The Edge Series: What are “Disability Earnings?”

The lawyers in our firm are focused on helping people with disability policies and ERISA claims. We want to give you the edge in understanding your policy. Today, we want to help you understand what the term “disability earnings” means in your disability policy.

Disability earnings are those earnings that you actually earn while you are receiving a long-term disability benefit. That is different than covered earnings or pre-disability earnings which pertain to time frames before you became disabled. There is an important distinction. Disability earnings can be very broad and can include overtime, bonuses, commissions, and even profits from a business in which you may have an ownership interest. They are much broader than the earnings which are usually included in calculating your long-term disability benefit.

There are some dangers that can occur with disability earnings.

Business Profits

If the owner of a business goes in to do a bit of work here and there, not even close to part-time work, nonetheless, the profits from that business may count as disability earnings despite the low level of work being done by that business owner. That could cause an excess of offset or even a termination of disability benefits.

There may be a reduction in benefits for disability earnings. Most policies do include such a reduction, so it can be harmful to your disability claim by reducing the benefit significantly and, in some instances, even terminating the benefit, which creates a problem with you receiving ongoing disability benefits in the future.

When did you receive the money, and when did you actually earn the money? Many professionals such as physicians, lawyers, and salespeople working on commission, may do work before they are disabled but not actually receive the money for that work until after they are disabled. If the money is reported as being received on a W-2 in a year when you are receiving disability benefits, the insurance company may seek to offset those benefits, even though the money received was for work performed at a much earlier time.

Our best advice is at the first hint of trouble, you should obtain experienced ERISA counsel. And, remember our ERISA attorneys and long-term disability lawyers are here to help if you run into problems. Contact us at the first sign of trouble with your disability claim.

Skip to content