What Qualifies as a Long-Term Disability?

Long-term disability benefits may be available if you have an illness or injury, or if you have a disability that you expect will keep you out of work for a long duration. If the injury puts you out of work for weeks, months, or even years, you may qualify for long-term assistance. 

If you’ve had an accident or injury, you may wonder how you’ll be able to afford your bills until you can return to work. That lack of income can put serious stress on you and your family.

Disability insurance companies offer long-term disability benefits for this situation. 

What Is Long-Term Disability?

Long-term disability is a program that pays benefits to people who can’t work for a long time (or indefinitely) because of their injuries. These plans typically pay about 50% to 80% of your pre-disability earnings, up to a maximum amount under your policy.

Short-term disability, on the other hand, is generally for people who only expect to be away from work for a short while. For instance, if you need time to recover after a pregnancy, a broken bone, or surgery, you might qualify for short-term disability.

What Does Long-Term Disability Cover?

While short-term disability pays you if you’re unable to do your job, long-term disability may also give you benefits if you can’t do any kind of job. You may not qualify for long-term disability if you can find different work in another industry. For instance, if you left construction and were able to find a job as a consultant, you probably wouldn’t qualify for long-term disability.

Long-term disability typically pays benefits for debilitating injuries and illnesses, chronic pain, cancer treatments, and other conditions expected to last more than 26 weeks. However, each policy is different.

How Do Long-Term Disability Benefits Work?

First, you must provide medical proof of an injury or illness beyond the long-term disability waiting period, sometimes called the elimination period. Once you’ve done that, the insurance company will pay as long as you continue to meet the standard of disability until you’ve either exhausted the benefits or your doctor says you’re clear to go back to work.

When Do Benefits Start and End?

Long-term disability benefits start once you’ve passed the waiting period (typically three months) and exhausted any short-term benefits available. If your employer offers short- and long-term benefits through a single provider, it usually pays out short-term benefits to the maximum before giving you long-term benefits.

When benefits end depends on your disability insurance policy. Usually, the insurance company will pay out the policy for as long as you meet the standard of disability or until you can go back to work. Some policies are for a set number of years, while others may pay through your full retirement age.

Do All Employers Offer Long-Term Disability?

The law does not require employers to offer short- or long-term disability; however, many choose to do so anyway. Nearly all employers must offer workers’ compensation, which isn’t the same as long-term disability.

The difference is that workers’ compensation only covers work-related accidents and injuries. For instance, if you fell off a ladder at work, your employer’s workers’ comp policy would cover your lost wages and medical bills.

Long-term disability, on the other hand, covers disabilities regardless of the cause or where it happened. It is important to keep in mind though that some long-term disability policies do not allow you to collect long-term disability benefits for injuries that occurred at work.

Long-Term Disability Options

In the United States, you have a few options for long-term disability benefits. One option is through a policy that you either purchase on your own, or through a policy that your employer has purchased for you. It is important to check with your HR department to see what benefits are available to you.

Your second option is one of two Social Security Disability programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). For SSDI, you’ll need to have sufficient work credits (you earn these for each year you work). If you don’t have enough credits, own few resources, and have a low income, you may qualify for SSI.

If you don’t know whether you qualify for LTD, SSI or SSDI, talk to a long-term disability attorney to find out.

Reach Out to an Experienced Long-Term Disability Lawyer

Filing a long-term disability claim can be stressful, and it’s not uncommon for insurance companies to deny you benefits. If a disability benefits program has denied you, you shouldn’t have to handle the appeal process alone.

Contact us at 1-800-CANT-WORK to speak with a Pennsylvania and New Jersey long-term disability lawyer from the Law Offices of Eric A. Shore.


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