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When an employee on long-term disability insurance benefits tries to return to work but fails due to the same or a related disability, they may go back on-claim without having to satisfy another waiting or "elimination" period. This is called the recurrent disability provision, and its purpose is to protect employees who wish to return to work on a trial basis without having to worry about losing their benefits.
Recurrent disability provisions have time limits, and these time limits vary from policy to policy. If the disability recurs after the time limit, the claimant must file a new claim and will once again be subject to a waiting period.
Although the recurrent disability provision is designed to have benefits start immediately in the event of a disability relapse, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to refuse to restart benefits, even if a claimant is well within the recurrent disability time limit. They often argue that if the claimant was able to return to work temporarily, they are not totally disabled; or they may argue that the recurrent disability is related to the previous condition. In summary, although the recurrent disability provision is meant to safeguard claimants' benefits; insurance companies, in their signature underhanded style, may use the temporary return-to-work as an excuse to terminate benefits.