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Can an employer change a disability plan once you've made a claim?

Many workers in San Antonio are covered by a variety of insurance plans through their employers. People are often less familiar with the terms of their disability plans than their other insurance plans because many people never make disability claims. This is because this type of insurance is there only as a safety net, so that people will still have an income should they become disabled prior to retirement.

While short- and long-term disability insurance can be an important lifeline, unfortunately benefits are sometimes difficult to obtain when they should not be. When people have trouble obtaining disability benefits from an employer's plan, they may be wise to seek advice from an employment law attorney. Disability plans are often governed under the Employee Retirement Security Act, and it is sometimes possible to file a claim under this law if disability benefits are wrongfully denied.

A very interesting ERISA case was recently resolved after a man's disability plan changed while he was disabled and receiving benefits. The man began receiving disability benefits under an employer's policy in 1990 for a work-related disability. The benefits were supposed to continue until he reached early retirement age, but in 2004 the fund's board of trustees decided to discontinue occupational disability benefits that began prior to 2005. This meant that the man was going to stop receiving disability benefits six years earlier than had been scheduled.

The man appealed this decision, arguing that the amendment to the plan while he was obtaining benefits was an ERISA violation. The board of trustees argued that the plan stated that any amendments to the plan could be enforced retroactively.

Ultimately, an appeals court did rule in favor of the board of trustees due to the way that the plan was worded. This case, while it unfortunately did not work in favor of the disabled man, shows us how important the details of ERISA plan documents are. Many cases like these end differently, and it is important for people to seek legal counsel if they are denied the workplace benefits they deserve.

Source: HL.BLR.com, "ERISA: Can disability benefits be changed retroactively?" March 5, 2013

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