Having to live with chronic pain as result of a work related injury can, at best, make life difficult for a person. Living with chronic pain that renders a person completely and totally disabled along with the added emotional and mental stress of trying to make a claim for short-term and long-term disability benefits can be a nightmare. Such is the case with JoAnn Alexander, a former Met life agency director, whom became disabled on August 31, 2006 due to chronic shoulder pain as result of spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and cervical radiculopathy. Ms. Alexander terminated her employment with MetLife on March 22, 2007. Shortly thereafter, she applied for short-term disability benefits in accordance with the plan she had while she was working for MetLife.
A MetLife insured benefit receiver’s hopes of collecting his underpaid disability payments were squashed when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied his appeal on March 16, 2011. Michael Palmer, the plaintiff in Palmer v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, filed a lawsuit against Metropolitan Life Insurance for the underpayment and subsequent termination of his disability benefits under ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) that Palmer had as an employee of Alltel Corporation. Summary judgment was granted in favor of MetLife by district court and Palmer proceeded to appeal the decision based on the “standard of review,” meaning that Palmer and his disability attorney questioned the decision that was reached by MetLife and the insurance providers use of its discretionary authority.
Background of Palmer’s Disability Benefits Claim
Employed at Alltel Corporation since June 1, 2005 as a Business Solutions, Michael Palmer’s last day of work at Alltel was February 2, 2006. On February 3, 2006, Palmer had disc replacement surgery, and on July 11, 2006, he applied for long-term disability benefits under Alltel’s MetLife Insurance Policy, claiming disability because of lower-back problems. Palmer’s disability claim was approved on October 12, 2006, and the letter informing him of this decision stated that his disability benefits were payable as of August 2, 2006. In February 2008, Palmer contacted MetLife to inform the insurance company that his disability benefit payment was incorrect as the amount was calculated on his salary only but did not take into consideration his commission.