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Old 05-02-2006, 03:31 PM   #1
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Considering short-term and long-term disability

I have been dealing with lower back/leg pain for 3 years from advanced disc degeneration. I have been told my lumbar and cervical spine looks like that of an 80-year-old (I'm late 50's). Had a diskectomy 18 mos. ago with no success. Top spine surgeon in the area said he would not do a spinal fusion because there is damage at all levels and a fusion could actually make things worse. My hand and foot are now going numb as well. Bottom line is, it doesn't sound like there's any miracle cure. I am also miserable at work and was thinking this may be a way out. I certainly have enough medical evidence and my pain management specialist thought I would qualify for disability. I'd first have to go on STD then apply for LTD. How difficult do you think this will be? Can they turn me down by saying I should be able to do a job of some sort -- even though I can't sit or stand long without pain and now with the hand numbness, can't write either? This is a big step for me and very risky, so I'm afraid to start the process then maybe be turned down and have no job and insurance. Any advice would be appreciated!

 
Old 05-02-2006, 04:16 PM   #2
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Avalon
I was in the same position as you are in now 3 years ago. I had my first discectomy in 1992 after going 2 years of specialist and tests. I had a fabulous doctor from Graduate do my surgery. I was almost fine till about 4 1/2 years ago when the back flared up again. I went out on STD for 15 weeks and tried to go back to work. That only lasted about 5 months and I went back out on STD. I was being treated and had the tests. Unfortunately it was all for none. The last specialist gave me a 5% chance of having any relief from a spinal cord stimulator to help with the pain. So I too had lots of medical evidence to support a disability claim.
I went out on STD in Jan of 2004. March of 2004 I applied for SSDI..June 2004 I was approved and recieved my first check from SSDI Aug 2004. I had 26 weeks of STD so the SSDI came right as my STD was ending. I was told to apply for SSDI shortly after going on STD so that if I was denied I still had STD and LTD to fall back on till approved.
You might want to check with your HR to find out what procedures they have for holding your job. Some companies will only hold your job as long as you fall under FMLA. You may also be eligible for personal leave but I would watch that because you may lose your insurance benefits if you go on personal leave.
Hope this helps

 
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Old 05-02-2006, 07:45 PM   #3
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Thanks, Country. So are you on LTD from work and have SSDI as well? I'm so confused by all this stuff. How difficult do you think it would be to get approved by my employer's insurance co. for STD, and later LTD? I mean, how could they tell me I'm not having pain, or that the pain shouldn't be that debilitating? I really don't want the job back, I just want to have income and medical insurance.

 
Old 05-03-2006, 05:31 AM   #4
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Since you are in your late 50's, your chances of being approved for SSDI are better than someone with the same symptoms that is younger. I would recommend that you go ahead and apply for SSDI and your STD.

 
Old 05-03-2006, 08:08 AM   #5
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

STD isn't that difficult overall to recieve from most companies. Generally all they ask is basic medical evidence from your doctor indicating that you need to be placed on STD and for what duration of time. That time of course can always change from STD to LTD. The length of the STD will depend on what your companies policy is as well as the length of the LTD. LTD may be a bit more difficult to obtain, especially if permanent but still much easier to obtain than SS. You will of course still need the appropriate amount of work credits in order to be eligible for SSDI which could be anywhere from 34-38 depending on your actual age.

Some companies require that you apply for SSI and or SSDI if you are applying for LTD and will decrease your LTD amount by the amount of SSDI. So for example lets say you were getting $1000 in LTD and did win SSDI and recieved $700 per month on SSDI you would only get a total of $300 from your LTD in addition to the SSDI. Most companies will make you pay back anything you are awarded by Social Security.

In order to be eligible for SS your doctor must show that you will be disabled for at least one year with a qualifying disability (which you appear to have). I'm not sure that your chances of winning are any greater than a younger person as I've met many in their late 50's and early 60's who were repeatedly denied and placed on regular SS instead at the appropriate age.

 
Old 05-03-2006, 09:50 AM   #6
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avalon
Thanks, Country. So are you on LTD from work and have SSDI as well? I'm so confused by all this stuff. How difficult do you think it would be to get approved by my employer's insurance co. for STD, and later LTD? I mean, how could they tell me I'm not having pain, or that the pain shouldn't be that debilitating? I really don't want the job back, I just want to have income and medical insurance.
Avalon
My former company did me dirty on LTD so I was denied because I had seen a specilaist or been treated for the condition 1 day prior to it taking effect. Also the only loss was the insurance benefits. The LTD benefit (50%) was less than SSDI so no money loss there as Kissa explained.
I was fortunate to have other health insurance to fall back on because in PA there is a 2 year waiting period for Medicare.
If you need the insurance and LTD is not approved you can carry COBRA for the 24 month waiting period. $$$$$$
Short term disabilty is not hard to get approved. it's the long term that may be questionable. They will let you know if you ask after being approved for STD whether the condition will be valid for LTD.
Check your benefits carefully and use that to guide you in your decision making. But I sat behind a computer and on the phone all day with clients...The pain effected my concentration and productivity..I just couldn't do it any more.
If you work for a big company ask around to those that have gone out or been with the company for a while they may have some good advise.
Hey when it comes to back pain there isn't any way that they can tell you you don't got it!!!! You just have to be careful with them checking what you do away from home so they can't use that against you.

