When the unexpected happens and you find yourself dealing with a long term disability, financial stability becomes a pressing concern. Navigating the maze-like process of applying for long term disability (LTD) insurance benefits can be overwhelming, especially when balancing doctor’s appointments, lifestyle changes, and dealing with the emotional impact of your condition. Understanding the entire application process is essential for a successful disability application, and that is precisely what we aim to help you achieve with this article.
1. Review Your Plan Document
Long term disability insurance policies (sometimes called “plans”) are not all created equally. Insurance coverage varies widely from plan to plan, and it is your job to understand what your specific policy covers. For example,
- Does it replace 60% of your pre-disability salary or 70% of your salary?
- Does it extend coverage to partial disability?
Reviewing your plan document will help you understand what you can expect and what will be expected of you when you apply for disability benefits.
2. Notify Your Employer
It might seem logical to think that you should first have all your medical reports in hand before notifying your employer of a claim, but time is of the essence. The sooner you inform your employer, the quicker you can initiate the application process. That’s even if you do not have absolutely all of your medical records and other documentation together yet.
Make sure you understand the deadlines specified in your plan to give notice of a claim. Is it 30 days from the onset of the disability or 45 days from when an individual stops working? These details matter and can significantly impact your long term disability claim.
3. Get a Detailed Diagnosis
Your medical records are going to be the backbone of your application. A detailed diagnosis is more than just a doctor saying your condition prevents you from working; it is a comprehensive assessment that may involve several healthcare professionals. Specialists, general practitioners, and even occupational therapists might participate in evaluating how your condition impacts your ability to perform job-related tasks.
4. Document Your Condition
While your healthcare providers will supply you with medical documentation, your records can provide a vivid picture that complements the clinical information. A diary outlining how your disability affects your daily life can be invaluable. For instance, if your condition causes chronic fatigue, documenting instances when you need to rest or nap can paint a compelling picture of your disability.
5. Know Who You Are Dealing With
Insurance companies often have several departments and multiple layers of bureaucracy. Knowing who is managing your case can save you much time and effort. Your case manager is your primary point of contact, and having a direct line of communication with them can streamline the process.
6. Follow the Insurance Company’s Instructions
Your claim’s success may hinge on how closely you follow the insurance company’s instructions. Filling out the wrong form or even the proper one incorrectly can result in delays or denials. Always read instructions carefully, even if they seem overly technical or trivial.
7. Learn Why the Insurance Company Might Deny Your Claim
Knowledge is power, and knowing why insurers commonly deny claims can help you build a robust application. For instance, insurance companies often use social media to check whether your activities match your disability claims. Understanding the reasons for denial can help you preemptively strengthen your application in those areas.
8. Complete All the Required Paperwork
Most people underestimate how tedious this step can be. You might have to fill out multiple forms and attach dozens of supporting documents, depending on your plan. Organize these in advance and ensure that you complete each section meticulously. A missing page could cause a weeks-long delay or even lead to a denied claim.
9. Review Your Claim
Once you have assembled your paperwork, it is tempting to send it off immediately. However, a comprehensive review could be the difference between approval and denial. Double-check each form, ensure you have followed all the instructions, and confirm that all the necessary attachments are in place.
10. Get Legal Advice
Lawyers specializing in disability claims can be your allies in this complex process. A disability attorney can review your application, provide expert advice, and even intervene if your claim is denied. This legal safety net can ensure you are not stranded because of a minor mistake or oversight.
11. Be Careful About What You Do
Once you submit your application, it is easy to feel like the hard part is over, but be cautious. Insurance companies sometimes employ private investigators to validate claims. A photograph of you carrying a bag of groceries might not seem like much, but it could be used against you. Always be mindful of your actions and how they could be perceived from the day you decide to apply until you have returned to work.
Applying for long term disability benefits involves more than filling out a few forms; it is a complex procedure that requires meticulous planning, exhaustive documentation, and strategic action. Each step, from the moment you review your plan document to the day you submit your application, is a building block in your case.
Missing any of these steps or failing to give them the attention they deserve could result in delays or denials. In contrast, diligent attention to each step enhances your chances of securing the benefits needed to maintain your quality of life.
By following these steps, you are arming yourself with the knowledge and tools to navigate this complex process. With careful planning and the proper support, the process of securing your long term disability benefits becomes significantly less daunting.
We also encourage you to download a copy of our Disability Insurance Claim Guide & Toolkit. It contains all the tools and tactics you need to file an effective disability claim.