Appeal Deadlines Suspended by Department of Labor

Appeal Deadlines Suspended by Department of Labor

In May of this year, the Department of Labor issued an order suspending ERISA appeal deadlines due to Coronavirus/COVID-19.  The order is continuing until 60 days after either the Federal Government ends the state of emergency or the Department of Labor retracts its order.  How will this effect your long term disability claim?  On one hand, this is helpful for claimants who are trying to get their benefits approved but, because of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic crisis, are unable to find an attorney or are unable to get their appeal in on time.  On the other hand, it also gives the insurance companies a great amount of leeway.  If I appeal a case, under the current order I cannot file a lawsuit against the insurance company if they refuse to reach a final decision within their normal timeframe.  I fear that this decision could leave a lot of claimants waiting indefinitely with no short term disability, long term disability, health insurance, life insurance, or other ERISA governed benefits during a time of crisis.  Particularly in cases of short and long term disability, an individual may be out of work and unable to get the benefits due to them because the insurance company has no obligation to reach a timely decision. 

That being said, I’ve yet to encounter a problem.  Both my office and the insurance companies seem to have transitioned quite quickly into handling these cases by working remotely.  So far, with practically all of my cases against all of the various insurers (such as Unum, Liberty, MetLife, Hartford, etc.), the insurers are keeping up with the claims.  I do not currently have any where the insurance company is refusing to meet their deadlines and the Department of Labor order suspending those deadlines has not yet come up.  Hopefully, this trend of keeping cases on track will continue but, if it does not, I will update this blog post.  If you have any ERISA governed claim, particularly a short term or long term disability claim where the insurance company will not give you a final decision on appeal, please contact me and I would be happy to help.

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