LTD Recipients May Be Shortchanging Themselves

Q: Should I file for SSDI if I have LTD benefits?

If you’re already receiving long-term disability (“LTD”) benefits, you may feel fortunate, but you may not be taking full advantage of your situation. And that can cost you. That’s why seeking advice from a skilled disability benefits attorney is wise as soon as you become disabled.

Most long-term disability insurance policies require claimants to file for Social Security disability benefits as well in order to collect under their LTD policy. But even if it isn’t required by your plan, there are several reasons why applying for Social Security disability benefits (“SSDI”) could be advantageous to those with LTD insurance benefits.

Social Security disability benefits are periodically adjusted based on inflation so SSDI recipients can expect to receive periodic cost-of-living adjustments in their benefits checks. But long-term disability benefits are generally not adjusted for inflation, so LTD recipients will receive the same monthly amount 10 years from now as they are receiving today—so it will not go as far in the future as it may today.

Social Security retirement and survivor’s benefits are based on the worker’s average earnings over a long period of time. SSDI entitlement “freezes a person’s Social Security earnings record”, so the time period during which they receive SSDI benefits “is not counted as the time the person is employed” and therefore does not negatively impact their lifetime average earnings for their retirement computation. But this isn’t the case for employer or insurance company LTD benefit payments where the chunk of time–months or years– in which there are no earnings due to the disability is included in the retirement calculation and will have a corresponding negative impact on their retirement computation.

Hiring a disability benefits expert is also helpful in determining tax implications which are contingent upon how the long-term disability benefits policy premium was paid – – by the person or another source and whether through pre-tax or post tax dollars.

A disability benefits attorney can also help with healthcare issues like COBRA medical coverage and Medicare eligibility. They can also explain the vocational rehabilitation and return to work incentives available to SSDI benefits recipients.

Regardless of whether you have LTD benefits or qualify for SSDI, you are still facing life with less money than you were previously earning. A disability benefits expert can help maximize your overall compensation and benefits.

If you need assistance filing for disability benefits or have questions regarding LTD benefits, the disability experts at Roeschke Law can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we help disabled people and their families throughout Arizona in all aspects of disability law.

 

Pitfalls of Accessing Long Term Disability Insurance

Can a disability attorney help me access LTD benefits?

If you’re fortunate enough to have long-term disability benefits (“LTD”), either through your employer or a private insurance policy, you might assume accessing those benefits in your time of need would be as simple is filing a few papers—sort of like a health insurance claim. Unfortunately, many people applying for LTD benefits submit incomplete applications, miss important deadlines, or fail to file specific requirements and find their claims denied.

Hiring a Long-term disability benefits attorney can make the difference between having an initial application approved or denied, or having success on appealing the denial of LTD benefits. In addition, LTD attorneys can ensure that applicants avoid other common pitfalls that would negatively impact their claim or the amount of benefits they receive.

Further, there are also many time-sensitive deadlines that are easy for laypeople to miss—especially when juggling all the other physical, emotional and financial pressures of living with a disability.

It may be advisable for a worker who becomes disabled to apply for Social Security Disability (“SSDI”) benefits prior to collecting on their long-term disability insurance benefits. In fact, some policies require that they file for SSDI first– and failure to do so can result in a denial, reduction and/or delay of LTD benefits.

Not unlike the complicated process of applying for LTD benefits, the SSDI application and appeals process is also daunting for the layperson. With approximately 2/3 of initial SSDI applications being denied and with SSDI appeals hearings experiencing a nearly two-year average delay, some disabled people are depleting their savings, losing their homes, and even dying while waiting for benefits that were initially denied. This is why many people get a disability benefits attorney on their side early on—especially since there is no out-of-pocket cost to do so.

If you or a loved one has questions regarding long-term disability insurance benefits and/or Social Security disability benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

With offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, we help disabled clients throughout Arizona access the benefits they need and deserve.

Lessons About Disability from A Prominent Physicists Death

Q: Does every disabled person dream of escaping their disability?

As disability attorneys of Arizona, we fill our days helping the disabled obtain benefits. Sometimes people are born with disabilities and other times the onset of the disability happens gradually or suddenly at some point later in life.

