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Long-term disability what are my options?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Given the complexity of treatment and the likelihood that I will miss a lot of days at work doing chemotherapy, I am wondering if I should just quit work and apply for disability benefits. I know I might qualify for disability benefits through the SSA but I am wondering if there are any other long-term disability benefit options?”


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and breast cancer

Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is available to workers who have a severe health condition which does not allow them to work for at least 12 continuous months. Workers must also have worked and earned enough work credits to be considered insured for SSDI benefit.

You did not mention your work history and whether or not you have been employed paying taxes for enough years to qualify for SSDI benefits but for this discussion we will assume you have. If you have enough work credits the next question the SSA will consider is the severity of your health condition, whether your condition will last at least 12 months, whether or not it is keeping you from working right now, and whether or not you are currently working. If you meet the requirements for SSDI benefits, you will be granted SSDI.

Long-term disability and not qualifying for SSDI benefits

Unfortunately, for those who do not qualify for SSDI benefits there are only a limited number of other options.

If you did not have breast cancer but instead were injured while on active duty for the military, you would be eligible for Veteran’s disability benefits. Unlike SSDI, however, you do not have to be 100% disabled to receive VA disability benefits. In fact, you can be only partially disabled and still receive some type of monthly wage compensation.

Although the SSA utilizes the same criteria to determine whether a claimant is disabled for both SSDI and SSI benefits, if you were denied SSDI benefits because you did not have enough work credits to qualify, Supplemental Security Income might be another option.

SSI, like SSDI, provides a monthly wage compensation benefit for claimants who are unable to work. Unfortunately, however, the monthly payment is only paid to those who have limited income and resources and is often much lower than the average SSDI benefit.

Another option if for long-term disability benefits is to review whether your employer provides any type of disability benefits to their employees. Some employers provide these as part of an overall compensation package. Other employers have them available but require the employee to purchase them.

Finally, although you probably would not be asking if you had done this, some individuals purchase private long-term disability plans similar to how they would purchase a life insurance policy. Private policies can be purchased from companies such as Guardian, MetLife, The Standard, Mass Mutual, or Northwestern Mutual.

Bottom Line:

There are several long-term disability options available to disabled workers. Review your options with your employer and call the SSA if you have questions about qualifying for SSDI or SSI benefits.

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