Leaving Work Because of Disability - The Steps To Take
The ideal way to leave work is to prepare for it with a planned timetable. Unfortunately real life rarely works that way. Many times there will be a sudden downturn in health so that without any notice, you are unable to return to work.
Following are the steps to consider when leaving work due to disability.Some of these actions can be taken in advance. Some can be done after leaving if necessary. Tailor them to your particular situation.
NOTE: If you haven't already, we suggest that you read How To Prepare To Leave Work And Go On Disability
If You Don't Have One Already, Ask Your Doctor For A Letter Confirming That You Have A Serious Medical Condition And Must Stop Work
- The letter does not have to state the diagnosis, or the specifics.
- If you are applying for benefits because of your health, you may be asked for more information, but you don't have to give it up front.
Check The Provisions Of The Family And Medical Leave Act
- Read our article about the Family and Medical Leave Act and similar state laws to find out if you are covered. If you're not up to it, have a friend or family member do it for you.
- Even if you think you will never return to work, it is preferable to tell your employer that you expect you will only be out of work for a brief time. Choose a length of time within the Family and Medical Leave Act or the employer's medical leave of absence time period. No one can predict the future. The FMLA protects your benefits and job as long as possible.
- Notify your employer either through letter or on the telephone that you have a serious health condition and that your doctor says you need time off. Ask what you need to do to process a temporary leave. Mention the Family and Medical Leave Act or similar state law if it appears you qualify for it. Keep the doctor's letter in reserve in case your employer asks for proof.
- When you have agreement about taking time under the FMLA, ask for a written letter or note from them confirming the understanding and what date it expires.
|Check Disability Programs And Disability Waivers That May Cover You. Request The Necessary Claim Forms.
- For instance, look at employer based programs for both short and long term disability, insurance programs, or state mandated short term disability.
- Look at government programs which provide an income during disability such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- Look at your insurance policies to see if there is a provision which waives premiums if you become disabled. If so, decide when to apply for the waiver - and start getting the necessary information together.
- If you do have disability insurance, read: Disability Insurance: How To Complete The Claim Form
Do What You Can To Increase Your Credit Limits
- It is much easier to get credit while you are working than when you're not. This is a good time to accept those credit card offers that come in the mail, and to increase the limits of whatever credit cards you have.
- If you have a home, consider taking out a home equity line of credit. You are likely to be able to get one without cost.
- Note that these recommendations are only to get credit - not to use it, at least unless and until you need it.
Consolidate Your Loans To Decrease Costs - Except Student Loans
- While you are working, it may be easier to consolidate several loans into one loan with a cheaper rate of interest.
- However, it is not advisable to consolidate student loans. As a general matter, student loans are forgiven if you become disabled. They not forgiven if there has been a consolidation.
Start Completing Forms
- Start with forms for those programs that continue income the quickest or have deadlines, such as State Disability or Short Term Disability.
- Get help filling out the forms from a friend or family member. It can be difficult to deal with bureaucracy and a serious illness at the same time.
Contact The Employer's Finance Department Or Whoever Else Your Employer Tells You To Contact To Make Arrangements To Pay Your Portion Of Benefits Premiums
- Pay particular attention to health insurance premiums.
- Health insurance is the most important asset you can have.
- You are entitled to continue your health insurance after you stop work under COBRA and similar state laws.
- Also pay attention to premiums for life insurance, long term care insurance, and disability insurance. (As noted in the next section, life insurance policies can be turned into cash while you are still alive.)
Find Out What Is Necessary To Continue Your Life Insurance
- Life insurance can be an important asset. In addition to the death benefit, it can also provide cash when you need it while still alive. For information, click here.
- Check whether the life insurance has a provision which waives premiums if you become disabled (generally referred to as "disability waiver of premium"). If there is such a provision, the insurance will continue in force but no more premiums are due.
- If there is such a provision, find out what you need to do to obtain the waiver.
- If there is no waiver, learn what you need to do to convert the policy to an individual policy so you will have the benefits just described.
Once You Leave Work:
- Maintain Contact With The Employer On A Regular Basis
- At least keep contact with someone in Human Resources. If for no other reason, the health insurance which is continued under COBRA is the employer's current health insurance as it evolves for employees. If the health insurance carried for employees similar to you changes, so will your coverage.
- If you do return to work, the contact will be helpful.
- Expect To Feel Some Sadness To The Point Of Depression At Leaving Work
- Leaving work is a major life event. Work provides a sense of purpose and identity for many people. The place of work often becomes a second home and co-workers become a second family. For some people, leaving work is giving up - even though it's not necessarily so.
- There will likely be a certain amount of stress at home when a breadwinner stops working. This is especially so if the primary caregiver is forced to go to work.
- Consider getting therapy or joining a support group, at least during the transition period. You can join a support group no matter where you are located. In addition to in-person support groups, there are support groups that meet via the telephone or the internet.
- It's also important to stay as physically and mentally active as you can. Exercise, no matter how limited, can help improve your mood.
- Watch for signs of depression. If they appear, speak with your doctor.
- If finances are difficult, read our information about How To Deal With A Financial Crunch Or Crisis.
- If emotions are high, let them out. Consider joining a support group and/or finding a buddy. In the world of cancer, such a person is called a "Cancer Buddy." If you need professional help, do what you can to get it. .