If you have a serious medical condition, you may worry that you’ll soon be unable to keep up with the demands of your job. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear is, “Can I apply for disability insurance if I’m still working?” The answer is that you typically cannot receive disability insurance benefits before you leave your job — but you can start preparing your claim.
In this article, our disability insurance lawyers explain the basics of a disability insurance application. We’ll also give you a disability checklist that will help you prepare your claim.
Chronic and Progressive Conditions Can Make It Hard to Maintain Your Job
Many of our clients live with chronic, progressive, or recurring-remitting medical conditions that incrementally make it harder to work. Whether you have heart disease, multiple sclerosis, or an autoimmune disorder, the wear and tear of your condition can eventually become disabling.
Disability insurance plans typically define “disability” in two different ways:
- Own occupation: You cannot perform your actual job, but you still may have the ability to do other work.
- Any occupation: You are unable to perform any kind of work due to your injuries, illness, or chronic conditions.
If you meet your policy’s standard, you may be eligible for monthly benefit payments.
- Related Article: Can You Work Part-Time and Collect Disability Insurance?
You Can Apply for LTD Benefits Before the Elimination Period Expires
Every disability insurance plan is different, but most of them have “elimination periods.” You cannot receive benefits until the elimination or waiting period expires.
While a short-term disability policy’s elimination period may be just a week, many long-term disability policies have a 90-day waiting period (although long-term plans also vary). Before you apply for disability benefits, it’s a good idea to read your Plan Document or Summary Plan Description. That way, you’ll know the precise waiting periods that apply to your claim.
However, an elimination period doesn’t mean you should wait to apply for disability insurance benefits. By the time that the insurance company investigates your claim and reaches a decision, the elimination period will likely be over.
Medical Evidence Is Critical to Your Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Claims
As you get ready to apply for short-term or long-term disability benefits, consistent medical care is essential. When an insurance adjuster reviews your claim, they will look for evidence related to your diagnoses, the severity of your conditions, and your prognosis. Medical records offer this information and much more.
If you’re struggling at work, the first step is to talk to your doctor. They may be able to identify treatment options that reduce your symptoms or suggest restrictions that improve your daily life. Additionally, if you decide you can no longer work, your doctor’s detailed notes will become powerful evidence during a disability insurance claim or lawsuit.
- Related Article: “Self-Reported” Symptoms: How to Fight Back With Medical Evidence
Consult a Disability Lawyer Early On
Applying for long-term disability benefits is not a simple process. You’ll need to give the insurance company comprehensive information about your medical conditions, work and education, daily activities, and the severity of your symptoms. In turn, the company may demand more information and face-to-face interviews. They may even hire a private investigator to track your every move.
Many people can’t manage all of these demands while maintaining a focus on their wellness. We frequently meet with people who tried to handle their applications themselves and made costly mistakes. Sometimes, our legal team can address the errors and get these clients the benefits they deserve. Other times, it’s too late.
When you consult an experienced LTD lawyer at the start of your claim, you’ll know your case is built on a strong and solid foundation.
However, not every attorney who says they’re a disability lawyer understands how to pursue a long-term disability claim. Many disability lawyers focus their practices on Social Security disability claims, which involve very different processes and laws. The Social Security Administration manages all SSDI and SSI claims, and specific federal laws and regulations apply. However, long-term and short-term disability claims are much more complicated.
Depending on your policies, Illinois or federal laws may apply. And, you may face a multi-stage appeal process that involves insurance-company-level appeals and a lawsuit. There are also significant procedural hurdles.
For example, if you have an employer-sponsored LTD plan, you only have a limited amount of time to submit evidence supporting your claim. If you wait too long, you will be unable to present new information, no matter how important it is. If your “disability lawyer” only dabbles in long-term disability claims, they may make errors that cost you your LTD benefits.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, always work with a law firm that focuses specifically on disability insurance, not broader disability issues. At Bryant Legal Group, we primarily handle disability insurance claims, not Social Security cases.
Are You Ready to Apply? Use Our Disability Checklist
There are many essential steps to a disability insurance application. Here are some you should never ignore.
- Talk to your doctors and health care providers about your medical conditions and follow their advice to the best of your ability.
- Start a disability journal that tracks your day-to-day symptoms.
- Request a copy of your Plan Document and Summary Plan Description from your supervisor or human resources department. These documents outline your policy’s definition of disability and detail other terms and conditions.
- Consult an experienced disability insurance lawyer at Bryant Legal Group who can assess your eligibility for benefits. We offer free consultations.
- Keep track of all elimination periods and filing deadlines. When possible, mark them in your calendar. If you miss a deadline, you may lose your right to benefits.
- Create a list of all your medical providers’ names and addresses, including doctors, therapists, hospitals, and clinics.
- Collect your medical records and get detailed information about your physical and mental abilities from your treating doctors.
- Request a copy of the application form, sometimes called an Employee’s Statement, from the insurance company or your HR department.
- Complete your application for disability insurance benefits with help from your lawyer. This form will require extensive information, including:
- Your Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Contact information, like your phone number and address
- Your employer’s name
- Information about your job and work activities
- Your education and training
- Your work history
- Information about your medical conditions and providers
- When you started noticing symptoms from your medical conditions
- Your last day of work
- Make sure your employer completes their part of your LTD application.
- Promptly respond to the insurance adjuster’s requests for more information.
- Supplement your claim with additional medical evidence and information as your condition changes.
- Attend independent medical examinations (IMEs), if scheduled.
- Negotiate with the insurance company and insist that they follow the appropriate state or federal laws.
- If the insurance company denies your claim, discuss your appeal options with your disability lawyer.
This is not a complete list of all the actions our team takes when we represent a long-term disability client. However, the list does provide a general framework if you decide to represent yourself in a disability insurance claim.
If you’re unable to manage all the items on this checklist, that’s okay — but you must contact an experienced disability insurance lawyer for help as soon as possible.
Bryant Legal Group: Fighting for People With Disabilities in Illinois
If you’re considering a long-term disability application, the team at Bryant Legal Group can help you understand your legal options. Our lawyers focus on disability insurance claims and help people get the benefits and aid they deserve. Plus, your initial consultation with an attorney from our team is always free. We’ll listen to your story, review your claim, and give you practical advice.
To schedule your free initial consultation with our team, call us at 312-667-2536 or use our quick and convenient online form.