If you have a disability that you expect will prevent you from working over the long term, you may have several options. You can apply for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration or, if your employer provides long-term disability (LTD) insurance for you, you can file a claim with the LTD company. In some cases, you will be eligible for benefits through both Social Security and through a private insurer’s disability policy.
Applying for Benefits From a Private Insurer
Your employer may provide private long-term disability insurance for you, or you may have paid the premiums yourself. Before you apply for long-term disability benefits from a private insurer, you should read the language of your policy. It will specify what disabilities are covered and what the claims handling procedure is. Also, you should be receiving treatment from a doctor before you file a claim. The first thing the insurance company will do is request your medical records and ask your doctor about your impairments. You should ask your doctor to do more than fill out the insurance company's form. If your doctor could write a detailed letter about exactly how your medical condition severely limits your work activities, you are more likely to win benefits.
Applying for Social Security Benefits
Social Security offers disability benefits to qualified individuals who are disabled for at least a year. Generally, your disability must preclude you from working at your existing job and from being able to work at another job. The same advice above applies here: go to the doctor, and ask your doctor to document your limitations.
To apply for Social Security benefits, you can visit a local office, call Social Security at 800-772-1213, or go online to Social Security's website. If your medical records are sparse or you haven't had a specific test required by Social Security, you may be sent to see one of Social Security's doctors.
Getting Legal Help
Whether you opt to apply for coverage from Social Security, from a disability insurer, or both, you should consult with an experienced disability attorney who can help. An attorney can explain to you your options for recovering payments for disability and can help you submit an application that maximizes your chances of your claim being approved.