The Challenges Executives Face When Filing for Long Term Disability

Executives are typically highly-skilled, high-ranking officers within a company. Executives provide management and oversight. Executives collaborate with other senior leadership officers in order to meet the company’s objectives. Successful Executives have a proven record of successful strategic planning and implementation.

In this article, we will explore the following:

  • Why It’s So Difficult To File For Disability As An Executive
  • How to Create A Winning Claim

The Duties and Responsibilities For an Executive

Executives have a lot of duties and responsibilities. Here is a short list of just some of the duties and responsibilities of an Executive:

  • Participate in the hiring and training of new team members
  • Coordinate with various teams and stakeholders as required
  • Lead status update meetings
  • Oversee all team operations, ensuring projects are completed on time and on budget
  • Manage budget and production agenda
  • Be responsible for overall successful operation of the team
  • Manage a diverse, multi-disciplined team of professionals
  • Set clear goals and objectives for the team
  • Report directly to senior management
  • Delegate responsibilities to subordinates and provide guidance and direction
  • Liaise between other members of the leadership team and subordinates
  • Evaluate subordinates, providing constructive feedback
  • Manage employee concerns through collaboration with HR
  • Contribute to the maximization of efficiency and productivity
  • Maintain acute awareness of market and industry trends

Depending on the company, sample Executive requirements and qualifications may include:

  • Bachelor’s, MBA or master’s degree in business management or related field
  • Significant experience in the industry
  • Leadership or management experience
  • Exceptional communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Strong team building skills and ability to motivate others
  • Team-player mindset and willingness to collaborate
  • Willing to take responsibility and act independently when necessary

Job Titles At the Executive Level

Peter F. Drucker’s wrote perhaps the seminal book on management, The Effective Executive, in 1967. When asked how he defined the term Executive, Drucker was quoted in a Fast Company article titled “Who Is an Executive?” as saying:

“I have called “executives” those knowledge works, managers, or individual professionals who are expected by virtue of their position or their knowledge to make decisions in the normal course of their work that have impact on the performance and results of the whole.

What few yet realize, however is how many people there are even in the most humdrum organization of today, whether business or government agency, research lab or hospital, who have to make decisions. For the authority of knowledge is surely as legitimate as the authority of position. These decisions, moreover, are of the same kind as the decision of top management.

The most subordinate, we now know, may do the same kind of work as the president of the company or the administrator of the government agency, that is, plan, organize, integrate, motivate, and measure. His compass may be quite limited, but within his sphere, he is an executive.”

Traditional job titles that are considered to be at the executive level include:

  • President
  • General Manager
  • Senior Vice-President
  • Vice-President
  • Executive Vice-President
  • Senior Manager or Head
  • Director
  • And other “C-suite” or “C-level” Officers.

C-Suite or C-Level executives are the top-rung corporate “chiefs”. C-suite job titles include:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Chief Experience Officer (CXO)
  • Chief Operating or Operations Officer (COO)
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Investment Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
  • Chief Brand or Banking Officer (CBO)
  • Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)
  • Chief Technology or Technical Officer (CTO)
  • Chief Finance or Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Chief Learning or Legal Officer (CLO)

In a Fast Company article titled “Your C-Suite Is Way Too Crowded” Russell Fleischer says that “c-level fever” is ow including some of the newer c-level titles:

  • Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)
  • Chief Customer Officer (CCO)
  • Chief Product Officer (CPO)
  • Chief Communications Officer (CCO)
  • Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO)
  • Chief Listening Officer (CLO)
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

But the C-level Executive Job Titles do not end there. In an article on The Balance, Job Search and Career Expert Alison Doyle added to this list the following titles:

  • Chief Accounting Officer (CAO)
  • Chief Applications Architect (CAA)
  • Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)
  • Chief Contracting Officer (CCO)
  • Chief Data Officer (CDO)
  • Chief Development Officer (CDO)
  • Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO)
  • Chief Risk Officer (CRO)
  • Chief Underwriting Officer (CUO)
  • Chief Procurement Officer (CPO)

Executive Skills

In short, here is a list of the top 10 skills an Executive may require in his or her job:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision-making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Executives are well-compensated for the high level of skill it requires to do their job.

If an Executive becomes disabled and files a long term disability claim, he or she will have a hard time getting approved.

Why? Because the insurance company is looking at the case from a financial standpoint. The insurance company is looking at how much money it will cost the company to provide an Executive with benefits throughout the illness or disability. The longer it could potentially take the Executive to return to work, the more scrutiny the Executive will face in the claims process.

