We have talked previously in our blog about the dangers social media can pose for your disability claim. As summer kicks into gear and many people enjoy outdoor activities and vacation traveling, it’s important to revisit some of the social media points we’ve made in the past and provide some new insight into how different Internet sites may be able to help your claim and improve your odds of obtaining the disability benefits you deserve.
First and foremost, it’s very important to mention some of the safeguards we’ve stressed here many times. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Instagram can be treasure troves of information about you that you wouldn’t knowingly provide which insurance companies and claims investigators can twist and take out of context. Instagram is a new addition since the last time we reviewed this topic, but its sudden popularity and abundance of pictures makes Instagram a ripe resource for insurance companies to exploit. It may very well provide the insurance companies with more information they can use against you and your claim than the other social networks due to the lack of context for many of the pictures posted. Social media profiles are also ripe for creating narratives and assumptions about your activities and your life that may not be true.
There are several steps you can and should preemptively take in order to protect your claim.
- Carefully read all authorizations. When you initially file your claim and continuing on a repeated basis, the insurance company will provide several authorizations to sign and return. What’s often overlooked is that you may not be required to allow them access to all of the information they request. Look at each authorization to see what they’re asking for permission to access and then compare it to your policy as well as industry regulations to decide if you’re required to provide access. If you still have questions, please consider contacting an experienced disability claim consultant or ERISA attorney. Even if you are required to allow the insurance company to access certain information, understanding what information they’re considering provides some insight into the thinking of the claims examiner and allows you to be better prepared.
- Maintain strict privacy settings on your social media accounts. Claimants often think they have to delete all of their social media accounts entirely, but this is a step many people are unwilling (and may not need) to take in our ever-connected society. Many disabled individuals use social media as one of the best ways to reach people and places they couldn’t otherwise visit, so removing this link could create unnecessary stress in their lives. If you’re filing a disability claim and don’t want to remove all of your social media accounts, please at least make sure that your privacy settings are set to their maximum. Each social network has different methods of maintaining their customer’s privacy, but make sure that your information is only visible to those who you know and not open to the public.
- Investigate yourself. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to understand what the insurance company sees when they search for you on the internet. You can start by looking on a simple search engine such as Google, but there are also more specific search sites that can help you uncover any negative information about yourself. One of our favorites is a site called Dirt Search. It reviews many of the available public records on the Internet and will show you a number of instances where your name comes up. But please understand that insurance companies and their investigators have access to more powerful Internet databases. If it’s online, chances are it can be found.
Aside from social media accounts, there are many helpful areas of the Internet that can help your claim and provide insight into the disability claims process. Depending on what type of information you’re seeking, here are a couple of great resources to answer questions and concerns related to disability claims:
- For specific disability policy or claim questions, Disability Insurance Forums can be a great resource. Their team of moderators and contributing posters are very well versed (if not experts) from all parts of the industry; including agents and disability claim consultants. In terms of full disclosure, one of our own consultants, Robert Neal, is a moderator on the boards. From questions about your eligibility for certain disability insurance policies to questions about policy riders and all the rest of the way through the claims process, these experts have more combined knowledge than any other resource on the internet.
- If you have questions about medical conditions, Medical News Today is a great resource that may help answer your questions. Especially useful if you have a rare or hidden illness, this website will alert you of new treatments and tests available in any number of medical fields. Discovering new testing procedures or disease indicators can be an important aspect of your claim if traditional testing protocols are questioned and disputed by the insurance company. Unlike some medical information websites, Medical News Today doesn’t try and water down the information but leaves in the scientific and technical details that may be valuable in your circumstances.
- For more general disability industry queries, we like LifeHealthPro. This website provides insurance industry information as well as sections for each specific type of insurance. While this knowledge may not specifically impact your disability claim, knowing the industry changes and trends allows you to assess the attitudes of companies away from their marketing departments. In addition, LifeHealthPro can help you stay aware of judgments and settlements for which you may be eligible, such as the recent Cigna settlement.
In addition to the resources we’ve mentioned, there are many, many other websites that can provide credible information and help for you, your medical conditions, and your disability claim. You may have to search, but many conditions have their own support groups on the Internet where you can find advice from others who have been in your situation and fought similar battles with insurance companies to get their rightful disability benefits. There are also other disability claim blogs that have different perspectives than our firm but still provide information that may be helpful. Trying to have your video become a viral sensation on YouTube probably isn’t the best idea while claiming disability benefits, but that doesn’t mean you should withdraw and hide from the Internet. There is too much good information and help to be found to ignore that resource.
Of course, there’s no substitute for personalized assistance if you’re having issues with your disability insurer. You may access lots of information on the Internet, but making the best decisions for you and your claim that may affect your future benefits should not be left up to generic or anonymous sources on the Internet. Having your own disability claims consultant who knows your case and is looking out for your interests often provides the best chance for a successful disability claim.
If you have any questions about the resources or tips we’ve mentioned above or if you’d like more help with your disability claim, please do not hesitate to contact our offices toll-free at (855) 828-4100 or visit our website to sign up for a free consultation.