Staff Frequently Asked Questions

What is considered a disability?
A disability means you are unable to perform one or more of the essential duties of your occupation. The University has chosen to partner with The Hartford for determining disability and claim review.   

What are the main components of Northwestern’s disability program?

  • The University provides a comprehensive disability program for eligible employees:
    • Disabilities lasting 26 weeks or less are covered under the Extended Sick Time plan.
    • Disabilities that are longer than 26 weeks are covered under the Long Term Disability plan.
  • These disability plans help protect your paycheck if you become disabled and can’t work.

Who’s eligible?
All active, benefits-eligible, full-time and part-time faculty and staff.

When does my coverage start?
The effective date for LTD coverage is the first day of the month after the date of hire. If the hire date is the first of the month, then coverage for LTD begins that same date.

How long can I receive benefits?
After a 26 week elimination period, the LTD plan will pay a monthly benefit as long as you remain disabled under the plan up to a maximum age based on your Social Security Normal Retirement Age.   

How much coverage do I have?
The University provides LTD coverage that pays a benefit of 50 percent of your base wages / salary up to a maximum monthly benefit of $11,500.  You may purchase through payroll deduction Buy-Up LTD coverage that pays a benefit of 60 percent of your base wages / salary to a maximum monthly benefit of $13,800.

Are staff members required to contribute toward the cost of LTD insurance?
Staff will not be required to contribute toward LTD coverage at the 50 percent level.  If the Buy-Up option is elected for coverage at 60 percent, then an employee contribution toward the cost of the additional coverage is required and will be taken through payroll deduction.

Do I need to enroll?

  • All eligible employees are automatically covered under the LTD Plan at the 50 percent benefit level. 
  • If you are enrolled in the LTD plan today you will automatically be enrolled in the Buy-Up option as of September 1, 2012. If you choose not to enroll in the LTD Buy-Up option, please send an email indicating this to benefits@northwestern.edu
  • If you are newly eligible for the LTD plan, you will automatically be enrolled in it.
  • If you previously waived the LTD plan, you may enroll now with no medical questions asked.  You must complete the enrollment form. Future enrollment will require evidence of good health.  You should have received enrollment information from the Northwestern University Office of Human Resources prior to September 1.

What can I expect if I am on LTD?

  • Extended Sick Time claims will transition to LTD with limited additional information required from you.
  • You can expect to hear from a Hartford Ability Analyst who will conduct a claimant interview, explain the LTD process and answer your questions.
  • If approved, LTD benefit payments are issued by The Hartford on a monthly basis.  (You may set up direct deposit for LTD payments.)
  • You may check your claim or payment status online at the address above or via the telephone claim inquiry system.

Am I excluded from participating in LTD if I have a pre-existing condition?
Employees are not excluded from the LTD plan due to a pre-existing condition, however, there is a waiting period for pre-existing conditions.  In most cases, if you are diagnosed or receive care for a condition in the 26 week period before your effective date of LTD coverage, a disability resulting from that condition will not be covered by the LTD plan until you have been insured on the LTD plan for 12 months.  If you were previously enrolled in Northwestern University’s LTD plan and you satisfied or partially satisfied the pre-existing condition requirement under it, you will receive credit toward satisfying the pre-existing condition requirement under the new LTD plan insured by The Hartford.

Are LTD benefits taxable?
The LTD 50 percent benefit is taxed.  If you elect the Buy-Up option with its 60 percent benefit, a portion of the benefit payments will not be taxed.

Is there an elimination period before LTD benefits are payable?
Yes, the elimination period is 180 days or the expiration of any employer-sponsored extended sick time, whichever is longer.  You will continue to receive LTD benefit payments as long as you remain disabled, or until you reach the Social Security normal retirement age, whichever comes first.