You Need Evidence to Win a Disability Insurance Claim – Use a Disability Journal
As a Long Term Disability claim attorney for over 25 years, I have seen Disability Insurance Companies deny countless valid claims. The worst part is often knowing the Long Term Disability Insurance adjuster did not believe you. They often ignore disabled people and treat them like they are lying. One way I have found to get an LTD adjuster to pay attention and pay your claim is by using a “Disability Journal.” I know that writing about your disability can be a challenge, but when you are depending on Long Term Disability Insurance benefits to pay your bills, a Disability Journal can be absolutely crucial evidence to help you prove why you are disabled and get your claim paid.
Why? Disability insurance companies love to tell claimants that their medical records do not document why they cannot work. It is a game that disability insurers play. We all know that doctors write down diagnostic information and some symptoms in their notes, but they rarely document how you are limited from working…that is not their job. Their notes are there to remind them about your condition the next time you come in. If you went to your doctor every day asking them to write down examples of how your physical or mental symptoms limit or restrict your activities, they would tell you to see another doctor. But that does not stop you from recording how your disabling condition(s) impact your day. You can use a Disability Journal to supplement your doctor’s records and document why you cannot work. Over the years of representing people as a Disability Attorney, I have learned the types of things to include in a Disability Journal and how adding pictures can give your Disability Journal even more meaning by bringing your limitations to life more than words ever could.
A Disability Journal is Not “Dear Diary…”
When I suggest that you keep a Disability Journal, I do not want you to think that you have to write handwritten notes in a locked book every day. Not at all. You have so many options, I cannot list them all here. You can type a Disability Journal in a one long, running word processing document or in an app like Evernote. You could start a blog using a free blog source like WordPress. You could even use your social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to reveal what your life is like. The options are almost endless.
The goal is to have something that explains your life…that explains living inside your skin…that helps someone else understand how you experience your illnesses or injuries and how your disability keeps you from working.
So, What Kind of Stuff Goes In a Disability Journal?
The idea is to add entries every few days or once a week to explain how you are limited or restricted. The most useful technique is to record examples of how your disability is impacting your life…to write down information that could help someone who reads it know what it is like to live in your skin and to understand why you cannot work.
Even Better…Use Pictures to Make Your Disability Journal Powerful
There are No Rules – Think Outside the Box – Pictures Can Show Why You Cannot Work
Other than frequently adding entries that explain your disability, there are no rules when you create a Disability Journal. One way you can do this is to have others take pictures of you when you are facing your daily challenges (or take selfies), and then save those pictures into your Disability Journal. Think of how you would perceive pictures compared to a few sentences describing a situation….or both. For most people, a picture with a few sentence description is a much more vivid way to give an example.
Remember the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” It is. That is why your Disability Insurance Company may send private investigators out to secretly shoot video of you when you leave your house. When they catch someone doing something that said they could not do, that picture proves that the claimant is lying. Well, turn their own technique around on them. Add pictures of your limitations to explain what they want you to tell them on one or two blank lines on the claim form. Clear photos of you having a bad day can be powerful evidence to tell your story.
Examples of Pictures That Can Help Win a Disability Claim
Here are some examples of pictures that could tell a story:
- A series of pictures of a disabled person trying to get out of bed in morning – to show their pain and stiffness and how they cannot move at the same pace as an able-bodied person…even though medical records may not explain this.
- Time stamped pictures over many days showing a disabled person sleeping during the day due to side effects of medicine or because of poor nighttime sleep – to demonstrate that the person does in fact have to take regular naps, even though medical records may not state this.
- A picture of the disabled person walking with their cane – proving they must use a cane, even though their doctor may not have written down that a cane is necessary.
- A picture of a disabled person laying down in a car, because they cannot sit for very long – to demonstrate that the person cannot sit for long or ride in a car for long, even though this may never appear in their medical records.
- A picture of a disabled person laying down on the ground or a floor in a public place because of back pain – again showing an inability to sit and how pain can become overwhelming to the point the person chooses to lay down on a dirty floor to relieve their pain, whether their physician or physical therapist made notes about this or not.
- A picture of a disabled person walking around a restaurant, because they cannot sit at the table for long – showing how their pain or limb numbness interrupts even pleasurable, non-work moments, a fact that they may never remember to tell to their doctor.
- A picture of a person dropping something or looking at something on the floor that they dropped – to show how they cannot use their hands like they used to, putting a visual to something they may have told their doctor, but which can never be explained as well in words.
- A series of date and time-stamped pictures of a person on the toilet dealing with cramping and diarrhea from Crohn’s Disease, Colitis, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome – to show that they really do have frequent bowel problems that cause excessive trips to the restroom, when no reasonable person would ever go to the doctor every day to report this type of problem.
You might think these examples are over the top and unnecessary. Yet, I have seen Disability Insurance Companies deny thousands of claims saying that the disabled person’s medical records did not show that the suffered from the symptoms, limitations, or restrictions they were claiming.
What better way to prove to an insurer that you are suffering than to give them pictures to prove it? The examples I give in the list above are just a few of the thousands of symptoms, limitations, and restrictions that could be documented with photos.
Even better….send the insurance company a video.
How Many Pictures? And When Do I Start?
I am often asked, “how many pictures or entries do I need?” There is no magic answer. Just a few could be powerful, but more is often better. You can get to the point where it could look like all you to is blog and keep your journal though. This is why pictures and short descriptions can often have the most impact. Consistency is probably the most important thing. Showing you are disabled not just on one day, but day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out is crucial.
REMEMBER: You should start taking pictures as soon as your disability begins. If you wait until your claim is already denied, you may have no proof of your disabling limitations for weeks or months, and you cannot go back in time to create that evidence after that time has passed.
Think About Having Others Write the Captions for Pictures They Take
If someone else takes a picture of you, ask them to text it to you with their description of what they saw. Ask them if you can include their description with the photo, and their name and contact number, in your Disability Journal in case your Disability Insurance Company wants to contact them to discuss your limitations. Obviously, not everyone would be a good candidate to talk to an insurance adjuster, but adding some of these types of entries can add quite a punch of credibility to your Disability Journal.
Takeaway – A Disability Journal Can Be a Key Piece of Evidence in an LTD Claim
Telling a story – your story – of how your disability prevents you from working can be a challenge. Using words and pictures to bring that story to life can make a difference between getting your claim paid and getting denied. Use a Disability Journal with pictures or video to tell that story.