How to Apply for Disability Through Your Employer

Robin Mead

Long Term Disability (LTD) and Short Term Disability (STD) are disability insurance policies offered through your employer.

If your employer doesn’t offer this insurance, skip this article and go have a nice snack.

If your employer offers disability insurance, you are very lucky. Private insurance decisions are sometimes much quicker than Social Security disability.

Some people are able to start collecting disability right away, instead of having to wait months or years.

Here are some tips:

Protect Yourself

If you are still working or still employed now, here’s a few very important things you need to know: How to Protect Yourself if Your Employer Offers LTD

Getting Started

If you have not yet started applying, this is what most people do: Take FMLA or a little sick leave and while out they apply for Short Term Disability. Then, they they apply for Long Term Disability and Social Security Disability. It is good to apply for Social Security as soon as possible (don’t wait) because it can take a long time to process. If you are still employed, but out on leave, you can list on the Social Security forms that your last day worked is the last day you actually performed any work, and note that you are on disability leave and not working.

The Whistleblower

Linda Nee has an excellent blog that many people find very helpful. She is a “whistleblower.” She used to work for the Long Term Disability companies and now she tells people about all their dirty tricks and secrets. Needless to say, the Long Term Disability companies do not like her very much. She also offers consultation services.


This law office has created an interesting collection of videos and stories about each different Long Term Disability Company. In the comments, people tell you what they really think about each one!

Mental Health Caps

It’s very important to read your policy. Many Long Term Disability policies have a cap on mental health claims. After two years they will try to stop paying you! If this is in your policy, the insurance company may try to push you into a mental health diagnosis.

On the other hand, ironically, for Social Security disability, mental health can be a big help to your case! Many people with Lyme, CFS, ME or related conditions report that including mental health was the main reason they got approved.

So, there is no wrong or right answer here. Read your policy and think over what is right for you.

Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Caps

Some of the newer policies also have a two year cap on chronic pain and chronic fatigue conditions. If you have Fibro, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or a related condition, there are a few important things you need to know. Long Term Disability for Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue

Peony’s Story

Peony appealed and won her LTD case, and learned quite a lot along the way. She has some truly excellent advice for anyone applying. Please read How Peony Won Her LTD

Proving You Cannot Work

One very key difference between Social Security and LTD: For LTD, you must prove that you can no longer do your current job. For Social Security, in many cases, you must prove that you can no longer do any job (or any full time job). For LTD, you may find it helpful to read some of Peony’s tips on How to Prove You Cannot return to your previous job

What Else to Watch Out For

Long Term Disability companies are known for being troublesome. Those nice people from the from the insurance company that call you on the phone or want to drop by your house and check on you, those are not your friends. They may also videotape or photograph you outside your home. Learn your rights and protect yourself. (See Linda Nee’s blog above).

They may also call you and record what you say and use it against you. When in doubt, try saying: “I am following my doctor’s medical advice. Please refer to my medical records for an answer to your question.”


Most disability lawyers do not handle Long Term Disability claims. You do not need a lawyer to apply, however, many people highly recommend getting one for an appeal.

If you wish to hire a lawyer, you will need to find someone who specializes in Long Term Disability (also called “erisa” claims). These lawyers can be expensive and some will take a part of your check every month for the rest of your life. Read your contract carefully and make thoughtful decisions about how much to pay a lawyer.


Some people on Long Term Disability report that having a supportive doctor is critical. Apparently there is quite a bit of paperwork for the doctor to fill out. You need a doctor who really supports you and believes you absolutely cannot work and you need a willingness to stand up for yourself – no matter what the disability company says, you will need to be clear that your doctor has told you that you are too sick to work and you are following your doctor’s guidance.

Applying for Social Security

You definitely want to apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI) as well. Many people get cut off LTD at some point, so you will want to apply for SSDI as soon as possible.

It may take 2-3 years to get approved for Social Security. Many people find their LTD gets cut off after two years. Ideally, your Social Security will start before your LTD stops.

Some people stay on LTD and collect both. However, this is not as exciting as it sounds. You will need to read your insurance policy, but for most people, SSDI does not mean any additional money, since anything you receive just gets subtracted from your LTD check.

If you get approved, don’t get attached to your backpay check (and don’t spend it!). The LTD company is going to ask you to send them all or most of it. Some readers report that since they were already cut off LTD by that time, and their credit was already ruined, they just decided not to pay the backpay, since private debt collectors cannot garnish Social Security checks.

If you pay back your LTD, it may be a large transfer of money ($10k, $20k, or more). Some people pay by credit card so they can get cash back or bonus points.

There is a bit of good news: If you get on SSDI, you will get Medicare.

Many LTD companies will assign you to a Social Security lawyer and may give you the impression that you must use their lawyer. This is not true. You have the right to select your own lawyer or to use no lawyer.

LTD companies may also give you the impression that their lawyers are “free” but this is not the case. Social Security sets the fees for lawyers and pays the lawyer out of your backpay. It is the same no matter what lawyer you use. After the lawyer gets paid, whatever is left over usually goes to the LTD company.

A lawyer assigned by an LTD company may ask you to sign an agreement stating that the LTD company can take money directly out of your bank account when you are approved for Social Security. There is no reason why you have to sign this.

There are many things you can do to strengthen your Social Security case, and most of them will also be a great help to your LTD case, too. So, might as well get started now! How to Greatly, Greatly (Greatly!) Improve Your Disability Application



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