How to Apply for Short-Term Disability Benefits in Illinois
As a professional or entrepreneur, you’ve worked tirelessly to build your practice or business. When a health issue or injury makes it impossible for you to do your job, you’ll need financial support while you care for yourself and focus on your recovery, and short-term disability is supposed to provide that support. Unfortunately, many claimants make mistakes during the application process, which complicates their claims and leads to unnecessary appeals.
For more than a decade, Bryant Legal Group has helped people throughout Illinois get the short-term disability benefits they deserve. In this article, we outline the essential steps in the short-disability application process and suggest ways you can improve your claim.
What Is Short-Term Disability?
Short-term disability insurance is supposed to step in and provide financial assistance when you cannot work due to an injury, illness, or chronic condition. Short-term disability policies may cover disabilities that last for a brief period, usually from a few weeks to a year. After that, you may be eligible for long-term disability insurance benefits, depending on the terms and conditions of your plan or policy.
At Bryant Legal Group, our lawyers focus on disability insurance claims that involve either an employer-sponsored plan or privately purchased coverage. We do not focus on Social Security benefit claims or other public benefits. However, if you have a standalone Social Security disability claim or another issue, we can refer you to an experienced lawyer who focuses on these programs.
Does Illinois Law Apply to My Short-Term Disability Claim?
If you have a privately purchased short-term disability policy, Illinois law will govern your claim. In that case, if the insurance company denies your benefits, you can immediately file a lawsuit and request a jury trial.
However, many short-term disability claims are covered by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974). This is a federal law that applies to most employer-sponsored disability insurance plans, and it has its own specific rules and procedures. If you have an ERISA plan, you’ll need to submit an administrative appeal before filing your lawsuit in federal court.
1. Assess Your Disability Options and Review Your Plan Documents
Every short-term disability insurance plan is different. When you or your employer purchased coverage, you agreed to certain terms and conditions. Even the most sophisticated business owners and professionals should refresh themselves about these requirements before they apply for benefits. When you review your Summary Plan Description or Plan Document, you need to ask yourself:
- How does my short-term disability policy define “disability?”
- Does my plan have any exclusions or limitations that impact my claim for short-term disability benefits?
- How long do I have to wait until I’m eligible for short-term disability?
- How does my short-term disability policy handle pre-existing conditions?
If you need help answering these questions, schedule a free consultation with an experienced disability insurance lawyer.
2. Talk to Your Doctors and Health Care Providers
When you apply for short-term disability benefits, you’ll need strong evidence from your medical providers that substantiates your claims. This evidence may include medical records, diagnostic tests (like MRI and EKG studies), and detailed written opinions that outline your limitations. That’s why we suggest you discuss your eligibility for disability insurance early on with your doctors. If your physicians support your short-term disability claim, you’ll be in a much better position.
3. Consult a Disability Insurance Lawyer
Many claimants hold off on consulting a lawyer, assuming that they can handle their application on their own. At Bryant Legal Group, we meet many of these claimants after they’ve been denied, and we often find they made mistakes that we could have helped them avoid.
Knowledge is power. We always suggest you meet with an experienced disability insurance lawyer early on in your claim. That way, you’ll understand the laws that impact your eligibility for benefits, the procedures you have to follow, and your likelihood of success. And even if you decide to handle your short-term disability application on your own, you’ll know where to turn if you need help with an appeal.
4. Request an Application Form and Start Collecting Your Evidence
If you have an employer-sponsored short-term disability plan, you can typically request an application form from your HR department. If you have private disability insurance coverage, you may need to get the form from your insurance company or download it from their website. Some insurance companies, including UNUM and MetLife, will even let you apply online.
Typically, there are several steps to a short-term disability application:
- You complete a form that outlines your personal information, medical conditions, and limitations
- Your employer completes a section of the form that discusses your job duties, salary, and work history
- Your doctor verifies your medical conditions and provides additional information
However, that’s just the bare minimum. We typically suggest you provide the insurance company with copies of your medical records and other supporting evidence that demonstrates the extent of your disability and the severity of your condition.
While the insurance company may request some of these records, insurance companies and their adjusters don’t always do their due diligence. Often, we find that short-term disability claims are denied because the adjuster didn’t wait for all of a claimant’s records to come in or neglected to request records from an important provider.
If you’re not sure what to submit, discuss your claim with your disability insurance lawyer. They can help protect your claim and strengthen your claim on appeal.
5. Submit Your Claim and Prepare for Follow Up
Submitting a claim for short-term disability benefits is only the beginning of your journey. Once the insurance company has your information, it will assign you an adjuster who will process your claim and review your evidence.
Don’t be surprised if the adjuster asks you for additional information. You may need to complete more forms and provide more evidence. The adjuster may even try to pressure you into making a statement or meeting with them in person. If you’re uncomfortable with any of these tactics, you should immediately contact a short-term disability lawyer, and you should never welcome an insurance company representative into your home.
6. If You’re Denied, Call Your Disability Insurance Attorney and Consider Your Options
Insurance companies frequently deny short-term disability claims, even if they’re legitimate. If your application for benefits is denied, don’t give up. Instead, contact an attorney at Bryant Legal Group. We’ll review your case, evaluate the insurance company’s reasoning, and give you honest advice.
Bryant Legal Group: Respected Disability Insurance Lawyers in Illinois
Bryant Legal Group is one of Illinois’ premier disability insurance law firms. We help people get the short-term disability insurance benefits that they deserve. If you need help understanding the terms and conditions of your employer-sponsored or private LTD policy, we’ll help you evaluate your plan documents and suggest practical next steps.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.