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Doctors Told Him He Can't Work Due To Heart Condition; Cigna Insurance Denied His Disability Claim Three Times

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This is an inside look at a man fighting for his life and the money to keep living it. Glenn Clarke is locked in a battle for benefits with insurance company Cigna.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us deep into his fight over what's considered a disability.

Life is low-key for Glenn Clarke. These days you'll find him reading a book, writing a novel and reminiscing about even simpler times.

"I really enjoyed my job. It was really creative and challenging," he said.

Glenn Clarke
Told he's permanently disabled due to a heart condition, Glenn Clarke left his job as vice president of Interior Design magazine, only to have his insurance company deny his claim for long-term disability benefits three times. (Credit: CBS)

He now faces a different type of challenge: to stay as relaxed as possible.

The former senior vice president of Interior Design magazine isn't retired. He and his doctors say he's permanently disabled due to a cardiac condition.

A five-way bypass, plus two heart attacks and the risk of third have kept his career on the sideline.

"The stress of doing presentations were really challenging for me; and to have chest pains going on while you're trying to talk to your clients about their projects, you have to hide how you're feeling," he said. "I really miss it. I had planned on working at least another six to 10 years."

Besides purpose, he's now without a paycheck. His insurance provider, Cigna, denied his claim for long-term disability benefits three times.

"You think you have a safety net of insurance if something happens, and that's not true," Clarke said.

It's also not uncommon, according to disability insurance attorney Michael Bartolic. He filed a complaint in Clarke's case two months ago.

The process to appeal insurance denials and fight them in court often takes years. That forces people like Clarke to dip into savings to make ends meet.

"If an insurer can just starve somebody long enough, they'll accept pennies on the dollar of what they're really owed," Bartolic said. "They just get worn down. Financially they get worn down. They get emotionally worn down; and for insurance companies, it's just a business."

In their final rejection letter in June, Cigna case reviewers repeatedly argued in their 10-page explanation that Clarke's heart condition shouldn't prevent him from working, claiming there was "no evidence ... that this occupation involves more than occasional standing and walking."

However, Clarke can lose his breath just making breakfast.

In an interesting twist, Cigna called after CBS 2 reached out. A spokesperson said "Cigna is working with Mr. Clarke and his attorney to resolve this matter."

Bartolic suggested anyone considering filing a disability claim gather up extensive medical records before leaving work. That can help speed up the process of filing a claim, and, if necessary, fighting a rejection.

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