does long-term disability continue after termination

People who depend on long-term disability benefits often wonder if their disability benefits continue after they have been separated from employment. It’s an important question when you need those benefits to pay your bills, buy groceries, and stay in your home. 

Overview of Long-Term Disability

For those who are unable to work due to a chronic illness or accidental injury that prevents them from getting better quickly, long-term disability benefits provide a safety net. These benefits can give you a reliable source of income replacement, often a portion of your pre-disability wages, to help you during your recovery or disability.

 A variety of medical conditions are covered by long-term disability insurance, including but not limited to:

  • Physical impairments: These include amputations, sever back injuries, persistent chronic pain, and musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Mental health conditions: such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Often these can be limited to 24 months of coverage.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, stroke-related disabilities, chronic migraines, POTS, and brain injuries are examples of neurological conditions.
  • Chronic diseases: Such as renal disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and other autoimmune diseases like Lupus or Rheumatoid arthritis. 
  • Cognitive impairments: These can be caused by many conditions including brain injury, Long Covid, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia.

Does Long-Term Disability Continue After Termination?

If you have an existing claim disability claim, then the answer is most likely yes. The reality is that most people who receive long term disability benefits for an extended duration longer than 3-6 months will have their employment terminated eventually. If you do not return to work, and cannot be accommodated, eventually your employer will need to replace you. Most long-term disability plans usually provide disability benefits until you reach your normal retirement age as defined by the Social Security Administration or age 65, if you continue to prove that you meet the definition of disability. Most of our clients receive disability benefits long after they have been terminated by their employer. 

In addition, some clients ask what if I have been on short term disability and have available long term disability coverage, but before I transition from STD to LTD, my employer terminates me? You will likely also be able to make a long-term disability claim because your disability started prior to your date of termination. 

You should always get a copy of your Summary Plan Description and Disability policies before you start your claim, so any questions can be answered by an experienced disability attorney. This is because some policies exclude coverage if an employee is terminated “for cause.” In addition, some policies have other limitations that might impact how long the disability carrier will pay your claim as well.

Does Being on Disability Protect My Job?

Being disabled does not guarantee job protection. However, people with disabilities are entitled to some legal protections. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave. FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. 

FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. 

In addition, in Washington State, you may be eligible for Paid FMLA under the State program created several years ago.

While we do not practice employment law if you are improperly terminated, we know many quality employment law attorneys and can provide referrals.

What about Health Insurance?

It is important to remember that your health insurance coverage can also be impacted by employment termination. Employer-sponsored healthcare benefits generally end upon the final day of the month in which the employee was terminated unless you elect to continue coverage via COBRA. Under COBRA, there are tight deadlines for signing up and paying your premiums, so you should pay attention to your end of employment paperwork.

When you have a disability claim, you are required to continue to seek reasonable and appropriate care for your condition, so you cannot stop seeing your medical providers. In addition, medical records are the principal way that you prove your disability claim, so it is important to keep treating to document your condition. 

Most importantly, continued treatment is often the only way that you will get better and go back to work. As such, you should research all your options beyond COBRA for keeping medical insurance in place, including accessing coverage under the ACA.

Aaron Engle Law: Helping You with Your Long-Term Disability Claim

Losing your health is never easy, and losing your job may bring lots of questions with respect to your disability, health, life, and retirement benefits from your old employer. Contact Aaron Engle Law to schedule a consultation if you have questions about your disability benefits or if they have been improperly denied.