Dealing with a long-term illness or sudden disability can be a very stressful time. Deciding when to inform your employer and file for disability benefits can add additional stress. Before deciding when to apply for disability benefits, it is important to understand the first five Steps to Applying for Long Term Disability Benefits and how to navigate this process.

1. Notify Your Employer

Deciding when to take an extended leave of absence from work due to disability is a big decision – one that should be decided between the employee and his or her doctor. When an employee is no longer able to return to work due to disability (either temporarily or permanently), the employee should obtain documentation from their doctor to that effect. Employees may be eligible for temporary leave under the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). The employee may also be entitled to short-term and long-term disability benefits. The employee should speak with someone in the human resources (HR) department and notify that person of the employee’s decision to apply for disability benefits, obtain copies of all policy documents, and ask HR to complete an Employer statement as part of the process.

2. Review Your Policy’s Time Limits

“Timing is everything,” as they say, and it is no different when it comes to disability benefits. It is important to review your short-term disability (“STD”) and long-term disability (“LTD”) insurance policies for time limits on filing applications, submitting medical documentation, and appealing denied claims. Missing a deadline can result in an immediate denial of benefits or forfeiture of your right to appeal. This is where a disability attorney can help decipher the policy language and make sure you do not miss any important deadlines.

3. Review Your Policy’s Definition of Disability

The definition of “disability” will vary by insurance company, employer and even within the policy itself (for example, from one class of employees to the next). That is why it is important to obtain a copy of the policy that pertains to your employer and to your position when you speak with HR about filing an application for disability benefits. Then, review the definition of disability contained within that specific policy. Some policies may require the employee to stop working altogether before disability benefits will be paid. Others may require the employee to only meet a partial definition of disability, allowing the employee to continue to work, albeit on a part-time basis, while pursuing disability benefits. If you have any questions regarding your policy’s definition of disability, contact an experienced disability benefits attorney to help you understand to what benefits you may be entitled under your policy.

4. Hire an Attorney

A consultation with an experienced disability attorney at DeBofsky Law can help you navigate this very complex process. We can help you understand what STD and LTD benefits you have available through your employer-sponsored benefit plans, when is the best time to notify your employer, and how to obtain copies of your policy documents. Our attorneys can advise you on how to set up your application with the medical records you will need for your best chance of approval, and we will be there to help you if your application is denied.

5. File an Employee Statement

The final step in the application process for STD and/or LTD benefits is completing your Employee Statement. Most policies will require an employee completing a disability application to file an Employee Statement. This statement will include the employee’s basic contact information, medical providers’ information, disabling diagnosis, any applicable worker’s compensation information, and place of employment. Again, timing is everything, and it is important to file the Employee Statement within the time limits set forth in the policy.

Dealing with a sudden illness or disability is stressful. Filing for disability benefits can be confusing but understanding the process and breaking it down step by step can help. For this reason, we hope this article on 5 Effective Steps to Applying for Long Term Disability Benefits has been helpful.

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