Tips for a Successful Claim

Tip #1 Gather Strong Medical Evidence

Medical paperwork is the foundation of any long term disability claim. Collect all the medical evidence from your doctors that are treating your disability. Be sure that your doctors are noting your pain levels and cognitive difficulties on your chart. This is not always a common practice, but you will need detailed documentation for your claim.

For example, let’s assume a claimant has a significant back injury (such as herniated disks) and the claimant cannot sit, stand, or even walk for very long. The most comfortable position is for the claimant to lie down for 50% of the day to alleviate pain. There are not many jobs that will accommodate the need to lie down for half of the day. So the claimant will want to make sure there is good “objective medical evidence” to support the subjective complaints of pain. Objective evidence may include MRIs, X-Rays, etc.

Tip #2 Anticipate Surveillance

A large monetary claim – like one for an Executive – will likely call for video surveillance. Surveillance is completely legal. During the surveillance period, a private investigator will stake out the claimant’s house, talk to nearby neighbors about the claimant’s daily activities, and then try to use that information against the claimant in the administrative decision (or in court); This is why it is crucial to not rush back into exercise routines or anything else that is very strenuous on the body during the claim period.

Tip #3 Stay Off Of Social Media

In our article here, we discuss the likelihood that social media accounts will be monitored. As a busy Executive, you probably do not have much spare time for social media. However, when you are at home with nothing to do but rest, you may be tempted to start an account on a social media platform such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or SnapChat. We suggest staying off social media entirely during the claim period. The insurance investigator will try to use posts to social media accounts to deny your claim.

Tip #4 Do Not Try to Go Back to Work Too Fast

The amount of time spent recovering from a disability can be very dull and feel unproductive to an Executive. The change from a very active schedule to weeks (and perhaps months or even years) of rest can feel like a prison sentence. Executives must resist the urge to go back to work too early. When an Executive pushes himself or herself back into work before his or her body is ready physically and mentally, the Executive is in danger of making a mistake that could cause more harm.

Tip #5 Do Not Forget Cognitive Problems

An individual suffers from “cognitive impairment” when his or her ability to think and process information is reduced (for any reason).  Examples include when the individual has difficulty with basic cognitive functions, such as memory processing, perception, problem solving and language.  The symptoms of cognitive impairment may vary wildly from person to person; however, common symptoms include short-term memory loss and/or long-term memory loss; difficulty with planning, organizing and problem solving; confusion; an inability to handle stress appropriately; problems with managing time; and difficulty managing, influencing, and communicating with others.  Cognitive impairment can even result in physical manifestations, such as by causing poor motor coordination.

Cognitive impairment can arise from a number of severe and disabling medical conditions such as delirium, dementia, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or ‎Huntington’s disease.  Cognitive impairments can also manifest as the result of other medical problems/diagnoses, including a stroke, heart disease, a brain injury, major depression, an anxiety disorder, insomnia, high blood pressure, chronic migraine headaches, lupus, Raynaud’s phenomenon and fibromyalgia. This list of causes is not exhaustive. There may be other diagnoses that cause cognitive problems.

While the language of every short-term and long-term disability policy is different, you are typically entitled to disability insurance benefits if you are unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your own occupation or any gainful occupation for which you are qualified by education, training and experience.

It seems obvious that when an Executive suffers from cognitive impairment, whatever the cause, he or she would have difficulty performing the material and substantial duties of an Executive.  However, insurance companies do not always pay benefits, even when their liability seems obvious.  Too often, the attorneys at the Ortiz Law Firm have seen insurance companies/ERISA administrator’s assert that an insured has the “functional capacity” to return to work even if they are suffering from conditions such as cognitive impairment.

Note: An insurance company may require the claimant to sit for an “independent” neuropsychological examination. Keep in mind that this exam is conducted by a medical professional the insurance company hand-picked and the insurance company is footing the bill.  As you can well imagine, the paid neurophysiologist often prepares a biased report concluding that the claimant has the residual ability to return to work, regardless of the limiting cognitive impairments from which they suffer. The Ortiz Law Firm has significant experience assisting claimants in this situation, and has been successful in convincing insurance companies to reverse their denial decisions, even when that decision was initially supported by the results of an unfavorable neuropsychological examination.

In Conclusion

Executives will find it challenging to get a long term disability claim approved. The insurance company will search for virtually any reason to deny the claim. By providing strong medical evidence, keeping a low profile, and not rushing back to work too soon, an Executive can create a solid case for disability.

Using an experienced disability attorney will help you protect yourself against insurance investigators. The Nick Ortiz Law Firm is based in Florida but represents claimants across the country. Receive a free consultation by calling 850-308-7833 with no obligation. We can help you evaluate your claim to determine if you will be able to access Long-Term Disability Benefits and how to move forward with the process.