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How long does it take to get disability insurance benefits?

Elimination periods and incomplete applications may delay your benefit money

The type of disability insurance that you have plays a big role in determining how long you’ll wait before you can collect benefits. Each type of disability insurance has an elimination period, or waiting period, that you’ll need to meet before collecting a check. To receive your money as soon as possible, submit any relevant medical documentation with your disability claim.

How long does it take to get Social Security disability benefits?

For Social Security disability (SSDI), there’s a minimum five-month waiting period from the time that you apply for benefits and when you start receiving a check. However, the approval process can take up to 12 months or longer. The good news is that the five-month waiting period is not separate from the approval process. You can begin to receive benefits once you’re approved, as long as five months have passed since you applied.

While there’s no speeding up the approval process, ensuring you have your medical records and proof of your disability available will prevent any delays.

How long does it take to get disability back pay once approved?

Back pay payments are made within 60 days of your disability application approval. Insurers offer back pay to partially offset the long approval process for SSDI. This means you’ll receive back pay SSDI payments starting from the date that you first experienced a disability as soon as you’re approved. However, you’ll only receive up to 12 months of back pay that’s still subject to the five-month waiting period.

How long will it take to get my short term disability check?

Each disability insurance company’s claims process varies slightly, but you can typically expect an approval or denial within one to five weeks. If your claim is approved, the amount of time you waited for approval is applied to your waiting period, which is how long you have to wait before collecting a check.

Most claims must be approved or denied within 30 to 45 days, unless other circumstances cause a delay in the process, such as unprocessed medical results.

If you have disability coverage through your employer, they may have certain requirements before you can apply for a disability claim, such as using all of your PTO first.

How long will it take to get my long-term disability check?

Long-term disability insurers may take anywhere from 45 days to 105 days to process your application and give you an approval, though some applications take as long as one year to process and reach a decision.

Similar to short-term disability, you’ll have a waiting period for long term disability before you receive your disability checks. Your waiting period is the amount of time you chose when you signed up for your policy, but the most common waiting periods are 90 days to 180 days.

If your claim is approved and you’ve waited longer than your elimination or waiting period, the insurer will give you back pay starting from the date your elimination period ended.

What is ERISA and how does it affect my disability benefits?

ERISA is short for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which is a federal law from 1974 that regulates retirement plans of employers. It also contains some regulations for employer-based disability insurance. In essence, it gives legal oversight to your disability insurance policy and regulates it, whereas without it, your insurer can set its own rules for how it processes claims.

Under ERISA laws, there’s a strict time frame to follow if your claim is denied. You have 180 days to file an appeal on your decision and your insurer has 45 days to respond to your appeal, with a possibility of a 45-day extension. And if your appeal is unsuccessful, you can still appeal in a district court of law.

What factors affect the amount of time it takes to get benefits?

Factors that affect how long it takes the insurance company to process a disability claim include:

  • The amount of claims your insurer is processing.
  • Whether your claims application is complete.
  • If you’ve provided all medical documentation, including doctor’s notes.

Your insurance company likely won’t be in a rush to pay your disability claim, so being proactive with your claim can speed up the process. Rather than wait for your insurer to ask you for additional paperwork and documentation, make sure you have all relevant medical documentation in place when you submit your application.

How long does the appeal process take?

If you’re denied disability benefits, you can appeal the decision with the insurance company if you feel you have additional evidence that you’re eligible for a payout. The timeline for an appeal process depends on which type of disability insurance you have.

  • SSDI. You have 60 days from the date of your claim denial to file an appeal with SSDI. SSDI appeals depend on your state’s backlog of appeals, and could take anywhere from an additional 10 months to 18 months.
  • Private disability insurance. Private insurance companies normally give you 180 days to file an appeal, though you’ll want to verify what your insurer’s appeals policy is. You can expect the appeals process to take several months.
  • Employer-based disability insurance. Under ERISA laws, you have 180 days to file an appeal from the date that your claim was denied. Your insurer then has 45 days to make a decision, with the possibility of asking for a 45-day extension.

Compare disability insurance

Name Product Coverage Amount Benefit period Waiting period Own Occupation Medical exam required
Policygenius Disability Insurance
$100 to $20,000
2, 5, or 10 years or until age 65 or 67
60 - 365 days
Depends on provider
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JRC Life Insurance
$500 to $20,000
2 year to lifetime
30 - 365 days
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$500 to $20,000
1, 2, 5, or 10 years or until age 65 or 67
30 - 365 days
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Bottom line

The exact amount of time that it takes to receive your disability benefits depends on which type of insurance you have and how well-documented your application is. Once your application is approved, your insurer will normally send your benefit money right away. If it’s denied, you’ll be able to file an appeal — and can delay the process.

If you’re looking at options for disability insurance, compare disability insurance companies to find the best one for you.

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