Applying for disability benefits can be a stressful and time-consuming process. For that reason, many people choose to hire a skilled disability benefits law firm to handle the initial application.

While it is possible to appeal the denial of disability benefits, the appeals process is so backlogged and has an average waiting time of over two years. People are literally becoming homeless and even dying waiting to have their disability benefits approved.

For many who are disabled or who are caretakers for loved ones suffering from a disability, there are very real financial burdens in obtaining available government benefits necessary for survival. Even in the best-case scenario, when hard to come by benefits have been approved on the initial application, it can be difficult to survive or lead a minimalistic lifestyle on disability benefits alone. That’s one of the reasons why many disabled people, if they are able to do so, work or return to work.

We’ve previously discussed on this blog the social stigma that those who stopped working due to a disability are just lazy freeloaders who would rather collect benefits than return to work.

But the recent death of a prominent physicist forces us to reflect on other possible social stigmas or improper assumptions–that all disabled people wish they could shed their disability and that all disabilities are a burden. The man is arguably the most famous face of the disabled of our time. Nearly everyone has seen this brilliant mind trapped in an ALS-ridden, progressively deteriorating body. He used the most sophisticated and supportive wheelchair and spoke with a robotic voice through the use of modern technological devices. He reportedly was stricken with ALS at the age of 20 but had a brilliant career and the world has benefited through his scientific contributions over the past 50 years.

Since his recent death, however, images and comments on social media and elsewhere depicting him “walking among the stars” and finally “free of the burden” of both his wheelchair and physical disability sparked an unintended backlash from the disabled community nationwide. Disability advocates argue that society needs to stop assuming a disability is negative or undesirable and needs to embrace the disabled, accept them as able, and provide them the tools they need for inclusion so they can reach their full potential.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a disability and needs assistance applying for benefits or appealing a denial of benefits, the disability attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we help the disabled and their families in all aspects of disability law throughout Arizona and nationwide.

Preparing for a Long-Term Disability

Q: How can I prepare for a long-term disability?

There are few things more frustrating than applying for disability benefits on your own.

And with about 60% of first time applications for Social Security disability insurance being denied, necessitating a lengthy appeals process which can take months or even years, most people seek the help of a skilled disability benefits attorney.

In order to apply for Social Security disability insurance (“SSDI”), the worker must meet the government’s definition of permanently mentally or physically “disabled”, must be between the ages of 18 and 65, and must’ve worked and paid into the Social Security system through payroll taxes for the requisite number of years and amassed the minimum number of work credits. The application process is complex and mistakes or incomplete applications will result in a denial of benefits.

Is there another alternative?

In addition to SSDI, many workers can obtain a long-term disability insurance policy (“LTD”) through their employers. Although an estimated 213,000 employers offer long-term disability insurance, only about 40% of employees sign up, presumably preferring to direct the policy premium money to more urgent household expenses.

While about 70% of people have life insurance–possibly because death is a certainty and disability is not—it may be wise to reconsider how you and your family would function for years or decades in the event a permanent disability prohibited you from earning an income. Accidents happen every day. Even unexpected intentional violence, such as the horror we witnessed in Las Vegas, happens more often lately—shattering life plans.

Whether you have LTD insurance or are applying for SSDI after you’ve suffered a permanent disability, the associated paperwork and processing time to receive benefits may range from 90 days to a year for LTD and even longer for SSDI. It is noteworthy that most LTD policies require the worker to apply for SSDI as a prerequisite to receiving LTD benefits.

So, the bottom line is to apply for disability benefits as soon as possible after the disabling event. Of course, the time you should take this action unfortunately coincides with the time you are least able to handle such a burden due to the physical, emotional, and financial consequences you have suddenly found yourself and your family facing. That’s why many people engage a skilled disability benefits attorney to handle the application and appeals process for them.

If you or a loved one is applying for or appealing a denial of Social Security disability benefits or long-term disability insurance benefits, the disability attorneys of Arizona at Roeschke Law, can help you. Contact us for a free consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we fight for the rights of the disabled throughout Arizona so they can focus on healing.

 

The Consequences of a “Bad Faith” Disability Insurance Claim Denial

Q: What happens if a disability insurance claim is denied in “bad faith”?

