Transition from Short-Term to Long-Term Disability

Transitioning from short-term disability to long-term disability

The transition from short-term to long-term disability may flow seamlessly, but that is not always the case.  Some disability insurance policies and companies require that you complete your short-term disability term before consideration of a long-term disability claim. Some companies and/or policies will transition automatically to long-term, while others require a separate application.

Short Term disability is the initial stage when a claimant becomes unable to work.  Regardless of whether you will be seeking long-term disability or only plan on being out of work temporarily, everyone who has both an STD and LTD policy will start at the short-term disability stage.  The amount of time your short-term disability insurance coverage lasts, and how long you must be out of work before long-term disability begins, is determined by your policy.  Once you complete your short-term disability term, if you are still unable to work, you should look at transitioning to long-term disability (assuming you have a long term disability policy).

In the cases where the transition doesn’t occur automatically, it’s possible that you could be surprised by a denial of long-term disability.  In other words, simply because you were approved for and completed your short-term disability period, doesn’t always automatically mean you will receive long-term disability benefits.  The insurance company often (although not always) has separate departments for short-term disability benefits and long-term disability benefits and a different case manager may take over your claim and review it to decide whether or not you meet the qualifications.


If I’m receiving short-term disability, will I be approved for long-term disability?

We have seen clients approved for short-term disability and denied long-term disability, and cases where clients were approved for long-term disability and denied short-term disability.  One might think that a person disabled for 26 weeks of short-term disability would logically be disabled for the 180 day elimination period for long-term disability, and that a person disabled for the 180 day elimination period for long-term disability would logically be disabled for 26 weeks of short-term disability, but you would be surprised how often short-term disability and long-term disability administrators disagree about whether the same disability claimant suffering from identical medical conditions is disabled for six months.  So just because you are receiving short-term disability, doesn’t mean you will automatically be approved for long-term disability.


What do I need to start long-term disability?

Bear in mind that transitioning from short-term disability to long-term disability often requires new paperwork to be submitted, as well as new medical evidence and new forms from your doctors, ( which can result in changes in the evidence between short-term disability status and long-term disability status.  Always make certain any helpful medical evidence from your short-term disability case is in your long-term disability case file, and follow up with any doctors who agreed you were disabled during the short-term disability period during your long-term disability claim.  If you run into any difficulties with your doctors completing disability insurance forms, see

What should I do if I was denied disability?

If you are denied disability insurance benefits, you will want to obtain a copy of the denial letter.  Before you submit an appeal or do anything else, you may wish to reach out to an experienced ERISA disability insurance attorney to have them review the denial letter and see if they can help you.  ERISA disability insurance cases have strict deadlines, usually 180 days to submit an appeal.  The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we can evaluate your case and, if we decide we can help you, start building the evidence needed to submit your appeal.