Although becoming disabled can present a financial hardship, relief might be available through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or long-term disability insurance. The programs are different—for example, the definition of disability for Social Security Administration (SSA) is stricter than most disability insurance providers, and the criteria for evaluating disability are different—but it is possible to collect benefits through both programs at the same time.
If you become unable to work due to an injury or illness, it may be in your best interest to apply for both SSDI and long-term disability insurance benefits, if both are available to you. To qualify for SSDI benefits, you must have worked a certain amount of time at a job that paid into the Social Security system. Long-term disability requires coverage through an insurance policy that can usually be purchased through your employer. If your employer does not provide long-term disability coverage, you can purchase a policy on your own.
Long-term disability insurance can go into effect almost immediately after you become unable to work, whereas SSDI benefits approval can take years. Additionally, there is a six-month waiting period under SSDI during which you cannot receive SSDI benefits. If you are covered by a long-term disability policy, it can help bridge the gap between disability onset and when you are, hopefully, approved for SSDI benefits.
In many cases, your long-term disability insurance carrier will require you to apply for SSDI simultaneously. Once you have been approved for SSDI benefits, your long-term disability benefits will be reduced to pay the difference between your SSDI benefits and the amount you are entitled to under your long-term disability insurance policy.
Please note that approval for benefits under one program does not guarantee that you will be approved for the other, but a successful claim for one may bolster your claim for the other. In rare instances, your long-term disability insurance carrier may decide you are no longer disabled if you are denied SSDI benefits. If that is the case, consider speaking to an experienced Social Security disability attorney who can go over your options and help to protect your interests.