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Working while disabled

Can you be working and disabled at the same time? That was the question answered in Mirocha v. Metro.Life Ins.Co., 2014 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 98025 (N.D.Ill. July 18, 2014), which found that even though the plaintiff, Joseph Mirocha, had been discharged from his position as an electrical supervisor at Palos Community Hospital in the Chicago suburbs, he was disabled even though he worked up until the date of discharge.  The court flatly rejected MetLife's main argument that Mirocha did not suffer a loss of income prior to his disability date; and found: "MetLife's contention in its summary judgment papers that Mirocha does not qualify because he earned 100% of his Predisability Earnings for one week after the date he claims disability borders on the frivolous."

The court determined that in view of MRI and other medical findings from prior to the disability date, "it is entirely possible that poor job performance could have resulted from limitations imposed by Mirocha's medical condition." The court thus was extremely critical of MetLife for cherry-picking evidence that supported a denial of benefits while ignoring the evidence that supported the claimant.  The court also determined that Social Security's approval of benefits was persuasive evidence.

Although the court's ruling was comprehensive, it could have turned to Hawkins v. First Union, 326 F.3d 914, 918 (7th Cir. 2003) on the point that there is no incompatibility between working and being disabled; and that the job termination would have no bearing on the disability.   That point was driven home even more forcefully in DeLisle v. Sun Life Assur.Co of Canada, 558 F.3d 440 (6th Cir. 2009).  There, as in this case, the insurer put too much emphasis on non-medical evidence and failed to give adequate consideration to the medical evidence supporting disability.  As those cases make clear, desperate people often continue working long after others may have succumbed to a serious impairment.  Instead of punishing such individuals for deferring their applications for benefits, they should be applauded for their heroism and courage in persisting until they finally become overwhelmed and have to cease working or their employer can no longer reasonably accommodate their limitations.

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