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. You can start collecting disability quickly, and continue to collect it while you apply for Social Security.
Most people who apply for disability have to live with no income for two to three years, but if you can get Long Term Disability, you can be collecting a check the whole time! Here are some tips:
🍭 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
🍭 Dahlia’s Story
Many LTD policies have clauses that limit your payment if you are approved for mental health. Some will also limit payment for chronic pain and chronic fatigue. The insurance companies love to push people into a mental health category so they can cut people off. Dahlia got cut off her LTD and she appealed and took extra steps to prove her condition was physical not mental. It took some doing but she did it! How Dahlia Won Her LTD.
🍭 Learn More
Attorney Ken Casanova and the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association has assembled a wonderful and comprehensive guide to Long Term Disability for CFS, ME and Fibromyalgia.
🍭 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.
🍭 Social Security
If you get on LTD, the insurance company will almost certainly require that you apply for SSDI as well. 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. Also, 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. There is a bit of good news though: If you get on SSDI, you will get Medicare.
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
🍭 What to Watch Out For
I have been told these are three common mistakes people make. 1) Do not reduce your hours. Your disability check will be based on your last month’s wages. If your wages were low, you could get a lower check every month the rest of your life! 2) If possible, it is better if you do not change your job duties. If your job duties become easier or more sedentary, it will be harder to prove you can no longer do the job. 3) Do not quit your job. Apply for disability while still employed. Take sick days or FMLA if needed. If you quite your job, you may lose your chance to apply.
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!
Most disability lawyers do not handle Long Term Disability claims. You do not need a lawyer to apply, however, if you wish to hire one, you will need to find someone who specializes in Long Term Disability (also called “erisa” claims). I have heard 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. Many people hire lawyers for appeals, but most people I have met do not hire lawyers for initial applications.
I have heard good things about Stuart Sandhaus a Long Term Disability lawyer in California who specializes in CFS/ME cases. From what I have heard he may also work with people in other states. If anyone has worked with another Long Term Disability lawyer on your CFS/ME case, I would love to here about your experience and recommendations.
I have met people who are on Long Term Disability and report that they did not need a lawyer to be approved – but they did need a good doctor. You need a doctor who really supports you 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.
🍭 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.”
🍭 Mental Health
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! Read your policy carefully to see if this applies to you. If it does, the insurance company may try to push you into a mental health diagnosis. Here is an article with more information on new limitations in insurance policies. It is important to get a copy of your policy and read it.
🍭 Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue
Some newer policies have a cap on any condition that is chronic pain (such as fibromyalgia), chronic fatigue or environmental sensitivity illnesses. If your policy has a limitation like this, they will stop paying you after two years. Once again, the insurance companies will try to classify your illness this way so that they can stop paying you.