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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Request Reasonable Accommodation: Show You Can’t Work, Not That You Don’t Want to

Requesting reasonable accommodation can help get LTD benefits, or win an appeal of a denial of LTD benefits.  In my prior post, I discussed how exercising your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to request reasonable accommodation can help you remain in your job when your medical condition impairs your ability to perform some aspects of your job, but you can still perform the essential functions of your position.  In this post, I’ll discuss the effect a request for reasonable accommodation can have on your application for disability insurance benefits under either an ERISA group LTD policy or a private disability policy under Connecticut law.

Applying for reasonable accommodation when you are still working can help you two ways:

  • First, under some disability policies, you are not considered disabled if you can so your job with reasonable accommodation.  If there is a reasonable accommodation that the insurer believes would allow you to keep doing your job, then you won’t be considered to be disabled.  For instance, if the insurer's physician decides you can do your job if you get up and move around every hour, then you won’t be disabled even if you can’t sit all day.  If, however, you have tried the reasonable accommodation when you are still working and it didn't work, you will have a basis to refute the insurer’s reasonable accommodation argument.
  • Second, doing everything you can to stay in your job, including requesting reasonable accommodation, shows the insurer that you are only applying for LTD benefits because can’t work, not because you don’t want to work.  Insurers are always on the watch for claimants who are interested in “secondary gain,” that is, patients who report impairments to get some other benefit from claiming impairments (such as getting LTD benefits) rather than to receive treatment.  You have to be particularly careful of this if your medical records contain statements that you hate your job, it is causing you stress, you don’t like your supervisor, or you want to spend more time with you kids.  You don’t want to raise issues about your motivation for applying for benefits.

As discussed in the prior post, reasonable accommodation can be complicated, and depends very much on your particular impairments and the actual requirements of your particular position.  Having an attorney who knows federal and Connecticut employment laws, and who can handle a Connecticut LTD appeal or a LTD suit in the Connecticut district court can be helpful.  Whether you use an attorney or not, asking for reasonable accommodation while you are still working can help you qualify as disabled, and will certainly help show that you aren’t applying for benefits simply to avoid working.

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