Facing a layoff or termination, and think you might be disabled? Call a long term disability attorney.
Layoffs can complicate the process of filing for short term disability and long term disability benefits. First, your insurer will argue that your coverage ended when your employment ended. Second, other terms of your disability insurance policies may complicate your ability to file a disability claim.
The specific provisions in your disability insurance policy will dictate which steps you need to take to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. No matter the specific terms of your disability insurance policy, time is of the essence.
If you believe you may be disabled and are facing a possible layoff, it is important to take swift action to protect your rights. One of your rights is to file a short term disability claim and then long term disability claim if you have a medical condition that prevents you from being able to continue working.
Does My Disability Coverage End When My Job Ends?
Yes. The short and long term disability coverage provided by your employer ends when your employment is terminated. That said, if you became disabled prior to being terminated, you may still have a valid disability claim.
Courts have said that there is no "logical incompatibility between working full time and being disabled from working full time" because "a desperate person might force himself to work despite an illness that everyone agreed was totally disabling." Hawkins v. First Union Corp. Long-Term Disability Plan, 326 F.3d 914, 918 (7th Cir. 2003) (Posner, J.). If you were pushing yourself to continue, despite your inability to actually perform your job, you may have a valid disability insurance claim.
Whether you became disabled prior to the end of your job will depend on your specific facts and circumstances.
Specific Disability Plan Provisions
If you think you may be laid off or terminated, its important to contact a long term disability attorney sooner rather than later to devise a strategy to protect your disability claim. Your long term disability attorney will review your disability plan or policy, paying particular attention to certain provisions that can be complicated by a layoff or termination.
What if my employer fires me before I apply for disability benefits?
Most short term disability and long term disability plans contain an “actively at work” provision, which requires you to be actively at work on the day your disability begins in order to receive benefits. Layoffs and terminations can make it difficult to meet this requirement, as they frequently happen without warning or advance notice. These provisions typically also require that you work a minimum number of hours -- usually 20 per week -- to be able to qualify as “actively at work.”
Most short term disability and long term disability plans also contain an “eligible participant” provision, which requires you to be an “eligible participant” in the plan at the time your disability begins. Unlike your medical coverage, long term disability coverage does not continue after a layoffs or termination. This can result in you not being considered an “eligible participant,” and therefore unable to receive benefits.
That said, as described above, working after suffering symptoms leading to disability is not a bar to filing a disability claim.
What If I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
Other important long term disability plan provisions include “pre-existing condition” and “waiting period” clauses. Layoffs and terminations can also interfere with these provisions, as the periods of time specified in these provisions must be satisfied prior to filing a disability claim. A layoff or termination can cut that time short.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing for Short Term Disability?
A few short term disability and long term disability plans contain a provision that will terminate your benefits if you are fired "for cause." While these provisions are exceedingly rare, check your plan to be sure.
You should be aware that Short Term Disability, unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), does not protect your job. Being approved for short term disability does not stop your employer from terminating your employment.
Your employer cannot, however, fire you to interfere with your ability to make a claim for disability benefits or to retaliate for making a claim for disability benefits. Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) allows lawsuits by an employee against their employer for if the employer terminated the employee for the purpose of interfering with the employee’s right to benefits or if the employer retaliated against the employee for attempting to access employee benefits.
Should I Apply for Unemployment?
No. If you plan to apply for disability benefits, you should probably not also file for unemployment. Most states require that to receive unemployment benefits, you must certify that you are (1) ready, willing, and able to work and (2) actively looking for work. Filing for unemployment benefits will “muddy the water” by indicating that you are capable of working and therefore not disabled.
Your short term and long term disability plans likely only require that you demonstrate disability from your own occupation. For that reason, you may actually be able to do something other than your current job. If so, filing for unemployment benefits may not be inconsistent with filing a disability claim. Nevertheless, filing for unemployment benefits will add unnecessary complexity to your disability claim.
See Your Physician
A doctor must certify your disability for your short term or long term disability benefits to be approved. That is, a doctor must state that you can no longer perform the duties of your job due to your medical condition. Layoffs and terminations can affect the timing of this process, as the doctor must certify your disability prior to the effective date of the layoff or termination. As a result, it is important to get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may need to submit a disability claim.
If you think you may be disabled and there is a possibility you will be terminated, make sure you are consistently seeing your treating providers. Provide your doctors with a complete picture of your symptoms, limitations, and restrictions, as these are all factors that will be considered when evaluating your disability claim.
The Maddox Firm can help
It is important to consult with a lawyer if you believe that you may be facing a possible layoff and are disabled. A lawyer can help review your insurance plan, provide advice on how to best move forward, and ensure that any necessary steps are taken in order to maximize the amount of benefits you receive. Your lawyer can also help you understand the process of filing for long term disability benefits and make sure that you receive all of the coverage that is due to you.
Protecting your rights after a layoff or other termination of employment is an important step in ensuring that you are able to continue receiving the benefits you are entitled to. Working with a lawyer experienced with your disability insurance company, and with your conditions and symptoms can ensure that you are able to secure the long term disability benefits you deserve.
Whether you are looking for assistance in navigating the claims process, appealing a claim denial, or litigating a final adverse decision, The Maddox Firm can help. The team at The Maddox Firm will look over your insurance policy, correspondence from your insurance company, medical records, and any other relevant documentation to give you personalized guidance on how we can help you win your short and/or long term disability claim.