RTW Trends: LTD Claims Study

DMEC Staff@Work

Rising Again: LTD Claimants Who RTW

Return to WorkBy Michael Lacroix, MD

Medical Director
The Hartford

Many studies have shown that people who work live longer. Their lives are both happier and healthier compared with those of individuals who are off work, on disability. Following significant medical or life events, disability insurance serves as an essential way station to a return to normal for many people. However, except in extreme cases, disability should never become a permanent way of life, nor should “I am a disabled person” become a self-defining mindset.

Unfortunately, long-term disability (LTD) often becomes not only long term but life-long. The impact is not pretty.1 Cases often progress from a leave of absence to short-term disability (STD) for usually six months, and then the fateful crossing to LTD. From an employer perspective, LTD can be the door to putting employees out to pasture. Crossing that threshold often leads to termination, and insurance companies then assist with Social Security Disability Insurance applications. Once you’re on the other side, no one expects you to come back.

But some people do journey back. What proportion of LTD claimants would you expect to ever return to work (RTW): 5%, 10%, or 20%?

The odds for RTW from LTD are actually substantially better than that. Among The Hartford LTD claimants, the RTW rate was 38% in 2016. The Hartford conducted an analysis of all LTD requests in 2016 and all LTD claims closed in 2016 from our book of business (2016 is the most recent year available, due to the “long tail” of LTD claims).2 All of these claims had a 180-day elimination period. Table 1 shows the characteristics of those claimants who did return to work from LTD.

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