Being ‘happy’ on Facebook leads to denial of claim for depression

Many of us have seen the Facebook pages of friends and relatives who post photos and updates on every ordinary and mundane thing going on in their lives: from taking the kids shopping to announcing that they have new tires on the car.

But when a Canadian woman posted photos of herself on a beach vacation and paryting at a Chippendale’s club, the insurance company that had been paying benefits for nearly 18 months because of her inability to work due to major depression found the postings to be anything but “mundane.”

Manulife Financial (the Canadian firm that also owns American John Hancock) halted benefits payments to the Quebec woman after an investigation found photos of her in less-than-depressed situations.

Nathalie Blanchard is fuming because she says that vacations and partying are part of her therapy. Plus, she says that Manulife invaded her privacy by somehow looking at her private photos online.

Manulife says it was just doing its job, sort of like a workers compensation firm would do when investigating an “injured” worker who finds himself atop a surf board while collecting benefits for his injury. Blanchard was covered by Manulife through her employer, IBM.

Having experienced first-hand among family and friends the devastating effects of depression, I can sympathize with someone who claims that they are unable to work because of their condition.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to fault the insurer here. They have paid the claim for more than a year. And they expect that if the claimant has improved enough through treatment and therapy that she is able to enjoy life (at least during certain periods), then she is well enough to work and should not be paid further benefits.

Is it any different than the man in New York who has been collecting workers compensation benefits for 10 years, but was able to go fishing and power washing?

I can’t say whether the woman was defrauding her insurer or not, but for me one thing is certain:  a year and a half of therapy that includes beach vacations and evenings at a nightclub would cheer anyone up, unless they happened to post the evidence on Facebook.