If you’re using your short-term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) benefits to take time off work to recover from an injury or surgery, you may assume that you will need to cancel any planned vacation and certainly not make any new plans while you’re receiving benefits. If your doctor has ordered you not to travel, you should certainly follow that order. If not, traveling may not cost you your benefits.
People often have to take months off work while recovering from an injury or surgery if their job involves physical exertion or other activity that could impede their healing – or may just not be safe or even possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to stay in bed throughout their time off.
Check your policy
If you’re up to traveling and want or need to take a trip, but you’re afraid of losing your benefits or being accused of fraud, the first thing to do is check your policy. What does it say about travel? Some disability policies don’t address it. Others require that policyholders notify them. Some restrict travel outside the U.S. Just make sure you know the regulations. If you’re not sure, call the insurer and ask.
Talk to your health care providers
For your own health and safety, talk to your doctor, physical therapist and anyone else treating you. Find out what activities are off-limits. Get their approval and any instructions or restrictions in writing. This will help if your insurer asks for this information later or if you re-injure yourself or make things worse.
Be sure the trip doesn’t slow your recovery. Be sure you bring your medications and any medical aids you need like special pillows. It’s best not to be away so long that you miss any appointments. You also don’t want to neglect any insurance paperwork deadlines while you’re gone.
Be careful on social media
Even if you get the OK from your insurer and your doctor, it’s probably best not to broadcast your trip. Even if you’re just taking a brief trip to Aspen for a family wedding, you don’t want to give the impression that you were hitting the slopes while your colleagues were handling your work.
If you did everything right and you still find yourself in danger of losing (or having to return) your insurance benefits, it can help to get legal guidance.