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

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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 has been practicing law in Bergen County, New Jersey for over 25 years primarily in the area of ERISA long-term disability insurance claims and litigation; and Social Security Disability claims and litigation. Ms. Comerford is a graduate of Seton Hall Law School. She has lectured extensively on ERISA Long term disability insurance and Individual Disability Insurance law, as well as, Social Security disability law throughout the United States on behalf of many organizations including the American Association of Law Schools, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives, the American Association of Trial Lawyers (now the American Association of Justice), the Association of Administrative Law Judges; the American Bar Association, the New Jersey Bar Association, The New York and New Jersey Institutes of Continuing Legal Education, and the Bergen County Bar Association (where she founded the Social Security Committee which she continues to Co-Chair).

She has represented thousands of clients seeking social security disability, long term disability insurance and government disability benefits. She is one of the co-authors of the CFS Physician Manual (she wrote the Section on proving disability) which was published jointly by the New Jersey Academy of Medicine, the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services and UMDNJ. Until recently, it was the only such publication in the United States. It has been utilized by physicians and patients throughout the country to recognize and properly diagnose CFS. Ms. Comerford recently co-authored a medical journal article on ME/CFS for Frontiers. She is also awaiting notification of publication of another medical journal article on ME/CFS which a leading medical journal requested she submit for consideration.

Ms. Comerford has testified before the U.S Department of Health & Human Services CFS Scientific Advisory Committee on Education Law Recommendations for Adolescents diagnosed with severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  For more than a decade Ms. Comerford chaired the annual Women’s Luncheon for the Northern NJ Multiple Sclerosis Society to raise funds and awareness for individuals with MS. She has been a Disability Commentator for Tru TV (formerly Court TV). She has been a member of a number of non profit Boards including: The Community Health Law Project, Northeast New Jersey Legal Services, the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey, the CFIDS Association of America, the AACFS (a national scientific advisory committee focused on CFS which is now the International Association of CFS (IACFS)) and the Roy White Foundation. She has served on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Committee; and she has served as a member of the Legal Committee for the national pediatric traumatic brain injury foundation: The Sarah Jane Foundation in Manhattan. She has co-hosted the “Three Circles of Life” radio program on WMCA in New York City which focused on insurance issues and government disability programs, and political topics related to those issues. On October 17, 2019 she will be presenting a paper for a Lawline seminar to a national audience of lawyers on ERISA Long Term Disability Insurance Claims. On October 26, 2019, Ms. Comerford is also moderating and speaking about Careers in the Law at the request of the National Association of Women Judges for the “Color of Justice” Program at Rutgers Law School. She is also moderating a seminar at the Bergen County Bar Association in November 2019 on Social Security Disability law.

In 2018, Ms. Comerford’s law firm was in the national news for successfully representing a Washington Post reporter in litigation against Prudential for failure to award long term disability insurance benefits under an ERISA LTD policy: Vastag v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, No. 15-6197 (KSH) (CLW) (D.N.J. May 31, 2018).


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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