Sometimes, karma happens.

In a perfect world, a person with long term disability insurance (“LTD”) would submit a valid claim with sufficient medical documentation in support and it would be approved. The financially-vulnerable (and now-disabled) insured would benefit from having had the good fortune and/or foresight of obtaining LTD insurance in healthier days either through an employer plan or a private policy.

While long-term disability insurance won’t undo the physical or mental disability that prompted its activation, having it can be the difference between financial security and financial ruin for the insured and their family.

With so much riding on approval, hiring a skilled Arizona disability insurance benefits attorney may help expedite the process and increase the chances of a claim being approved or appeal of a denial being successful. In addition, some long-term disability insurance policies make applying for social security disability benefits a prerequisite to getting LTD benefits.

Arizona disability insurance claims lawsuits against insurance companies that act in “bad faith” can be brought based on the improper denial of a valid claim or the unexpected and unjustified termination of a previously-approved claim.

Arizona juries have recently cracked down on insurance companies that they felt acted in “bad faith”, awarding not only substantial compensatory damages, but slapping insurers with devastatingly-large, multimillion dollar punitive damages awards designed to punish the insurance company and deter them from such reprehensible actions in the future.

One jury found an insurance company acted with an “evil mind” in its “conscious disregard of the harm” its insured would likely suffer by its wrongful termination of previously-approved disability benefits for a young man who suffered a traumatic brain injury and subsequent suicidal mental health issues stemming from severe depression that followed his accident. The blatant termination of disability insurance benefits—which the insurer should have known could cause additional harm to the insured’s fragile health and financial situation– was reportedly based on the insurer’s alleged review of the insured’s medical records. However, it was allegedly established that the records had never even been requested much less reviewed.

It is noteworthy that the same company was also reportedly sanctioned by another Arizona court in separate case for “withholding evidence, falsely asserting the attorney-client privilege, and manipulating the record to intentionally create a false narrative”. A ruling of “bad faith” was also found therein.

The motto: Fight back against insurers that act in “bad faith” by engaging a skilled attorney with the experience and resources to level the playing field and fight for your rights.

If you need help applying for long term disability insurance benefits or appealing a denial of disability benefits, the disability attorneys at Roeschke Law can help you get the benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us today to request a consultation.

From our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson, we’ve been helping disabled people and their families from all over Arizona get the benefits they deserve.

 

Beware of Limitations of LTD Policies

Q: Can Social Security disability insurance payments offset long-term disability benefits?

Seeing an Arizona long term disability insurance attorney as soon as possible after becoming disabled can help expedite financial relief. If you have long-term disability insurance (“LTD”) through your employer, or are considering buying a private policy, the language of the policy and any riders to it is particularly important… and potentially disastrous. An attorney can help you understand what you can expect from a policy.

In Arizona, some large disability insurance companies have Supplemental Social Insurance riders (“SIR”) with relatively straight forward language requiring the insured to apply for Social Security disability insurance benefits (“SSDI”) before receiving long term disability benefits.

Due to the lengthy process of applying for SSDI in Arizona, such a mandate will, at a minimum, impose “painful delays” on the now-disabled and financially-vulnerable insured, specifically when money is needed most. And worse, if SSDI is approved, the LTD benefits are reduced…leaving some people to wonder if having long-term disability insurance with such contractual language even pays.

In Arizona, recent legal challenges to policies that offset LTD with SSDI payments have been unsuccessful, with Arizona courts rejecting the standard contractual argument by policyholders that the language is unclear or ambiguous. As many of the policies which were the subject of these challenges were marketed to professionals, the clear-language argument was a tough sell due to the relatively higher education of the insured-signer and the very clear language itself. Also rejected in Arizona was the argument that such clauses should be void as a matter of public policy—an argument that other states have accepted.

If you or a loved one is disabled, or has questions regarding LTD insurance, having the assistance of a firm that specializes in SSDI applications and appeals as well as long term disability insurance matters can help you navigate and expedite the complex processes of accessing disability insurance benefits.

Contact us at Roeschke Law today to request a free consultation. With offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Tempe, our firm is devoted exclusively to helping disabled Arizonans throughout the state obtain the benefits to which they’re entitled.