied Disability Lawyer Can Assist You

One of the most frustrating situations for a client with disability insurance occurs when you have to access the insurance you have paid into, often for years, and you are denied the support you are owed, the support you anticipated having available should the worst happen. There are so many loops to jump through to successfully claim disability insurance with most insurance companies – and for many people, the process is so difficult, time consuming, and overwhelming that, at the end of the day, when they are denied disability coverage, they think that is the end and have no recourse. This, however, is not necessarily the case. While there may have been a time when a person who was denied his or her disability insurance claim had little or no further options, this is not always the case today. In fact, with proper legal representation from an experienced disability insurance lawyer, the denied disability claims lawsuit can be fought and even won.

What is Disability Insurance?

Denied disability lawyers come into play for those who have been denied a disability insurance claim, but first one needs to understand the importance of disability insurance. Most of us understand the importance of life insurance, but the reality is that accidents or sicknesses can prevent an individual from being able to work to sustain his or her living. For this reason, disability insurance is just important as life insurance. In fact, a typical 30 year old has 4 times the chance of becoming disabled than of dying before the age of 65.

There are two main types of disability insurance – long term disability and critical illness. Disability insurance will provide a monthly income if an individual is unable to work due to serious injury or illness; critical illness insurance pays out a tax-free lump sum following the diagnosis of an illness noted within the policy. When it comes to filing a claim, the onus is on the claimant to establish that they are disabled within the boundaries of the policy. Proof must be provided by the claimant in order to qualify for the disability benefits, and this proof must hold up to scrutiny. As the reporting on the claim and the interpretation of the said claim is subjective, the potential for denial of said claim can be high in many situations. Once a claim is denied, the recourse is limited to court – denied disability lawyers can help streamline the claimant’s reporting, making it far more likely to be approved and win the settlement.

How to choose a lawyer or law firm

Denied disability lawyers may be found throughout the legal industry, but you want to make sure you choose a lawyer and or a law firm with the best chance of getting results for you with the least amount of initial risk. The reality is that while you are vulnerable and could be easily taken advantage of, your resources will be limited, and this must be part of your consideration. You will find that most law firms or lawyers will ask for payment up front, regardless of the outcome of the case or how much it will cost, win or lose – payment that you probably don’t have considering you are fighting a denied disability claim as it is. But, there are some law firms that will not require payment up front. Some denied disability lawyers will work on a percentage fee basis, and there will be no fees until the claim is settled. Do your research well before hiring a denied disability lawyer to fight your case.