Saturday, June 2, 2012

INFORMATION ABOUT FMLA AND DISABILITY BENEFITS

            When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I ended up in the hospital for 6 days. After being released from the hospital I was off work for almost 5 months.

            This was a big concern for me as I thought I would surely lose my job due to my illness and I was concerned about loss of income since I live paycheck to paycheck in todays economy. I contacted my company HR Manager to discuss what was going to happen if I was out for an extended period of time with my illness.

            I contacted him when I was admitted to the hospital and stayed in touch with him and my manager. The HR Manager provided paperwork for FMLA (Family Medical Leave of Absence).

            The federal government has enacted a law that requires employers to maintain your medical insurance for 12 weeks; however the employee must pay his/ her portion of the non company contribution. For example if my company pays out $200 per month and I pay $50 per month, I am still responsible for my $50 contribution. Some companies will cover the employee contribution if the company policy states as such. My company policy allowed me to go into arrears while I was off work. If your company does not have this policy, you will need to make those monthly payments or risk losing your coverage. Laws vary state to state so be sure you know your state laws.

            Federal law also requires the employer to hold a position in the company for the employee for the 12 weeks. Your position is not guaranteed but A position is held for you.

My company also offered Short Term Disability which was also 12 weeks of benefits at 60% of my monthly pay and I requested 30% of that to be withheld for taxes. You must pay taxes on the STD benefits and Long term Disability Benefits.

The FMLA paperwork should be completed by you and your attending Physician in addition to the Short Term Disability paperwork required by the STD Insurance company. Your STD paperwork can be submitted by you directly and in some cases through your HR department. My HR Manager had me submit my own paperwork after each Doctor visit to the Insurance Company and copied him on the same paperwork.

It is a good idea to copy your HR department for sake of good communication, respect and understanding of your medical status. The company cannot REQUIRE you to provide the information due to Federal Privacy of Information Act.

What do you do when the 12 weeks FMLA and Short Term Disability Benefits run out and you are still ill?

Before that time if you know that your illness will keep you out longer than 12 weeks, you should apply for Long Term Disability if your company has offered it or if you elected to take LTD. Not all companies will provide LTD. My company did not however I elected to subscribe to the policy.

The sooner you can notify the insurance company the smoother the transition will be from STD to LTD. In some cases LTD can take up to 45 days to be approved or disapproved. In most cases of Crohn’s and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, the application will be approved. Check your company policy and know your benefits to avoid as much financial hardship or delays as you can.

Please share your experience about your company policies, state laws and how you managed to find your way through these benefits.

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