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Long Term Disability Insurance Claims Arising from ME/CFS (Vastag v. Prudential)

(610 reviews)

Produced on January 17, 2019

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Course Information

Time 1h 2m
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

According to the most recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report published in 2015, an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans suffer from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), but most of them have not been diagnosed. The National Institutes of Health published studies between 1966 and 2004 which examined the extent of work-related impairment in those suffering with ME/CFS which demonstrated job loss which ranged from 26 to 89 percent consistent with job loss among those with other chronic illnesses. Decreased job performance among adults with ME/CFS was consistently reported in the literature and was, in part, attributed to impairments of short-term memory and learning, decision making, attendance and communication skills, and increased dependence on co-workers to perform work duties. Evidence of impairment in this population was found to be substantially more prevalent in ME/CFS patients than in controls and 54% of ME/CFS patients reported being unemployed compared to 9% of controls. As a result, employers, disability insurers, and attorneys must often confront the issue of disability in the workforce from those afflicted with ME/CFS.

This course, presented by Barbara B. Comerford, whose law firm successfully represented Brian Vastag, an award-winning Washington Post Science Reporter who suffers from ME/CFS, in an ERISA LTD lawsuit against Prudential Insurance Company in Vastag v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 2018 WL 2455921 (D. N.J May 31, 2018), will discuss the basics of Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Long Term Disability Insurance claims (LTD), the various diagnostic criteria used for ME/CFS, the symptoms experienced by those suffering from ME/CFS, objective documentation of symptoms in ME/CFS cases, how to determine the validity of a ME/CFS case from a plaintiff perspective, and a sampling of cases decided for the defense. 

Learning Objectives:
  1. Address the basics of Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Long Term Disability Insurance claims (LTD)
  2. Identify the various diagnostic criteria used for ME/CFS
  3. Determine the validity of a ME/CFS case from a plaintiff perspective
  4. Discuss cases decided for the defense

Credit Information

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Barbara B. Comerford

The Law Offices of Barbara B. Comerford

Barbara B. Comerford is an attorney in Paramus, New Jersey, whose firm represents ERISA Long Term Disability Insurance clients, and Social Security Disability clients throughout the United States and has for more than 25 years. She is a frequent lecturer on those topics and has conducted seminars throughout the years at the request of the American Bar Association, the New York and New Jersey Institutes of Continuing Legal Education, the Honorable Anne E. Thompson, American Inns of Court, the American Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ), the National Association of Social Security Disability Claimants (N.O.S.S.C.R), the American Trial Lawyers Association (now the American Association for Justice), and local Bar Associations.

Ms. Comerford has co-authored articles on Medically Documenting Disability in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for Frontiers Medical Journal (Frontiers in Pediatrics/Pediatric Neurology) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2019.00231/full; and Documenting disability in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) for the Journal WORK: Work 2020;66(2):339-352.doi: 10.3233/WOR-20 and cited at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32568153/. She is currently working on an article for another medical journal on proving Long Haul COVID 19 cases. Ms. Comerford was recently quoted in an article published in August 2020 in Atlantic Magazine on Long Haul COVID 19 cases, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/08/long-haulers-covid-19-recognition-support-groups-symptoms/615382/. She also co-authored the Chapter on Proving a CFS disability case for the first Physician Monograph ever in the United States which was jointly published by the New Jersey Academy of Medicine, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Ms. Comerford has sat on a number of professional Boards including the American Association of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (now the International Association of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-a medical research Board); the CFIDS Association of America, The New Jersey CFS Association, the Roy White Foundation, the Northeast New Jersey Legal Services Association, the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey and the Lewis Sanks King Justice Fund.

Ms. Comerford and her senior associate, Sara Kaplan-Khodorovsky, represented the plaintiff Brian Vastag, the science writer for the Washington Post in VASTAG v. PRUDENTIAL INSURANCE COMPANY OF AMERICA, No. 2:2015cv06197 - Document 44 (D.N.J. 2018) before the Honorable Katherine Hayden. The plaintiffs prevailed in that case by carefully medically documenting symptoms and limitations in that chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia case. Ms. Comerford has represented hundreds of such claimants throughout her professional career.


Elizabeth B.

thank you

Robert C.


Stanley O.

Excellent course. Well prepared and presented

Linda K.

Great on recent development of objective criteria for diagnosis.

Elisa V.

Ms comerford is such an excellent presenter and is talking about an important area a unique but debilitating condition that is difficult to persuade. Such valuable info!!

Rebecca T.

Well done presentation.

Myrna T.


Andre O.

Keep up the good job

Don A.

Very thoroughly presented.

James V.

Presentation was excellent, highly recommend.

Silvia C.

Very informative and educational

Gina L.

I like that she gave an overview of the illnesses.

Mark K.

Excellent program. Thank you.

Rosa L.

The attorney who presented the course clearly explained the technical material, offered helpful recommendations and relevant caselaw.

Cathy L.

excellent presenter--one of best I've seen.

Eileen M.

What an extreme illness! The speaker was very knowledgeable and thorough. Thank you!

Stephanie A.

Interesting. Good slides.

Patricia L.

Interesting area of practice. I like that she provided real practice tips in gathering types of testing to support the plaintiffs case or when defending a case.

Regina H.

Really good speaker

Donnellda R.

Presenter was very knowledgeable and on-point. Appreciate style of presenter.

Steven K.

Much more informative than expected, very well done by the presenter.

Thomas S.

Good, engaging presenter even on IOS!

Thom G.

Excellent CLE!

William S.

Thank you for a fine overview.

Jeffrey D.


Catherine M.

Very interesting topic.

Ashley L.

Great course

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