What to Know Before You File for Long-Term Disability Benefits

It’s never an easy decision to purchase extra insurance. You don’t want to waste your money, but you want to protect yourself and your family if something happens to you.

Purchasing long-term disability insurance from your employer is one of these tough calls. It’s important that you understand what the policy covers and what you will need to do to file a claim should you become disabled. We provide a step-by-step guide of what you should know before you even file your first piece of paper for long-term disability benefits under your employer’s benefit policy.

Nine Critical Steps to Take Prior to Filing Your Claim

When it comes to filing a claim, it’s often what you do before you file that will make the difference between success and a denial. Our years of experience in the industry have taught us that your odds of success will be much greater if you take the following steps:

#1 Know Your Policy

Get a copy of your long-term disability benefits policy and a copy of the summary plan description as soon as possible. Do this before filing your claim. Your policy will contain unique terms and conditions that you must meet in order to get the benefits provided. The policy controls everything. Do not rely on assurances your employer may give you. Only the things promised to you under the long-term disability benefits will be covered by the policy.

#2 Make Sure Your Doctor Supports Your Claim

Until your doctor supports your long-term disability claim, you do not really have a claim. Winning long-term disability benefits even with a doctor is difficult. Without a doctor’s endorsement and supporting medical records, it’s impossible. You should also make sure you know what’s in your medical records so there are no surprises down the road.

#3 Get Your Finances in Order

You cannot depend on these benefits to completely replace your lost income. Most long-term disability policies only provide either 60 percent or two-thirds of your salary as a benefit. A long-term disability will force you to cut back on your expenses just to get by. Knowing what it will take financially to get you through this time and how much you will actually take home as a result of your disability will help you prepare your life accordingly.

#4 Know What You Are Disabled From Doing

Take a detailed look at your job to understand what you do every day. Start with your official job description and supplement with other tasks that you ordinarily do. You will need to know these duties to know if you are disabled. The long-term disability benefits provider will closely scrutinize your job duties and compare them to your abilities, so be prepared.

#5 Start a Diary or Journal

In order to help your memory and strengthen your initial claim, a good idea is to keep a diary or journal to chronicle your daily struggles with life. When you go to file your initial claim, you will have your daily recollections recorded and can accurately depict your daily struggles for the claims examiner.

#6 Enlist Support

Let your friends and family members know that you are sick or injured and that you may be filing a long-term disability claim. Ask them to start keeping mental notes or write down any changes they notice in you. You will need the emotional support and may need their support later in completing your application for benefits or in fighting a denial. If appropriate, bring co-workers on board as well. The more people you have supporting your disability the better. And, it is better to know before taking a chance and hoping they will support you later. By then, it may be too late.

#7 Choose the Correct Date for Disability Onset

Generally speaking, you want the earliest disability onset date possible. But that’s appropriate only when you are absolutely certain that you have qualified for long-term disability coverage and are past any waiting period and preexisting condition period under your employer’s long-term disability policy.

#8 Don't Quit Work Too Soon

Most definitions of long-term disability will require that you could no longer work because of the disability. Unfortunately, some people stop working before their doctors diagnose a disabling condition. When that happens, the person will have no medical proof of a disability until after he stopped working. This can lead to a denial of his claim.

#9 Understand Why Long-Term Disability Benefits Are Difficult to Get

You will be trying to get money from a long-term disability provider that wants to keep it. Your primary goal should be to make it difficult for the disability company to deny your legitimate claim by building a record of support for your disability claim so that even the most biased observer would say that benefits are due.

Louisiana Disability Law Is Here to Help

This list may seem overwhelming, but we want you to know that you do not have to go through this process alone. If you need help filing a claim, appealing a denial, or with litigation of a claim, call us today. We understand the process and will make sure you understand as well.

Loyd J. Bourgeois
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Disability and Personal Injury Attorney
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