Many Americans are now working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a significant cultural shift for employers, who are learning how to manage teams and companies of all sizes remotely. For employees who are learning what work at home entails, it’s an eye opener. Having spoken this week with a number of representatives for insurance companies working from home for the first time – they have advised of challenges they are undergoing. None of those can be beneficial to our community of disabled clients. Delays can be expected, but are surely unwelcome.
For people who work from home, long term disability has been extremely problematic, both for purchasing long term disability insurance and for filing a successful claim.
Purchasing long term disability insurance is a challenge because the culture of the LTD insurance company starts with the fundamental belief that someone who works from home isn’t really working and that proving a claim will be too difficult. Extensive documentation that a person is really working for a company or that they have a legitimately operating business is usually just the start of a lengthy applications process.
Frankel & Newfield has represented people who work from home, and it is often a difficult claim to establish. Even more challenging—people who are now working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic who were in the midst of considering filing a disability claim.
Frankel & Newfield has represented people who work from home, and it is a difficult claim that is often denied on the first go round. Our aggressive approach with extensive documentation of the claim, medical records and vocational documentation, among other strategies, has helped overturn appeals. But it is a more challenging claim.
If you are now working from home and were in the middle of a health issue that had you considering filing a disability claim, we suggested that you take certain precautions against the anti-work-from-home mindset of the disability insurance companies.
Document your income. Keep any paper or digital paystubs you receive. Many people discard these because their wages are automatically deposited into their personal bank accounts. Start saving these records.
Be able to document your work. That includes online meetings, telephone meetings and any and all work you do from home. Keep records of your activities throughout the work date. Do not rely on your employer being able to go into the company’s Slack account or other co-working software. Do this for as long as you are working from home.
Using your employer’s systems? Anyone using their employer’s computer technology should never have any expectation of privacy. Computer systems generate logs of websites that each user visits, and it’s not unusual for companies to use software that can track and capture every move of your computer mouse. Depending upon the company you work for, your work might be tracked keystroke-by-keystroke, to be certain you really are working while at home. All of these records of your activity can be accessed by the insurance company. Your employer may not like it, but they may not have a choice.
If you are still going to doctor’s visits, keep a detailed log of all appointments. Be aware that today’s surveillance requires nothing more than a parked car with a live camera on the dashboard or a drone located where you cannot see it that tracks your every move. Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s regular surveillance.
Social media continues to be a tripping point for people, especially those working from home for the first time. It is very easy to feel isolated, and a quick trip to Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn is used as a short social break for many people who are not yet used to working from home. One comment easily turns into a post, which easily turns into a bread-crumb trail for insurance companies. Be aware that being online today is the same as being outside. Don’t think that anything you do online can be private.
Finally, be aware that the insurance sector relies heavily on interest rates and investment portfolios for its profits. When markets are volatile and when interest rates are low, there are increased pressures for the long-term disability insurance companies to tighten their grip on claims even more. Jobs are likely under pressure at these companies. There will likely be more denials and terminations in the months to come. Employees may show they deserve to stay employed by hurting your claim.
If you have questions about your long-term disability claim, or if your claim has been terminated, please call our office at 877-583-2524. Most importantly, be safe.