How Long Can You Stay on Long-Term Disability? It Depends
For many people, long-term disability insurance benefits seem like a financial lifeline helping make up for your lost income. However, do you know how long those monthly benefit checks will last? As you plan for your future, you must know the answer.
In this article, the team at Bryant Legal Group discusses factors that may impact the duration of your long-term disability benefits. We’ll also outline steps you can take if your benefits are cut off prematurely.
Applying for Long-Term Disability Benefits? It’s Time to Review Your Policy
Long-term disability (LTD) benefits pay a monthly benefit when you are unable to work due to an injury, illness, or chronic condition. Unlike short-term disability benefits, which typically last for a year or less, LTD can provide years of support — if you meet your policy’s definition of disability.
During the early days of your disability insurance claim, it’s smart to carefully review your Plan Document or Summary Plan Description, since these documents will outline all of the essential terms of your policy, including:
- How the policy defines “disability”
- How much you will receive in monthly benefits
- When you should apply for benefits
- Whether any exclusions or limitations apply to your claim
- How long you will have to wait before you are eligible for a benefit check
- How long the insurance company will pay your claim
- Whether your policy provides partial disability benefits if you can return to part-time or lower-paying work
Once you understand how your policy’s unique terms and conditions will impact your claim, you can start building a comprehensive application for benefits. (And if you need help translating your policy’s language, schedule a consultation with one of our disability insurance lawyers.)
Some LTD Policies Cover You Until Retirement, But Some Are Much Shorter
Every long-term disability policy is different. However, there are several critical time periods that you need to identify:
- Elimination Period: The amount of time you must wait before you receive a benefit payment. These waiting periods can range from days to years.
- Limitations: Many LTD policies limit benefits for claims involving mental health disorders, “self-reported” symptoms, substance abuse, and other specific conditions. If a limitation covers your sole disability, you may only receive benefits for a limited time (typically a maximum of two years).
- Benefit Period: Your policy should set the maximum amount of time you can receive LTD benefits. Depending on your policy’s specific terms and conditions, your benefit period might be a couple of years, a decade, or up until retirement age.
However, no matter how long your benefit period, you will still need to convince the insurance company (or a judge) that you meet your insurance policy’s definition of disability.
There are two ways that insurance companies define “disability”:
- Own Occupation: You are disabled if you cannot perform your actual job.
- Any Occupation: You must show that you are unable to perform any type of work.
Even if your short-term disability policy used an “own occupation” definition, many long-term disability policies apply the more rigorous “any occupation” standard. (To make things even more complicated, some LTD policies are “own occupation” policies for a time — often two years — and then become “any occupation” plans.
Look Out for Your Policy’s Exclusions
In addition to navigating all your policy’s definition of disability, benefit, and waiting periods, you will also need to look out for exclusions. Many policies will not cover self-inflicted injuries, workers’ compensation claims, and conditions you suffer during civil unrest or due to criminal conduct. Additionally, many individual disability policies will exclude specific conditions — such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, or certain pre-existing conditions.
What Should I Do if the Insurance Company Terminates My Benefits?
If you receive a written notice terminating your long-term disability benefits in the mail, you must act quickly. Disability insurance companies sometimes improperly close out claims, hoping that you won’t read your long-term disability insurance policy’s fine print or consult with an experienced LTD attorney.
Disability insurance companies sometimes improperly close out claims, hoping that you won’t read your long-term disability insurance policy’s fine print or consult with an experienced LTD attorney.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to file a lawsuit or an appeal demanding ongoing coverage. However, strict filing deadlines often apply to long-term disability claims. If you have an employer-sponsored LTD plan, you may have as little as 180 days to file an appeal.
For this reason, we encourage you to contact our office as soon as you get a notice of termination. Our team of experienced disability insurance lawyers can review your Plan Document and Summary Plan Description, advise you about your legal rights, and suggest ways to either enforce or challenge your policy’s terms and conditions.
Bryant Legal Group: Chicago’s Trusted Disability Insurance Firm
Our team has helped people across Illinois and Chicago get the disability insurance benefits they deserve. We take a practical, client-centered approach — helping our clients make smart decisions about their long-term disability claims and appeal.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.