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Essex Richards’ ERISA Attorneys Submit Comments to U.S. Department of Labor

Essex Richards attorneys Edward (“Woody”) Connette, Norris Adams, and Caitlin Walton submitted comments to the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) last month.  Their comments were submitted in response to the DOL’s request for comments regarding proposed changes to current regulations governing disability benefit claims.

According to the DOL’s proposed amendments to claims procedure regulations for plans providing disability benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), “the amendments would revise and strengthen the current rules primarily by adopting certain of the new procedural protections and safeguards made applicable to group health plans by the Affordable Care Act. If adopted as final, the proposed regulation would affect plan administrators and participants and beneficiaries of plans providing disability benefits, and others who assist in the provision of these benefits, such as third-party benefits administrators and other service providers that provide benefits to participants and beneficiaries of these plans.”

To read the DOL’s full proposal, click here.

As their practice focuses heavily on representing plaintiffs in ERISA-governed benefit disputes, Adams, Connette, and Walton felt that it was important for their clients that they utilize their experiences in representing claimants to provide substantive comments on the proposed regulations.  According to their submitted comments, the proposed amendments to the disability claim regulations are “a welcome and considerable step forward in clarifying and protecting the rights of claimants, as well as in providing more accountability to plan administrators.” Their comments included several suggestions where “further modifications could be made to improve the process.”

Of particular concern to the firm were recent changes to the law by the United States Supreme Court with respect to the commencement and duration of the statutes of limitations applicable to employees’ claims. Additionally, the firm made recommendations related to requiring plans to disclose their internal rules and other information vital to employees’ claims, requiring plans to provide deference to the opinions of patients’ treating physicians, requiring plans to provide additional disclosures to the claimants in their denial letters, requiring plans to consider additional appropriate evidence heretofore excluded, as well as a number of other proposed changes designed to make the disability system fairer to claimants.

To read the full comments submitted by Essex Richards, click here.

Essex Richards’ attorneys have been litigating ERISA claims for decades. ERISA is a federal law that establishes the minimum standards that are applicable to private employers’ retirement, health, and other welfare benefit plans, including disability.

The Essex Richards ERISA practice group handles short-term (“STD”) and long-term (“LTD”) disability benefit denials both under ERISA and private, non-ERISA disability insurance policies. The attorneys in this group handle other welfare benefit claims as well, such as life insurance and accidental death & dismemberment (“AD&D”) denials. The firm also regularly challenges group and individual health benefit denials for clients seeking coverage for their medical claims and procedures. Additionally, they represent individual clients and plan administrators with retirement benefit issues, “top hat” plans, deferred compensation agreements, and other pension benefit matters. The firm is also experienced in handling breach of fiduciary duty and prohibited transaction claims under ERISA.  To read more about the Essex Richards ERISA and Disability practice, click here.