Northern California Record

Thursday, September 19, 2019

PTSD at center of disability lawsuit

By Dawn Geske | Feb 2, 2017

SAN JOSE – An Apple software engineer has filed a lawsuit after being denied long-term disability benefits, which he claims he is entitled to for the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he developed in June 2015.

Christopher Kane filed the suit against Cigna Corp., doing business as Cigna Insurance Group and Life Insurance Co. of North America, claiming he suffers from PTSD from his time in the Iraq War. He filed the complaint under the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act on Jan. 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

While Kane received short-term disability benefits until he was terminated in June 2016, his application for long-term disability benefits was denied by Cigna Corp. He is seeking entitlement to the disability benefits he filed for under the terms of his agreement, as well as all legal fees and any other relief deemed just by the court.

In question in the case is the PTSD diagnosis and whether it qualifies for long-term disability benefits.

“PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs in people who have experienced a trauma in their life or multiple traumas,” Dr. Mark Balabanis, who teaches a course on PTSD at the University of California, Berkeley, told the Northern California Record. “What is happening with PTSD is people are having an initial reaction to a traumatic experience, but then for people that develop PTSD, they continue to experience the echoes of reaction to memory and to situations that they feel unsafe or remind them of the trauma.”

Kane’s PSTD might qualify him for disability benefits because it can affect functioning in many areas of life, from vocations to relationships, Balabanis said.

“Certainly, the disorder can impair and affect functioning, and there are different levels of severity,” he said. “Usually the more severe and prolonged the syndrome, the more it would impair functions.”

Classified as a mental illness disorder, PTSD has carried a stigma that only recently has become more understood by society.

“The diagnosis itself has a long history of being misunderstood and stigmatized,” Balabanis said. “Nowadays, I think we’re starting to catch up a little bit, and people are starting to understand it a little bit better and realize that if a person has been traumatized then it’s a mental illness. People are becoming more and more aware of it.”

Balabanis added that PTSD symptoms can vary depending on the circumstances and the individual, but it is the anxiety aspect of the disorder that can most affect a person who has gone through a traumatic event.

“Their diagnosis is actually an anxiety disorder that can be disabling, but the disabling part depends from case to case,” Balabanis said.

He also said that in these instances, a veteran often would receive “treatment and compensation for having been impaired or injured in this way."

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Organizations in this Story

Apple Inc. Cigna U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California University of California Berkeley