Help with disability insurance post lay-off
April 17, 2011 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Help! Got an injury before getting laid off, but doctor underdiagnosed me until after the lay-off. Can I still make a disability insurance claim with the company or is it too late?

I need some help regarding an injury/disability I got before I got laid off. The crux of the problem is that I was injured (ankle) before getting laid off, but the doctor I went to under-diagnosed the injury and said I was fine to walk and go to work and just had to wear a brace. An HR person asked me about it and I basically told them what the doctor said and that I didn't need to go on disability insurance. Then they downsized and I was laid off. Well a few months later the injury kept getting worse and now I'm on my second back to back surgery to repair it a year later.

My question is, since the injury happened while I was employed, am I able to go back to the company and ask for disability benefits even though the wrong diagnosis was made during the job and the full diagnosis was made only after the lay off? Is it possible to make a claim now or is it too late?

I know I should have acted sooner but I didn't realize the full extent of the injury until later (and I didn't expect to need 2-3 surgeries). If I can show I was seeking help for the injury before getting laid off will that qualify me for retroactive disability benefits?

Fortunately I had COBRA to cover the surgeries, but I have not had any income this whole time and am running low on savings for living expenses. I can't get state unemployment benefits because I am pretty confined to my house and can't go to interviews or the unemployment office easily until this is over. I've heard there are social security disability benefits but I believe they are only for very long term chronic conditions. Please help!
posted by truth1ness to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Disability law is pretty complicated, and saying or doing the wrong thing can result in denial of benefits. I would talk to a lawyer before talking to your old company, to find out what your rights are and how to go about asserting them.
posted by decathecting at 12:16 PM on April 17, 2011

Why not just go ahead and apply? The worst that happens is they turn you down for benefits you're already not receiving.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2011

Full disclosure/disclaimer: I work for a disability insurance company. In fact, I do disability claims. I don't know where you work, and I haven't seen your disability policy. Below is my, and only my, opinion based on how my company's policies are written. I have seen other companies' policies, and they are extremely similar. Having said that...

Presumably you were covered by your disability policy on the day you got hurt. As long as that's true, you could file a claim with an incurred date prior to the date you got laid off. The question is whether you were "disabled" before you got laid off.

The basic definition of disability, in most cases, is that your injury prevented you from working. OR, it prevented you from working full-time before you got laid off. If neither of these statements are true for you, then I personally would question whether you would qualify for benefits. You're probably disabled now, but now you're not covered by the policy. You would have to be able to prove you were disabled before you got laid off, and have been continuously unable to work, in order to get a claim approved.

However, I never tell people not to file a claim. It doesn't hurt to do so, you might get benefits after all. But, since you got laid off awhile ago, if you decide to file a claim, do it now. Most policies I have seen have time limits on how long after your injury you can file a claim. (If you file outside those time limits, the company could just refuse to review the claim at all.) And my experience is that the longer the person waits to file, the longer it takes me to get and evaluate the information I need to make a claim decision. And nobody's happy about that, particularly if somebody's waiting for money.

Social Security Disability is hard to get unless you are terminally ill or have some other chronic condition. But, your getting it, even for a limited period of time, is not out of the question. The Social Security site has a lot of information about the process.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 12:29 PM on April 17, 2011

I don't see why you can't file for unemployment. Here in CA, you can do it online. If you can't hobble into the office, perhaps you can do it by mail, with your Dr.'s statement.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:31 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

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