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Long Term Disability and Social Security Disability - What Makes Them Different?

BenGlassLaw is a nationally recognized law firm in the long-term disability world. We do not handle Social Security cases.

These are two separate programs that have some things in common. The simplest answer about what makes them different is that, in the world of disability insurance, Long Term Disability (LTD) applies to a disability insurance policy that is either provided by an employer or purchased by an individual. When you tell a lawyer, “I’m calling about long term disability,” they’ll think you have LTD coverage through your employer or a separate policy that you purchased yourself.

The catch? Many companies, especially smaller employers, don’t offer LTD insurance, and many people don’t buy their own private policies. What happens if these people become disabled long term and can no longer work?

That’s where SSDI, “Social Security Disability Insurance,” comes in. SSDI protects anyone who has worked long enough and recently enough to qualify. In order to qualify for SSDI, you must have a disability that is expected to prevent you from working for at least a year. Most people consider that to be a “long term disability,” which is where the confusion can come from.

One big difference between the two insurance programs is that LTD will normally protect you for a year or two (depending on the policy) if you are unable to work at your own occupation, even if you still have the capacity to work at a different occupation (for example, a surgical nurse who can no longer spend long hours standing but could work in a sedentary job at a nurse-staffed helpline). SSDI, on the other hand, requires that you be unable to work at any job that meets their criteria (which vary by age). Both programs allow you to earn some money and still qualify for disability payments if you are able.

Where You Can Find Information About SSDI

If you need more information about SSDI, including whether you qualify and how to apply, the best resource is the Social Security Administration. You can start here: In most cases, you don’t need a lawyer to help you apply for benefits. If your claim is denied, though, you do want to talk with a lawyer before you appeal. While BenGlassLaw does not handle SSDI appeals in-house, we have some terrific referral partners we can connect you with.

If you do have an LTD insurance policy through your employer or that you purchased yourself, we handle (and win) more LTD appeals and lawsuits than any other firm in Virginia. We will always review any letter you get from a disability insurance company for free, and then we’ll tell you what we think the best next steps are going to be.

Even if you have an LTD policy, you will probably also be applying for SSDI if you are unable to work at any job. That’s because most LTD policies allow the insurance company to “offset” what they pay you for LTD benefits by what you receive from SSDI. Not applying for SSDI is not an option, because most policies allow the insurance company to offset even for what they say you would be “eligible to receive,” even if you don’t actually apply.

Have Questions About Your Long Term Disability Coverage?

If you have any questions about this article or your long term disability coverage, please give us a call at (703) 584-7277. Again, we will review any letter from any insurance company for free. There’s no obligation – we just know those letters often seem to be written to confuse people, and we hate to see the insurance company get away with that!

If you haven’t applied for LTD benefits yet, you can still call us. We offer general information about making a claim for free. If you’d like specific advice about your claim, we offer a flat-fee consultation for $600. Send us a copy of your policy plus any recent medical records that you want to use to support your claim. We’ll review those, and then get on a call (or meet in person) to discuss what we think you and your doctors need to do to give your claim the best chance possible of being approved on the insurance company’s initial review.  

Ben Glass
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Ben Glass is a nationally recognized ERISA disability & life insurance attorney in Fairfax, VA.