The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our lives in countless ways – and these changes have extended to Long-Term Disability (LTD) benefits, even if for a temporary amount of time. The COVID-19 “Outbreak Period”, classified as national emergency, began March 1, 2020, and as of the day this article is published, is still in effect. Any claims or denials initiated during the ongoing Outbreak Period are currently on hold when it comes to deadlines. This hold extends 60 days past the end of the official Outbreak Period – so these altered deadlines apply if you become disabled or are denied benefits any time after March 1, 2020 and before the end of the official Outbreak Period.
COVID-19 and Long-Term Disability Deadline Changes
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted two primary deadlines associated with the LTD process: the period of time within which you can file a benefit claim under your specific policy, and the period of time within which you can file an appeal if your claim is denied under your specific policy. Let’s take a look at how these deadlines have changed.
LTD Claim Deadlines
When it comes to filing an initial LTD benefits claim during the pandemic, the timeline during which you must submit your initial claim is frozen until 60 days after the end of the Outbreak Period. Let’s run through an example. Let’s assume you have 90 days from the date you become disabled from working to file your claim, as designated by your policy. This means that if you became disabled during the Outbreak Period, once the Outbreak Period has ended and 60 days have elapsed, you then have 90 days to submit your claim. In summary, once the Outbreak Period ends, you would have 150 days to file your initial LTD claim.
LTD Appeal Deadlines
If your claim was denied during the Outbreak Period, your next step may be to appeal the insurance company’s decision. Many LTD policies include a 180 day appeal deadline. Appeal deadlines interact with the Outbreak Period in the same way that initial claim deadlines do. If your claim is denied during the Outbreak period, you have 60 days from the end of the Outbreak Period, plus 180 days, to submit your appeal. This means that once the Outbreak Period officially ends, you will have 240 days to file your appeal.
What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Long-Term Disability Deadlines
In light of these shifted deadlines, make sure you are aware of any and all deadlines associated with your case. Here are some important ones to keep in mind:
- Know the date when you first became disabled from working. Often (but not always), this will be your last day of work.
- Know how long you have to file your initial claim, starting from your date of disability. This information should be included in your LTD policy.
- Know how long you have to file an appeal if your claim is denied. This information should be in both your LTD policy, as well your claim denial letter.
While the COVID-19 deadline extensions may provide you with some breathing room, it is in your best interest to stay on top of any and all deadlines associated with your claim. Missing deadlines can jeopardize your benefits.
Benefits of Extended COVID-19 LTD Deadlines
If you are in the private disability claims or appeals process, these deadline extensions can be used to your benefit. These paused and extended deadlines mean that you have time to submit an even more thorough claim and/or appeal. However, this doesn’t mean that you should wait until the last second to file your claim or appeal – use this time to your benefit to get everything together before the deadlines come back into play.
Filing a thorough appeal is one of the most crucial components of the private disability process, because if your claim is governed by ERISA, your case in litigation is limited to the evidence you brought up on appeal. If you are in the appeals process during the Outbreak Period, you can use the extended deadlines to your advantage. If you are currently appealing an LTD denial, contact the experienced team at Ronstadt Law. We can help you win the benefits that you deserve.