Often, people suffering from serious medical conditions will attempt to work beyond the point of being unable to successfully fulfill their job duties. While commendable, this mindset of working through your declining health can backfire if you get terminated or laid off. Many people ask, “Can I still file a long term disability claim through my employer if I get terminated?”
The Short Answer is “Maybe”
You may still be able to file a successful ERISA long term disability claim after being fired or laid off. However, you’re likely to face some serious hurdles. Being fully informed of the challenges you may face will better prepare you to file a successful claim. Continue reading below to learn more about these hurdles.
Your Long Term Disability Insurer May Claim That You Lack Coverage
If you file a claim after being fired of laid off, your long term disability insurer may argue that you lost your coverage as of your last day of work. Your insurer may say that you are no longer eligible due to that lack of coverage and you cannot file a claim after-the-fact. If the insurer takes this stance, it may outright deny your long term disability claim without even considering the medical merits.
To counteract this, you’ll need to demonstrate that your disability began prior to your loss of coverage. This can be difficult if you continued to report to work without issue until your date of employment. But, it is possible to show that you became disabled before your termination date if you were under the care of a physician for your disabling condition.
Under these circumstances, it may be helpful to submit evidence demonstrating how it was becoming increasingly difficult for you to work. This evidence may include (without limitation):
- A written statement from your doctor explaining the progression of your condition and/or worsening of your symptoms leading up to your last date of employment.
- Witness statements from friends, family, and co-workers detailing their personal observations of how it was becoming increasingly difficult for you to work.
- Recent poor work performance evaluations, if your performance suffered due to your medical condition.
- An affidavit from you detailing how you were able to work one day and not the next. For example, perhaps you were only able to work for as long as you did because you customized your workstation or adjusted your work schedule, but eventually that just wasn’t enough to accommodate your issues anymore.
Your Insurer May Also Attack the Legitimacy and Credibility of Your Claim
If you file a claim after being fired of laid off, your insurer may argue that your claim is not credible or legitimate. Your insurer may claim that you’re not disabled, and that you’re only seeking benefits because you no longer have income.
Your long term disability insurer is more likely to take this stance if your disability is due to a condition that’s difficult to confirm by objective testing. For example, depression, anxiety, migraines, etc. If an effort to avoid paying your claim, your insurer may claim that you’re just “faking” the condition to secure lost income.
To counteract this, you’ll need to submit strong medical evidence. Generally, more evidence is better. Evidence to help demonstrate the legitimacy of your disability claim may include (without limitation):
- Medical records and progress notes demonstrating treatment for your condition;
- Any diagnostic or clinical testing results available for your condition;
- A written statement from your physician explaining the nature of your condition and how it prevents you from working; and
- Pharmaceutical records to demonstrate your prescription medication history.
Do not assume that your insurer will gather supportive medical evidence for you. Most ERISA long term disability policies put the burden on you, as the claimant, to gather sufficient evidence and submit proof of your claim. Your insurer is very unlikely to do it for you.
Your Insurer May Point to Your Severance Agreement
If you sign a severance agreement, it may contain language releasing any claims you may have under your ERISA long term disability plan, as well as your other employee benefit plans. This could be fatal. The severance agreement may completely preclude your ability to file a successful long term disability claim.
Carefully review the severance agreement and consult with an attorney before signing anything. A qualified ERISA long term disability attorney will be able to tell you how the agreement could impact your coverage. Your attorney also may be able to negotiate changes to your severance agreement before you sign it so that your long term disability insurance is protected.
Once you sign a severance agreement releasing your long term disability claim, there may be nothing you can do to reverse it. This cannot be stressed enough. Do not sign the agreement without consulting with an ERISA long term disability attorney first.
The decision to leave work due to a disability is a difficult one. It is natural to want to stay at your job for as long as possible, especially if your career provides security and personal fulfillment. But if you’re dealing with a disabling condition, it’s almost always better to file your long term disability claim before you get fired or laid off.
If you’re fearful of losing your job, you should preemptively consult with a long term disability attorney to obtain critical guidance. An ERISA long term disability attorney can explain your options and help guide you out of work protected. This will be your safest bet to seamlessly leave work while retaining your long term disability coverage.
If you’ve already been laid off or fired before filing your long term disability claim, you should consult with a qualified long term disability attorney as soon as possible. Your insurance may still cover you if you became disabled before the end of your employment, but the process may be difficult and complicated. A qualified ERISA long term disability attorney can help increase your chances of claim approval.