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Meeting with HR for disability, advice?

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by Ellie K, Apr 8, 2016.

  1. Ellie K

    Ellie K

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    I have been sick for about 2 years and it is starting to get to be too much to work full time. I am meeting with HR Monday to talk about my options for reducing my hours, do you have any advice for what I should ask about/push for? I work at a university as a researcher. I'm only 21, so anything like transitioning to retirement isn't really an option. Also, I only started this job about a year ago because I graduated last May, so my benefits may not have matured? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. *GG*

    *GG* Senior Member

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    @Ellie K
    Do you fall under FMLA? Do you have a long commute? Even if not, how about taking one day off a week, I had a job that was pretty much Monday thru Friday, so I would take Wednesdays off for rest. My Dr supported that. So you will need documentation.

    Or perhaps you can work 5 days with shorter days? I found the one day off more beneficial!

    With FMLA you can get 60 days off a year, so with one day off a week, that only puts you at 52 days at most. I would imagine you get some Vacation time as well. Perhaps you can do this modified schedule for years and something good will come along to help you get better?

    Have you looked into Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)? How did your illness start? Mine was with Mono. If it was some other viral issue, perhaps getting on a heavier duty anti-viral would help? That's what some people think.

    GG
     
  3. caledonia

    caledonia

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    If you're unable to work full time, you're eligible for disability. Ask HR what your disability options are with your workplace. Your workplace disability is if you're unable to work full time at your own occupation.

    If you're in the US, you are also eligible for Social Security Disability. SS is if you're unable to work at any occupation. So if you're able to switch to less physical work they won't approve SS. If you're already doing sedentary work, there is nothing less physical than that.

    If you get sick enough to have to go on disability, it will be based on a percentage of your salary. Disability through work typically pays 60% of your salary. SSDI pays 30-40%. SSI pays half of that.

    Soooo, if you cut your hours and reduce your salary, you will be reducing your disability income as well. This could have lifetime implications if you get so sick as to be permanently disabled.

    Through your work, you may have short term and/or long term disability. STD lasts for 6 months, and STD starts after 6 months "if" they accept your application. It is typical to have trouble with this - either you'll get denied right away, or if they accept you, there will be a 24 month limitation for mental illness. They will say that your ME/CFS is a mental illness.

    For SS, they require a certain number of work quarters to be eligible. I'm a little fuzzy about what they can do for a young person who hasn't worked that long. I think they can take that into consideration somehow.

    As far as you're young and not ready for retirement - anybody can become disabled at any age.

    Sooo, you're in between a rock and a hard place.

    My suggestion would be to also research Social Security. They have a nifty eligibility calculator here: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/disability/dqualify5.html

    I also like ggingues idea for accommodations using FMLA. Telecommuting one day a week might be another option. My brother (much older) had a similar job to yours at a major company and did this for years.

    Some other ideas - using FMLA or short term disability (up to 6 months) - find an ME specialist (will probably require travel) and try treatment. Hopefully your parents can help out with expenses, if necessary.

    I think if I was 21, I would try to play the odds that I was young and might have a chance to recover. Try to continue working with accommodations and so on and keep trying treatments with help from a specialist.

    If it becomes obvious you can't work full time, then go on disability.
     
  4. Ellie K

    Ellie K

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    Thank you all of you for the advice!!!! I feel much better prepared now
     
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  5. ahimsa

    ahimsa Sick since 1990

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    @Ellie K - Some good advice has already been posted! I have a few extra tips that I hope are helpful. (perhaps too late for the meeting but still helpful later?)

    I may be repeating a couple things already mentioned -- sorry about that! But it's easier to think through things as a whole rather than leave out the bits mentioned above.

    So, here are a few things to keep in mind. I hope I've got all the details straight. This is based on my own experience so things may have changed. Also, I may have confused details that I thought were general but were merely based on my own workplace policies.

    As mentioned above, look through the options you have with your short term disability insurance before you consider applying for long term disability (LTD).

    Short term disability:

    These insurance benefits are usually (always?) paid for by the employee, deducted from the paycheck. The period for short term disability varies. At my workplace it was one year (that seemed pretty long, actually). Some places may have either shorter or longer periods.

    Because short term disability is paid for by the employee it is not considered an employee benefit. That means it does not fall under ERISA disability laws. So it's usually much easier to qualify for short term disability benefits.

    If you feel you are able to work part time then you may be able to go on some sort of part time or partial medical leave. That means part of your benefits are paid for by short term disability insurance while the hours that you work are considered salary. This is what I did, several times, before I finally got too sick to work at all and had to apply for LTD benefits. Some of my short term disability periods were a full medical leave (no working at all) while others were working part time hours (e.g., 20 hours per week).

    It's important to note that if you choose to go on part time hours now *without it being part of a disablity leave*, and then later you apply for LTD benefits, your LTD benefits will probably be based on your part time salary/earnings and not on your full time salary. And I think the same thing will happen to your social security SSDI benefits since they are based on the taxes collected. This means a much larger reduction in your SSDI and LTD benefits.

    In short, I would advise folks not to change to a part time schedule unless they have no other choice. Part time schedules are seen as a choice that the employee wants to work less. Disability is meant for folks who are too sick to work. These are two different things.

    Long term disability (LTD):

    LTD that is provided by an employer is usually (some exceptions) covered by ERISA law. This makes it very difficult to get benefits. Too long to cover here. Just trust me on this.

    If you decided to apply for LTD then make sure you see a lawyer first. Don't wait until after you have been denied. That approach is fine for SSDI disability but there are all sorts of procedural reasons why that is wrong for ERISA LTD claims. Even if you just pay for an hour or two of a lawyer's time before applying it will probably be worth it.

