To receive long-term disability (“LTD”) benefits, a claimant must first demonstrate that they satisfy their policy’s elimination period. Therefore, understanding your policy’s elimination period is important because your receipt of LTD benefits is preconditioned on your satisfaction with that elimination period.
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What Does a Disability Elimination Period Mean?
An elimination period (also known as a ‘waiting period’ or ‘qualifying period’) is between the date your disability began (typically the date you ceased working) and the date you start receiving LTD benefits. Notably, the elimination period does not begin the day you file your LTD claim. Instead, it starts the day you suffer your injury or illness that is the basis for your LTD claim.
You must demonstrate that you are disabled, as defined by your LTD policy, throughout the entire elimination period. It is common for LTD policies to require that you prove that your disabling condition(s) prevents you from performing the duties of your occupation. Therefore, it is crucial that your doctor(s) thoroughly document your diagnoses, symptoms, and how those conditions and symptoms specifically prevent you from performing your job duties as of the date you ceased working. While your doctors’ opinions certainly help, a general note that you must be off work will not suffice – often, your inability to work must be supported by objective clinical evidence, including examination findings, test results, or imaging studies.
Your disability insurance carrier will not pay LTD benefits during the elimination period. Instead, you will begin receiving LTD benefits once you satisfy the elimination period and so long as you continue to demonstrate that you are unable to perform the duties of your occupation.
Do Individual Disability Policies Have Elimination Periods?
Yes, individual disability policies generally contain elimination periods that the claimant must satisfy before receiving benefits. The length of the elimination period varies from policy to policy. The longer the waiting period is, the less your monthly premium will be. Therefore, if you are in the market for an individual disability policy, it is essential to consider your savings – more specifically, whether you have enough saved up to last you through a longer elimination period during which you will not be receiving LTD benefits.
How Long Should the Elimination Period Be?
As referenced above, the length of an elimination period will vary from policy to policy. Ultimately, the number of days that make up the elimination period is up to the drafter of the policy. The most common length of elimination periods in LTD policies tends to be 90 days or 180 days.
An LTD policy’s elimination period can also coincide with a claimant’s receipt of short-term disability (“STD”) benefits. If permitted under the LTD policy, the claimant can satisfy the elimination period if they receive STD benefits for the maximum period prescribed under the STD policy.
Another factor to consider is whether you have a recurrent disability. Suppose you attempt to go back to work after receiving LTD benefits but need to stop working again due to the same disabling condition. In that case, you likely will not need to redo the elimination period. However, if you become disabled due to a new illness, you will likely need to satisfy another elimination period to qualify for LTD benefits.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your LTD policy’s elimination period, you should consult an experienced disability benefits attorney who can guide you through the various stages of your LTD claim and make sure that you receive the LTD benefits to which you are entitled.