The first step to understanding your long term disability benefits is to obtain a copy of your insurance policy. The policy is a contract that sets forth, among other things:
If you bought your disability insurance from an agent, broker, financial institution, or directly from an insurance company, you can request a copy of your policy from whoever sold it to you. If you do not remember how you purchased the policy, look for your most recent premium invoice. Call the customer service number or mail a written request for a copy of your policy to the address on your bill. The insurance company may charge a small fee to mail you a copy.
The vast majority of working adults in the US have group long term disability coverage through their employer or union. If you received yours as part of your employee benefit plan and your policy is governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), then you have the right to receive a free copy of your policy. ERISA § 104(b)(4), 29 U.S.C. § 1024(b)(4) states, "The administrator shall, upon written request of any participant or beneficiary, furnish a copy of the latest updated summary, plan description, and the latest annual report, any terminal report, the bargaining agreement, trust agreement, contract, or other instruments under which the plan is established or operated."
If you are already disabled and have filed a claim, then look for the name and address of the person or company administering your long term disability benefits. Usually, this will be an insurance company.
Write a letter to the insurance company requesting a copy of the long term disability policy in effect as of the date you became disabled. Employer-sponsored benefits can change every year, so make sure you specify the date of your disability in your request.
Keep a copy of your letter and proof of the date you mailed it. Most people send this request via certified mail. ERISA § 502(c), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(c) provides penalties for a plan administrator's refusal to supply required information within 30 days.
If you have not yet filed a claim, your best bet is to ask your employer or union representative for a copy of the policy.
Insurance policies are notoriously difficult to read. If you decide to tackle this task yourself, be sure to read the entire document. Remember, "the big print giveth, the small print taketh away." If you need help interpreting your long term disability policy, consult an experienced long term disability lawyer. The best disability lawyers will offer free policy analysis and free initial consultations.