Going Back to Work After Long-Term Disability

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If you are currently receiving long-term disability (LTD) benefits from work due to serious illness or injury, you may be wondering if at any point you may return to working again. With good medical care and adequate recovery time, it’s certainly possible to return to working at least on a part-time basis.

However, may not be advisable to head immediately back to work when on long-term disability because this can jeopardize your benefits. This is especially true if you are awaiting a legal settlement or getting disability benefits that are nearly as much as your previous wages. But, there are some ways to work and earn a small income while you are getting long-term disability.

Key Takeaways

  • Long-term disability plans may include own-occupation and any-occupation clauses that set limits for if and where a person can work.
  • Get your doctor's approval to work and make sure to follow up with them after you start working.
  • Look over your long-term disability plan to make sure you know what the rules are for returning to work, and if there are limits on how much you can earn
  • If you feel your plan is too complex, it may benefit you to speak with an attorney to get clarity on what your plan allows and doesn't allow.

Check the Specifics of Your LTD Policy

Some long-term disability plans prohibit working while receiving benefits, and they also define what actual disability is under the policy terms. Long-term disability plans can include an occupational clause that qualifies members for benefits if they are unable to perform the substantial and material duties of their specific job as a result of a medical condition. It is referred to as “own occupation” or "OCC." Other long-term disability plans include “any occupation” or "ACC" terms, which means the member cannot perform the duties of any job.


The typical waiting period for long-term disability benefits to kick in is three to six months.

Read through the summary plan documents of your LTD policy. If the long-term disability plan has OCC terms, one could reasonably perform light-duty tasks that are not affected by the medical condition. Therefore a hobby business or part-time job is not out of the question. Keep in mind that the LTD plan may further restrict the types of work that can be performed (e.g., manual labor) and the hours worked and earnings may be limited to a certain amount per month. In general, you should not be working when you apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Get Your Doctor’s Approval to Work

Before considering any work or business opportunities that will require you to perform tasks of any nature, it is critical to seek the support and approval of your medical team. There are several reasons for this.

First, you want to be sure to review any of the types of tasks you will be undertaking while working, even if they are light ones or you will be sitting. It can help identify any modifications that you need to work without reinjuring your body.

Second, your doctor will be able to support your goals of returning to work so you can have the proper medical documentation to do so when you are ready.


During your recovery period, you will want to continue to be monitored by your physician to comply with the terms of your long-term disability insurance.

Speak With an Attorney (if Necessary)

It may be a good idea to speak with a qualified attorney before doing any work while you are receiving or hope to receive long-term disability benefits. The attorney should have a strong background in helping people who have been injured at work. Often, attorneys will coordinate with health care providers to ensure your legal rights are protected. An attorney can help you to understand better the terms of your LTD policy, including any limits on the amount of income you may earn.

For example, the policy may become null and void if you are earning at least 80% of the value of the policy payments. Other policies may include an incentive to return to work, which allows plan members to earn up to 100% of their previous earnings from their wages and disability.

Choose a Return Career Carefully

Remember, as you traverse the next chapter of your life as a person who has been disabled at least partially as a result of work, you will want to choose a future occupation with caution. Avoid tasks that may cause you to become permanently disabled or those that conflict with your physical and mental well-being. Stick to the skills and abilities you have that will not cause you to become injured any further. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you go back to work after receiving Social Security disability?

Generally speaking, you cannot work and receive Social Security disability at the same time. Most long-term disability companies will make you apply for Social Security disability.

Can I get a job after getting disability?

In some cases, you can work while you receive long-term disability payments. However, your plan may put limits on how much you can earn based on your policy payments.

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  1. Mass.gov. "Long Term Disability (LTD)."

  2. Patient Advocate Foundation. "Long-Term Disability and Its Benefits."

  3. Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD. "Can I Work While on Long-Term Disability?"

  4. Guardian Life. "How Long Does Disability Insurance Last?"

  5. Bross & Frankel. "Can You Apply for Disability While Still Working?"

  6. RMS Law. "4 Tips for Going Back to Work After a Long-Term Disability."

  7. Boss & Frankel. "Can You Work in a Different Occupation While Collecting Disability Income Benefits?"

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