Long-term disability (LTD) is a type of insurance coverage, often provided through an employer, that helps protect workers if they become too sick or hurt to work for an extended period of time. Typically, LTD benefits will kick in after a worker has been unable to work for four to six months. This is known as a “qualifying period.” Once the employee becomes eligible, the LTD will begin to pay a percentage of the income they had been making prior to the disability. This is usually around 66% to allow the employee to keep living in the same manner they had been before the illness or injury. The length of time these benefits last can be anywhere from months to decades and depends on the employee’s plan. Your LTD benefits can impact your current employment and employment options, so it is critical to know your rights and responsibilities while you are receiving benefits.
Can You Work While Receiving LTD Benefits?
The point of LTD benefits is to provide workers with a safety net that will grant them a living income if they become unable to work. That being said, you are not prohibited from working while on LTD. Working is not the best option for everyone, though, even if it is in a different job than the one you previously held, because it could prevent you from receiving your full benefits. Often, the insurance company will deduct any amount you earn from your benefits, so you could lose your benefits entirely if you make too much money. Some people feel antsy collecting benefits and not working while they heal, or they feel pressure to do something “productive,” but working can potentially negate the assistance you are receiving from your LTD benefits. If you decide to return to work while on LTD, it is prudent to discuss your situation with a lawyer to determine how your choices will affect your benefits.
What is the Difference Between “Own Occupation” and “Any Occupation” When It Comes to LTD Benefits?
Many LTD insurance plans cover “own occupation” disability for the first two years of benefits. What this means is that you are deemed unable to work in the job you were holding when you became disabled. For your benefits to continue after these two years, you must be considered unable to work in “any occupation.” However, the word “any” should not be taken literally in this context. It actually means any occupation that fits your job experience and education and accommodates your disability. It also has to provide you with at least 60% of the salary you had been making before your disability.
After your first two years of LTD benefits are up, your insurance company will be investigating you to determine if you are still eligible or if you are able to return to some kind of work. Many companies will provide programs aimed at rehabilitating you so you can rejoin the workforce. This can be a stressful time for many injured workers because they are afraid of losing their benefits even if they are genuinely unable to return to work. A skilled lawyer can help remove some of that pressure and ensure that you are being treated fairly.
What Happens if You Are Fired While Receiving LTD Benefits?
If you were employed when you became disabled, you will not lose LTD eligibility if you are fired. An employer is generally within their rights to fire someone as long as it is not discriminatory and they provide proper notice or offer severance pay. Many employers will wait until the employee has been on LTD for the two-year period before considering termination to avoid any appearance of discrimination based on the employee’s disability. If you have been fired and are concerned about retaining your LTD rights or need help understanding your insurance’s requirements for continuing benefits, contact our law firm today to speak with one of our knowledgeable personal injury lawyers.