Andy Rooney used to have a regular humor segment on 60 Mintues complaining about minor annoyances of daily life. I was never a fan: if you have airtime, why not complain humorously about the major issues with daily life rather than the size of paper towels, as he did in the link provided? One segment in particular stuck with me as an example of how trivial his complaints were: the whole segment was about forms that left too little space to fill in the information requested.
Once I started helping Connecticut long-term disability claimants submit initial long-term disability claims, however, I realized that insurance companies can use small spaces on forms for their own advantage. In prior articles, here and here, I’ve discuss the games insurance companies play in constructing their forms – creating a form that could lead to someone in a coma being found capable of performing a sedentary job - and ways to avoid the insurance company’s trap. The too-little-space problem Andy Rooney identified is easier to deal with that this - we can solve it with two words: See Attached.
Most long-term disability claims are started with two forms: the claimant’s statement you complete, and the attending physician’s statement completed by your doctor. The forms request similar information: the impairment you suffer from; your job duties; and how your impairments prevent you from performing your job.
The topics can be complex and require a lot of information to explain. But, the forms only give you a little space to explain them. Here are the relevant sections from one company’s form:
This is not a lot of room to describe the effect of a complex condition on a demanding job. You could write in little letters, but there is a better way: simply write “See attached” in the space, and then attached a document were you can describe everything in detail. Make sure you tell your doctor that he can put down “see attached” as well. The best things the doctor can attach are actual office visit notes, or tests results (MRI’s showing severe spinal stenosis or a neuropsychological exam documenting cognitive impairments), that demonstrate the vocational impairments resulting from your physical condition.
The too-small-space problem arises in long-term disability benefit appeals as well, as the insurer will commonly require your doctors to prepare attending physician statements for the appeal. The forms are more important in initial LTD applications, though, because it might be your only chance to explain your condition and how it keeps you from doing your job. Even though you now know about the "See Attached" trick, using a lawyer who regularly works on initial LTD applications, and who knows through an active LTD benefit appeals practice what insurance companies need to see to establish disability from giving medical condition, can make it more likely that your first application will be successful.