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Expected Wait Times Until Disability Insurance Benefits Begin


Disability insurance is a blanket term that covers an extensive range of government programs and private contracts that are designed to provide regular monthly cash payments to the insured in the case of an injury that would prevent him from working and earning an income. There are public programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), state disability insurance programs, Workman's Compensation, and Medicare. There are also private policies such as group insurance sold to companies that provide disability benefits to injured employees as part of their benefits package, supplemental policies sold to already covered persons, and disability insurance policies bought by individuals. As such, the question of expected wait times can only be answered "it depends."

In general, the more private the entity you are dealing with, the shorter you'll have to wait. SSDI has an extremely strict standard of what constitutes a "disability." They insist that the condition preclude the applicant from performing work at any activity. The condition must be expected to last at least twelve months or end in death, the applicant must be under 65, and must have worked 5 out the preceding 10 years. The initial wait when dealing with SSDI is the approval process. The standard is so strict that the majority of applications are denied. Appeals can extend the time tremendously.

An exception to the "public means longer" rule of thumb is Workman's Compensation. Wait times are generally less than two weeks and if the disability continues past a certain period, the benefits are retroactive to the date of injury. For Medicare, however, the wait is very long. An applicant must first be eligible for SSDI, wait five months before he can receive SSDI benefits, and after this SSDI waiting period ends, he must wait an additional twenty four months before receiving disability insurance benefits.

For group health insurance plans typically offered by employers as part of a benefits package, the expected wait times depend on the conditions laid down in the policy. An employee's sick time might be required to be exhausted before the benefit waiting period even starts. This wait (called the "elimination period") can be as short as ten days to two weeks, or as long as was contracted for, which can be as long as twelve months. Claim denials and appeals can increase this.

Private policies allow the purchaser to specify the elimination period, from seven days on up to even a year or longer. These elimination periods are premium-based, so a buyer who can't afford a higher premium might opt for a longer elimination period, just to have insurance in place.

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