    And make sure you get a copy of the LTD policy. One thing to note is that LTD coverage can be very different depending on the company.

    For example, the idea that mental illness is covered for 2 years did not apply to my company's LTD policy. There was ZERO coverage for mental illness (and not just depression was excluded, any mental illness, no matter how serious, was excluded completely). This did not apply to me but I bring it up just so people are aware of how different these policies can be.

    I also hope that with rest and treatment you won't have to apply for LTD. At the very least I hope you will be able to put it off for some years. But there are people who go into remission with early rest and treatment. I hope you are one of those!

    Wishing you all the best!!!
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
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  6. KitCat

    KitCat be yourself. everyone else is already taken.

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    Great advice here!!'

    I do not know if you are in the US. If you are, I wanted to add a few things:

    I agree that if you are going to apply for LTD or STD it is best to do it while you are earning the full amount. I have read that If you wait until after you reduce your hours and then do it, you could lose a lot of money.

    Also, important DO NOT QUIT YOUR JOB. Never sign or write anything with the word "quit" or "resign" if you need to leave your job write that you are discontinuing work for medical reasons. Make sure to put in your STD and LTD applications while you are still an employee. You can take unpaid leave, sick days, or fmla and still be an employee even if you are not going into work.

    Social Security has a special little-known regulation for people who become disabled before the age of 22. For some people this can mean a lot more money. It only kicks in after a parent has retired, died or become disabled -- but it can make your check go way up when that time comes. So, bottom line, if you reach the point where you think you are going to need to stop working, try doing it the month before you turn 22, not the month after. It doesn't matter when you first became ill, and it doesn't matter when you put in your social security application -- they will look at what month you stopped working to decide this date.

    Even if you can't get SSDI, you can still get SSI if you are poor. So, even if you haven't worked that much, there may be something you are eligible to apply for.
     
  7. *GG*

    *GG* Senior Member

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    Think someone else also mentioned a similar thing, but I wonder about this. So you it doesn't help to be vested with your employer?, if your employer even does that.

    GG
     
  8. KitCat

    KitCat be yourself. everyone else is already taken.

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    Good question. I am really not an expert in this area, but I believe being vested has to do with your pension plan, which is a different thing than LTD. I guess if someone was very close to being vested into a large pension plan, they might want to do the math on that one.

    This is from nolo:

    Maximizing Your Monthly LTD Payments
    There are two common mistakes people make when filing for LTD benefits that reduce their monthly payments unnecessarily or even void their coverage entirely. Some individuals quit their jobs because they're unable to work and then try to file for LTD benefits. Unfortunately, under many group policies, disability coverage ends once the employment relationship has terminated.

    Other workers ask their employers for reduced hours or a less stressful (and often lower-paying) position. Because monthly LTD payments are often calculated using the employee's pre-disability salary, transitioning to a lower-paid position or part-time role could reduce your monthly benefits significantly (because your "pre-disability" earnings will be lower than when you were working full-time or at full capacity).

    Finally, many LTD policies define "disability" as the inability to perform the duties of one's own occupation, so transitioning to a less strenuous job before applying for benefits can actually make it harder to be found disabled. The insurance company will use the less strenuous job you've been doing as the standard for whether you can work.
     
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  9. GlassHouse

    GlassHouse

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    @Ellie K Wow you and I are in a similar position! I too am a research associate at a university and I am approaching my 3 year mark in my position. I have been sick for 5 years and will be turning 26 next month. I started this job one week after gallbladder surgery. I thought my seriously ill health was due to the gallbladder problems, but it turns out that was just the first organ to get really damaged.

    If you have been in your current position for at least 12 months at the university, then you should qualify for FMLA. You can use the leave intermittently or in large chunks. You just need to request the forms from HR, take them to your doctor to be filled out, then send them back to HR and email your supervisor (with HR cc'd) explaining the need for time off (you only need to say due to serious chronic illness, you are protected by law from having to disclose more).

    I got FMLA approved for having multiple doctor visits or sick days a month.

    I have been in decline for all 5 years and today I will be meeting with my primary to discuss reducing to 80% by either taking 1 day off a week or working from home 1 day a week if it can be arranged. This request would fall under ADA since FMLA isn't meant to be scheduled in advance, with the exception of doctor visits/ treatment dates.

    So my steps are to:
    1) First talk to my primary and get her to write a note to say I need to reduce my workload 20% due to my chronic illness and she will re-evaluate in 6 months (the university will want some sort of time line. It doesn't mean you won't be accommodated after 6 months, it just means your doctor will need to give HR a new note at that time. Just keep repeating as needed)

    2) Meet with/ message the campus disability coordinator and my department's HR rep and explain that my doctor needs me to reduce my workload 20%. Ask them for the necessary forms and bring those to my doctor to fill out. Have the doctor fax the finished forms back to HR.

    3) Meet with my supervisor and HR to discuss the need for accommodation and work with supervisor to find a solution that works for me and the university.

    I'm not sure they will allow me to work from home 1 day a week since I have been told that many employers don't like this option.

    One more thing: it may be good to find out what % time you need to work to still get benefits. For example, at the university where I work, as long as you are 50% or more you get full medical coverage. The main reason I need my job is for the medical benefits since my parents are retired and can't help.
     
  10. KitCat

    KitCat be yourself. everyone else is already taken.

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    Hi Glasshouse,

    I thought you might like to take a look at the quote I posted above (previous post) in case it is helpful to you. This was written by a disability lawyer.

    I don't know if you feel that it is possible that you will apply for long term disability at any point. If you think that you may do this, then reducing your hours now could mean less money every month for the rest of your life. I don't know a lot about this area, but I'm sure you could find more info online if you are interested.

    I don't know if you've looked into short term disability. I believe it lets you keep your medical benefits.
     

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