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Can I live outside of the United States and collect long-term disability insurance benefits under my individual or group long-term disability insurance policy?

Attorney Cesar GavidiaAuthor: Attorney Cesar Gavidia

Answer: Like most answers to questions regarding long-term disability insurance the answer is predicated on the terms and conditions of the long-term disability insurance policy in question.

Foreign residency limitations will serve to either deny coverage and preclude payment of long-term disability benefits if the insured resides outside of the U.S. for a specified period of time, often six (6) months or more, or it will limit payments to a specified period of time, often no more than 12 months, if the insured resides outside of the U.S.

Most policies are silent regarding limitations on residency requirements, and the disability insurer will not deny or terminate a claim solely on the basis that the insured resides outside of the U.S. However, it is not uncommon to find a foreign residency limitation in many individual and group long-term disability policies. The existence of a foreign residency limitation in a policy will primarily benefit the disability insurance company. In fact, I can’t think of many benefits to the insured except that maybe treating physician support, to the satisfaction of the insurance company, may be easier to establish if claimant resides in the U.S. However, it is primarily a way for the disability insurer to ensure that it will always have the ability to easily manage the claim, interact with treating physicians without the existence of a language barrier, and of course to monitor the claimant – it can be difficult to conduct frequent surveillance of the insured when they reside in China or Europe.

If a disability claim is challenged on the basis of a foreign residency limitation it often involves the insurance company’s perception that the insured is spending more time in a foreign country than in the U.S. To wit, that the insured is not just spending a few weeks or months in their Bahamas timeshare, but rather, established residency and domicile there. Indeed, it is a question of fact and one can expect to have to produce substantial evidence establishing that they continue to reside within the U.S., e.g., copies of U.S. passport, including tourist visas; utility bills; federal and state income tax returns; property tax statements, etc…

If you have a concern regarding a foreign residency limitation in your individual or group long-term disability insurance contract, please do not hesitate to contact us. The consultation is free.

There are 14 opinions so far. Add your comment now.

WMD:

Cesar,

I ran across your page while doing an internet search. I am a cancer survivor and am receiving LTD benefits through Lincoln Financial Group. I have been in Thailand the last three months and would like to stay as long as possible. I find the medical care is as good, if not better, than in US, it I should certainly much cheaper, and it tends to fit my current lifestyle better. For example, due to the side effects of medication I take, I am unable to drive, etc.

I just got an email from Lincoln wanting to review my claim and stating they will not ho or my claim if I live outside of the US for more than 12 months.

My questions are, first, and most obvious, is there a way around this? As far as managing my case, all my physicians here speak English, so language should not be an issue. Second, if I am required to maintain a residence in the US, what constitutes maintaining a residence? Do I have to physically be in the US for a period of time? Have a US mailing address, etc?

Attorney Stephen Jessup:

WMD, we would need to see a copy of your policy along with any documentation from Lincoln. Please feel free to contact our office and discuss your claim with Cesar to best determine what your options are.

Andrew W.:

I am in a similar situation with Guardian Insurance. I just got my claim awarded and they are telling me that I can’t be out of the USA for more than two months. I am in Guatemala where there is excellent medical care. The company’s case manager ignores my requests for clarification and a copy of my policy. How do I get around this requirement, which they failed to mention to me until I inadvertently told them I was moving here.

Attorney Stephen Jessup:

Andrew, if it is an employer provided policy you need to request from your former employer. If you do end up residing outside the US or Canada (most policies with residency requirements allow for Canada) your policy will likely be terminated once the maximum time frame allowed to be outside the US is up. Many disability policies have residency requirements that are enforceable so it is crucial to know exactly what your policy allows with respect to same.

Charles L.:

I have drawn long term benefits from unum for over 20 years. Head injury, post trauma tic stress, major depression and anxiety. My policy is lifetime and is silent about my living location. Shouldn’t they continue to pay if I move abroad and continue medical treatment?

Attorney Stephen Jessup:

Charles, if there is no residency requirement, then yes they should, so long as you continue to meet all the terms and conditions of the policy.

Bibek:

Bibek! I am currently planning to go to my country which is suffering a lot from earthquakes! It’s like everyday now! So I have to never there to take care of my family ! So what if I got hurt in earthquake in Nepal and not in New York (current place) will I receive disability benefits ??

Attorney Victor Peña:

Bibek, you should review your disability policy to see if there are any foreign residency restrictions. Your location when you sustain a disabling injury is typically not the focus of attention for a disability carrier. However, the fact that you will be living in a foreign country could be a problem if there is a foreign residency restriction in your policy.

Gabriel M.:

Hi
I have long term disability with Unum Provident.
Have been collecting it for 25+ years and I am 68.
For past few years I have been living in Israel and the cost of medical care here is cheaper.
Are there any issues with this foreign residency ?

Attorney Alex Palamara:

Gabriel, there could be depending on your policy. Sometimes one must be in the USA in order to continue to receive benefits. It depends on your policy. Please contact us as there are a few question that we have concerning your claim and if you provide answers I may be able to provide more insight.

Lucinda N.:

I am receiving long term disibility from Lincoln Financial. My family and I are planning on going to Costa Rico. We will still have our home in the United stares. Will my benefits end if I move there?

Attorney Cesar Gavidia:

Lucinda, you should refer to your Lincoln long-term disability policy since disability policies often contain foreign residency restriction provision that only allow you to receive disability benefits while you reside in the United States. If your policy contains a foreign residency restriction provision your monthly disability benefits will end if you decide to reside outside of the United States.

Sara:

July 1993 policy

Hello, I have a 1993 policy, what year did private disability insurance company’s start adding foreign residency restrictions?

Attorney Stephen Jessup:

Sara, there is no set year as to when a carrier added these provisions, and not all policies have such language. To determine if you have such a requirement in your policy you will need to review the language contained therein.

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