How long will it take to get long-term disability benefits after I become disabled?

Long-term Disability Benefits and the Waiting GameYour disability is keeping you from working. Without an income, you are likely eager to start receiving the long-term disability benefits from the insurance policy that was part of your employment compensation package. Unfortunately, those benefits may not start immediately.

The Waiting Period for LTD ERISA Benefits

The majority of group long-term disability plans have something known as an “elimination period” or a waiting period. Typically, the elimination period lasts 90 or 180 days. During this time you may not receive long-term disability benefits.

However, you may still be receiving some kind of income. That income may include:

  • Sick days. You may be eligible for sick time benefits and you may be able to take the sick days that you accrued.
  • Short-term disability insurance benefits. Most long-term disability elimination periods are the same length as your short-term disability coverage. Therefore, you may be receiving short-term disability benefits while you wait for your long-term disability coverage to take effect.

Generally, long-term disability insurance plans are written to require you to exhaust your sick days and short-term disability insurance benefits before your long-term disability insurance benefits take effect.

Waiting for the benefits that you’ve earned can be frustrating. However, the wait is not unique to long-term disability plans. For example:

  • Other programs that provide benefits to people with disabilities also have waiting periods. For example, Social Security disability benefits only start after you’ve been disabled for at least five months.
  • Other types of insurance plans have deductibles. Your home and auto insurance likely have deductibles that you pay out of pocket. Your health insurance may also have a deductible, co-pays, or both. The wait for long-term disability benefits is similar to the concept of a deductible in that you are not compensated immediately and must wait until the elimination period is completed to receive benefits.

While the waiting period is required and may be expected, you can still take action to make sure that it is no longer than necessary and that you get your benefits as soon as possible.

How to Avoid Unnecessary Delays of Your Long-Term Disability Benefits

Insurance companies maximize their profits by paying out as little as possible in claims. One way an insurance policy may try to pay you as little as possible is to delay the approval of your claim. This may be happening to you if:

  • The insurance company is repeatedly requesting small amounts of information from you. Each time the insurance company sends a letter requesting information, the clock stops on the insurance company’s deadline to decide your claim. Therefore, if you are repeatedly getting letters that ask for one or two non-critical pieces of information then the insurance company may be attempting to draw out the time that it has to make a decision.
  • The insurance company denies getting the information that you sent. Make sure you keep copies of everything that you send so that you can quickly get a second copy to an insurance company that claims not to receive your mail, email, or faxes.

Insurance companies have a duty to act in good faith in deciding claims. Typically, the insurance company should make a decision about your claim within 45 days and your payments should begin within 90 or 180 days, as stated in your plan. While these deadlines may be extended in certain circumstances, they may not be extended because of unnecessary delays.

Our experienced ERISA attorneys are here to help you recover the long-term disability benefits that you’ve earned in a fair and timely manner. We will not let the insurance company violate the terms of your policy or violate ERISA law without facing legal consequences. To find out more about how we can help you get the benefits that you’ve earned, please contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

 

John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law