 
Old 05-03-2006, 10:14 AM   #7
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Wow you got very lucky CountryKid that your SSD was approved before you lost your STD, that doesn't happen too often.

I would definately check in to the company policy in regards to the length of STD and LTD as most companies have a manual or proper documentation. Generally if you've been at a company more than 1 year you usually will qualify for STD but the benefits may be decreased.

I worked at a company that based STD percentage on the number of years you worked there. The longer you worked there the higher the STD percentage was overall but my husbands company was different. LTD is can sometimes be based on what you pay into it. My husband paid extra to have his LTD at 60% as opposed to the standard 50% and it proved to be beneficial in the long run. My husbands company changed from STD to LTD after 6 months where as where I worked at it changed after 1 year.

Definatley check into it so you know what to expect!

 
Old 05-03-2006, 10:48 AM   #8
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

At my co., STD can be up to 6 mos., at reduced pay but it can be supplemented if you have sick time banked, which I do. Not sure how difficult it is to be approved for the entire 6 mos. After the 6 mos., you apply for LTD. For the 1st 24 mos. of LTD (which I have at 60% of pay), you're considered totally disabled if you're unable to perform your regular occupation, and beyond 24 mos., if you're unable to perform any occupation. I don't know anyone who's done this at my co. and wouldn't want to raise any red flags by asking around. I think my first step is STD. I do feel bad about doing this, but I've given them 25 years so I think I've earned the right to use the benefits that are available!

 
Old 05-03-2006, 01:25 PM   #9
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Avalon
I would suggest that once you go out on STD don't wait to long to apply for SSDI. I would say once you get approved for STD.. file for SSDI. You hopefully have plenty of time on STD to get a response one way or the other from SS.
Since it appears you have done the same job for 25 years and considering your age I don't think you should have much trouble with SSDI. You are about my age mid to late 50's with the same condition.
I was downsized (job eliminated sent it to another site) 3 times prior to my disability with the same company. So actually had a total of 15 years with the same company just had to start all over again each time. That's why I didn't have LTD at the time.

Hey good luck...keep us posted I would like to hear if you are another lucky local girl to get approved quickly...

Last edited by countrykid; 05-04-2006 at 04:50 AM.

 
Old 05-04-2006, 08:15 AM   #10
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Avalon

Another thing you might want to consider also. Your retirement from your employer.
Let me explain my situation to you....It's easier than trying to explain. Because I am now over 55 I was allowed to take my retirement early per company policy. I had and have Normal retirement and Cash Balance account. I was able to take my Cash Balance account in a lump sum early (prior to 55)....I paid the taxes and DID NOT have to pay the 10% penalty for early withdrawal (under 59 1/2)because I was DISABLED....(per IRS) Company coded 1099 as early withdrawal but I showed IRS I was disabled per SS. They accepted that as proof. I am now collecting my regular retirement monthly (started once I hit 55). I was told by my company pension office back then (2003-2004)that I could still get my pension even if I was on LTD. My insurance benefits would be payable under the retirement plan. My former company would not carry LTD past your 55th birthday. Now check with your pension office to see if that will apply to you. I know the company I had worked for changed benefits again for this year during open enrollment and it went into effect on 1/1/06.
Hope this gives you alittle more insight on your decision. Also I hope it is not confusing. I too did not want to set any red flags but I needed to know alot and some of the old timers who were fed up also like me with the downsizing gave me info and people to talk too. That's why I started on the first disabilty and used the time up ..then it was 16 weeks. First of the next year it went to 26 weeks...so I went out the second week in Jan. I had to use up my banked sick time also before my STD would take effect. You sound too much like me......

 
Old 06-04-2006, 05:19 PM   #11
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Re: Considering short-term and long-term disability

Countrykid and all who provided advice, I wanted to give you an update on my situation. My pain mgmt doctor filled out the paperwork saying I was unable to work due to pain from my advanced DDD and I was approved for STD for 4 weeks. He will then have to re-validate my inability to work, which I hope he will do. I will feel him out at my appt. tomorrow. I also happened to meet an attorney last night at a friend's party and asked him if he knew any lawyers who specialized in long-term disability (more on the insurance side than SS disability). Turns out HE does! So I am going to meet with him and get advice and feedback on my chances. Will let you know. I am praying this works out!

 
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