How Long Can Long-Term Disability Last?August 04, 2018
Long-term disability benefits provide the financial peace of mind a disabled individual needs to focus on managing his or her condition, and hopefully attaining some amount of recovery. Long-term disability benefits are designed to provide coverage in the event a person is unable to work due to a disability by replacing a portion of that individual’s income so that necessary living expenses may be paid. The timeline to return to work is different for every person afflicted with a debilitating condition, but group and private disability insurance providers do not always recognize the significant amount of time a disabled individual needs before returning to work. Disabled individuals may feel internal pressure to return to work quickly, which may be compounded by update requests by a disability insurer about the progress of rehabilitation.
The primary determiner of how long long-term disability lasts are the terms of the policy that govern coverage, though standard provisions are generally used by long-term disability providers for the vast majority of covered individuals. A discussion of the length of disability benefits, and requirements insurance companies commonly impose to increase the odds a disabled individual will return to work, will follow below.
Waiting Period and Length of Disability Benefits
All long-term disability policies have a waiting period that a disabled individual must go through before he or she is eligible to collect benefits. If a person has short-term disability coverage as well as long-term, the short-term benefits may cover the waiting period for long-term coverage, as short-term disability is usually accessible within a week or less following a disabling event or diagnosis. Most insurers have a waiting period of four to six months, after which benefits will be approved if the person is found to meet the definition of disability. Importantly, the length of disability benefits is highly dependent on the definition of disability applied to the applicant, as well as the disabled individual’s age. During the first two years, the definition of disability is linked with the recipient’s ability to perform the duties of his or her own job, referred to as “own occupation” disability coverage. However, after the two-year mark, the definition expands to become “any occupation,” and requires the recipient be unable to perform any work based on a particular person’s education, skills and experience.
Thus, the question of how long can long-term disability benefits last is first tied to the how the disability affects the recipient’s functionality. If the effect is systemic and prevents any work, benefits should last until age limitations, which will be addressed below, kick in. Otherwise, if the limitations only preclude working in a person’s original profession, two years is likely the maximum he or she will receive.
In the event that a disabled individual is unable to perform any work, most long-term disability policies will continue to pay benefits until the person reaches the age of 65. After that point, some will continue to pay income replacement benefits at a reduced percentage for the next five to 10 years.
In addition to meeting the definition of disability and age restrictions, another component that affects length of disability benefits is the application of rehabilitation clauses. Most policies include provisions that require disabled individuals to participate in rehabilitation programs that will get them back into working shape. If the covered individual is still not working after the first two years, the insurance provider will attempt to move them into another occupation that they can manage. Thus, sufficient participation and/or completion in a rehabilitation program will also impact how long long-term disability benefits last.
Seek Legal Advice
Understanding how long disability benefits will last, and the factors that trigger their end, is key to knowing your future financial situation. If you have questions or concerns about the application of a long-term disability policy to your situation, talking to an experienced disability lawyers about the rights and obligations you may have under the policy terms is the best way to decide an appropriate course of action. Disability benefits are typically quite complicated and working with a disability lawyer greatly increases your chance of success.
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