Attempting to return to work after receiving long-term disability insurance benefits can seem daunting. Many questions arise, but one we often hear is “what happens if I fail or get sick again?”  The short answer is that it depends on the amount of time that has passed since you returned work. You may start receiving long-term disability benefits again without having to wait.  Or in other words, without having to satisfy another “elimination period”.

Most long-term disability insurance policies have terms dealing with successive periods of total disability.  If you have returned to work and are unsuccessful or become ill again, then it will be important to review the terms of your policy with a disability benefits lawyer. The terms and time limits to qualify may vary from policy to policy.

Recurrent Disability

Long term disability insurance policies will often have certain requirements. Some will allow an employee to restart benefits if they become ill or are unable to work due to the same illness or cause within a specific time period.  For example, an employee with Fibromyalgia attempts to return to work following a one-year absence. A progressive return to work plan is established and the employee returns to work.  Unfortunately, she suffers from a flair up of her symptoms and her treating physician provides the insurance company with a medical report stating that the employee is unable to work.  Providing the recurrence took place within the time limit, this employee would qualify for an immediate reinstatement of benefits. Typically, the time limit for a recurrence of the same illness is 12 months.

Related Disability

Long term disability insurance policies will also often have provisions allowing benefits to be reinstated. This occurs if the employee becomes ill or is otherwise unable to work due to a related illness within a specific period of time, typically 6 months.  A related illness is one that results from the same cause as the initial illness or disability.  For example, an employee who develops mental health issues as a result of a physical disability. If they cannot work, this would be considered totally disabled due to a related disability.  An employee whose related illness renders them totally disabled would qualify for an immediate reinstatement of benefits. Of course, this is providing the recurrence took place within the time limit provided in the policy.

Unrelated Disability

In the event of Total Disability due to an unrelated cause or illness, Long term disability insurance policies also often provide for a reinstatement of benefits.  In this case the time limit is typically one month.  If this period has passed, then the employee will be required to satisfy the “elimination period” before having access to long term disability benefits.

Unfortunately, insurance companies may refuse to reinstate benefits even if the employee is within the time limit provided in the policy. They may argue that the fact that the employee was able to return to work temporarily demonstrates that they are not totally disabled.

Insurance companies may also refuse to reinstate benefits. This occurs when they do not believe the employee is experiencing a recurrence of the same illness or disability. It can also happen because they do not believe the new disability is related to the previous illness or disability.

Contact a disability benefits lawyer for assistance if your claim for reinstatement of long-term disability benefits is denied. We can often assist in resolving the issue with the insurance company. We can take action to obtain the necessary updated medical information or medical reports from the employee’s treating physicians or specialists.

[This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice cannot be given without consideration of your individual circumstances.]