For many people receiving long term disability benefits, the urge to return to work can be strong. Some people do not like to live off of disability benefits, while others believe they could improve their income by returning to work. While this is common, it is important to realize that returning to work could diminish your long term disability benefits. In some cases, it could mean the end of your benefit payments entirely.
Whether or not you can return to work depends on several factors. These include the level of your income as well as the hours you work each week. The most important factor is the language of your insurance policy.
The terms of your policy will dictate what benefits you are entitled to and to what degree you may return to work. The types of coverage can vary dramatically, so it is important you understand what is allowed. A qualified long term disability lawyer can advise you on your best course of action.
Any occupation vs. own occupation
Generally speaking, long term disability policies are differentiated between “Any Occupation” vs. “Own Occupation” coverage. The distinction between these policies is crucial when it comes to determining the type of work you can undertake. If you work more than these policies allow, you could see your benefits disappear.
Under an Any Occupation policy, long term disability plans will not allow you to return to work for any occupation that you are reasonably suited and gainfully employed. This standard is fairly broad under most policies. They typically prevent you from working jobs unrelated to your previous career as long as your education and experience are a relatively close fit. These policies could prevent you from working even if the wages are substantially lower than your previous job.
Own Occupation policies are often more relaxed. That does not mean you cannot lose your long term disability benefits after returning to work, however. Unlike an Any Occupation policy, these policies will only prevent you from returning to your previous job or anything similar to your regular position. Under these policies, you are less likely to lose your benefits if you return to work in a position that is distinctly different from your prior career.
For example, an Any Occupation policy is more likely than an Own Occupation policy to prevent a hurt engineer from taking a job at a gas station. However, every policy is different. To ensure you avoid losing your benefits by returning to work, consult with a long term disability law firm.
Return to Work Incentives
Some long term disability policies include limits known as “Return to Work Incentives.” These are not incentives in the sense that you could see additional benefits. These limits work to incentivize you to return to work when able by limiting the amount of compensation you may recover.
Typically, Return to Work Incentives bar you from recovering more than your gross earnings prior to your injury. In other words, the combination of your long term benefits and any new wages are capped at your previous income. The more you make in this situation, the more you will see your benefits reduced. This is assuming the terms of your policy do not cancel your benefits entirely when you return to work.
Finally, certain policies reward you for focusing on rehabilitating your injuries. These policies could include language that pays you a bonus if you see aggressive rehabilitation of your injuries. These policies usually pay these benefits with the risk of seeing them clawed back if your income is too high. However, this additional rehab could also provide your insurance provider with grounds to claim you are ready to return to the workforce.
Get the answers to your long term benefit questions
The choices you make can dramatically impact your ability to recover long term disability payments. If you return to work too early, you could find your situation only gets worse when you lose your benefits.
Consult a personal injury lawyer at Preszler Injury Lawyers if you are preparing to make a claim for long-term disability. We are dedicated to helping those with long term injuries navigate their recovery and get the most from their benefits. To discuss your claim, contact us for a free consultation right away.