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18. What should I send with my appeal?

Assuming your initial denial involved an ERISA-governed disability policy, it is absolutely critical that you use the opportunity to appeal to submit a complete record (any and all documentation) supporting your claim.

The reason it is especially important to "get it right" is that under ERISA, if your denial is upheld on appeal and you still disagree with the decision, the administrative record/claim file is "closed" and you are not allowed to submit new information except in rare circumstances. Consequently, any Court that reviews the claim decision will typically be limited only to the claim file in front of the appeals examiner.

ERISA does not allow for witnesses to testify at trial and generally, new information is not allowed to be added to the claim file after an appeal has been upheld.

What you actually submit will in part be determined by the reasons provided to you as part of your denial, and the information in your claim file.

This is why it is critical that upon learning of your denial you ask the insurer for a copy of your claim file and all pertinent documents as discussed earlier. After you review the denial letter, you may want to consider calling the claim examiner and asking him or her "What type of information was missing from my claim that would allow you to approve benefits?"

Assuming your claim was denied under a policy not governed by ERISA, I'd still suggest asking the insurer for the same information.

Because of the seriousness of getting the record right on appeal, you may want to seriously consider consulting an attorney or advocate experienced with disability matters.