Your “date of disability” refers to the date on which your disability began and rendered you unable to work. This date is very important for several different reasons.
First, your long-term disability insurance plan likely has an elimination period that must expire before you are entitled to benefits, which is typically between 90 and 180 days. Your disability onset date starts the elimination period running. Therefore, the earlier that your date of disability is, the earlier your elimination period begins and ends. Once your elimination period ends, you can start receiving long-term disability benefits.
Next, your disability date affects any preexisting condition determinations that your plan makes. Most long-term disability insurance policies have some sort of preexisting condition provision that prohibits you from drawing any disability benefits based on a preexisting medical condition. Typically, this type of provision remains in effect for a certain amount of time following the beginning of coverage. In many cases, this could mean that you would not be entitled to long-term disability benefits for a preexisting condition for 12 months or more after your coverage begins.
In this situation, an earlier disability date could cause you to be ineligible for benefits based on a preexisting condition, depending on the facts of your case. For example, suppose that you were last treated for depression in November 2017. You then became employed and received long-term disability coverage as of February 1, 2018. However, your depression worsened to the point that you became disabled and unable to work on June 1, 2018. As a result, you applied for long-term disability benefits as of your June 1, 2018 disability onset date. However, your plan contains a preexisting condition exclusion that remains in effect for 12 months following your date of coverage, or February 1, 2018. Since your disability date fell within the 12-month exclusion period, the insurer is not required to provide you with long-term disability benefits. If your disability date had not occurred until December 1, 2018, however, then the preexisting condition clause would have been inapplicable to you and you would eligible for benefits.